Learning to speak a new language may be as simple as using a mobile app, but the amount of time studying and motivation are still the most important determining factors in improving proficiency, according to a study by Michigan State University and language learning app provider Babbel.
“Increases in oral proficiency scores were dependent on the amount of time and level of interest in learning Spanish”
The Learning Spanish with Babbel report, which tracked the progress of 85 participants using Babbel to learn Spanish, found of the 54 who completed all study requirements, virtually all showed improvements in one or more areas of language learning.
“On the whole, learners in this study increased their oral proficiency, as measured by an improvement on… the [American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’] oral proficiency interview,” said the study’s lead investigator Shawn Loewen.
“These results establish that using Babbel can facilitate the development of oral communication skills, and not just grammar and vocabulary acquisition, as a previous study had established.”
Among the report’s findings, 59% of participants improved oral proficiency by at least one ACTFL sublevel, however, results improved further the more time was spent using the app.
For those who studied at least six hours, 70% increased at least one sublevel, improving to 78% for those who studied for at least 15 hours.
Babbel’s senior communications manager and co-author of the study Zachary Sporn said that while the results showed the app’s pedagogy could improve learner’s oral proficiency, it also highlighted the need for motivation when learning a new language.
“Increases in oral proficiency scores over time were dependent on the amount of time a participant spent on Babbel and also on a participant’s overall level of interest in learning Spanish,” he told The PIE News, adding the results would inform further services from the developer.
“We are developing a range of content from podcasts to video lessons and magazine articles to spark interest in Spanish food, culture and language. We recognise the need to inspire our learners to progress in the language by establishing an emotional connection.”
In late 2018, Babbel announced it would move into the language travel market, with its online platform expected to launch in 2019.
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