Monday, March 10, 2014

5 Good Apps for ESL / ELL Students

There are plenty of flashcard services on the web that students can use for rote practice of vocabulary words. The following five apps offer a little bit more than flashcards by providing some larger context for the words and phrases that students can study through them.

English Monstruo is a free app (iPad and Android versions available) containing eight games designed to help students learn verb conjugation. English Monstruo was developed by researchers at Cambridge University who examined the results of 200,000 exams to determine the words that give Spanish speakers the most difficulty when taking an English exam. The games in the English Monstruo app contain activities ranging from fill-in-the-blank to sorting words to replacing incorrect words with correct words. Each game has a series of levels to work through to earn points and unlock increasingly more difficult levels. To access all eight games a player needs to first earn the maximum points in the first six games in the app.

Phrasalstein, developed at Cambridge University, is a great iPad app and Android app designed to help students learn the meanings of phrasal verbs. The app has a practice mode and a quiz mode. In the practice mode students select a verb and a preposition combination then see a short animation demonstration of the meaning of the chosen phrase. In the quiz mode students see an animation then have to select the matching phrase. Translations of the meanings are available in Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and French.

Duolingo is a free service that aims to help you learn Spanish, French, German, or Portuguese. Duolingo offers mobile apps that allow you to practice a new language anywhere you go. The Duolingo mobile apps and website provide a variety of translation activities to help learn to you read, listen to, and translate words and phrases. The activities include looking at pictures that are representative of words and phrases. After reviewing a couple of pictures students are asked to type translations. The app gives immediate feedback to students.

Lingualy is a free Google Chrome extension designed to help you learn a new language while browsing the web. With Lingualy installed anytime that you come across a new word you can double-click on it to hear it pronounced, read a translation, and read a definition. The words that you double-click are added to your Lingualy account where you can review them in a quiz format. 

Forvo  is not an app, but it is a website worth mentioning on this list. It can best be described as an audio wiki for word pronunciations. One of the problems with learning to speak a language that is not phonetic is trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Forvo hosts hundreds of recordings of word pronunciations by native speakers. Along with word pronunciations, Forvo provides some basic demographic information about each language. Forvo's content is user-supported and user-generated. New pronunciations are added on a regular basis.