Globally, nonnative English speakers now outnumber native English speakers 3 to 1. English has become a global language, leading to more nonnative speakers learning English as a second language (ESL). Teachers are turning to apps, both mobile and on the web, to engage this new generation of English language learners (ELLs).

Apps can satisfy all kinds of learning needs, sometimes in ways that a classroom ESL course cannot. Many ESL teachers consider them an effective supplement to a typical course; mobile apps and online resources allow students to create programs personalized to their individual needs. According to Oxford University Press’s English Language Teaching Global Blog, different activities benefit each type of learner: “Active learners can use chat rooms, games or competitive tools. Reflective learners can use informative lessons, concentration games and vocabulary tools. As for visual and verbal learners, charts, diagrams, YouTube lessons, listen and speak apps, pictures, and reading exercises satisfy both types of learning styles.” These activities can also be fun and engaging, motivating students to practice on a regular basis.

One such app that is aiding English language learning is FluentU. It started as a web application but will be expanding to iOS and Android so users can practice on their smartphones. The app uses timely and fun video content to immerse users in the English language. Users can choose authentic English videos that match their interests, from music videos to business tutorials to movie trailers, so learners are never bored. Each video has English subtitles, and users pause the video to click on specific unfamiliar words to review. This allows learners to hear the pronunciations of words and learn their definitions in context. The app also includes quizzes and other drills to reinforce the vocabulary learned from video scenes. FluentU, like many other emerging ESL apps, makes the learning experience personal and memorable.

In addition to catering to individual learning needs, apps are cost-effective and convenient. For students who cannot afford the cost of course programs, a combination of online resources and mobile apps can be a more affordable way for such learners to master the language. Many of the online resources are free and can be accessed from public library computers if students don’t own a home computer. Mobile apps can also be used on the go and can flexibly fit into a busy schedule; they are convenient for learners juggling jobs, parenting or other education programs in addition to learning English.

Whether students use a combination of mobile and online apps for their education or to supplement a classroom course, there is no doubting how valuable these resources are. They provide a fun, engaging and effective way for tech-savvy students to learn the English language on a platform they already understand.

Did You Know?

We truly are a multilingual nation! According to the 2010 US Census, 60.6 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. Check out this interactive map to find out which languages are spoken throughout the country.