Product Review of Drops: Fun Language Learning
Drops is a flash card-style language learning app that uses a series of quick games and matching activities to teach vocabulary in more than 30 languages. Users pick their native language, a target language, and a level, from beginner to expert. Next, they choose a category (like food and drink, travel and vehicles, and city and shops) and spend five minutes drilling vocabulary words on that subject. Each word is spoken aloud in the target language and appears with an icon, and users have five minutes to complete as many activities as they can. Activities focus on matching the icon with the word itself (like dragging a fish icon to the word “fish”) and some spelling activities, where you connect the dots to spell a word correctly or drag syllables of a word into the correct order. Daily practice can earn you a “streak” within the app, and you can also earn other rewards for correct responses. The free version of the app includes ads and limits you to five minutes of gameplay a day; paid monthly or annual subscriptions remove the ads and offer unlimited gameplay.
Drops could be used to fit in extra practice in a world languages classroom, or it could be a neat way to pique learners’ interests about new languages from around the world. While the subscription price might be too steep for learners and educators, the free daily drills could work as a way to boost vocabulary for a few minutes a day. Take a spin through the app to browse the vocabulary categories, and consider encouraging your learners to try out different categories that match up with your current classroom unit. If you’re using this in the classroom, you could ask your learners to log in daily to create language-learning streaks (think Snapchat streaks, but for flash cards) as they drill vocabulary of their choice.
Also, keep in mind that these flash cards don’t focus on teaching people to read other alphabets or characters. If you’re interested in learning how to read Chinese, Russian, or American Sign Language, the developer has an app called Scripts that teaches reading and writing. Check out that app too, if it’s helpful or interesting to your learners.
With a slick visual style and speedy gameplay, there’s a lot to like about this language learning app. It’s terrific that there are so many languages available, including indigenous languages (like Ainu and Hawaiian and Maori) and dialects (like European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese). It’s also terrific how many choices there are for beginners. You can start with greetings and other foundational words if you want to, but you can also dive into vocabulary related to business, science, sports, and more. Most of the games are really valuable. You spend a lot of time matching an icon to a word or vice versa, and it’s a good way to quickly, simply practice recognizing new words. Some of the games are a little less good for beginners; for instance, a connect-the-dots-like game to spell new words seems a little clunky and not nearly as relevant.
The app’s only real drawback is the difference between the free and paid versions. When you use the app for free, you can use it for only five minutes a day, and you’ll see intrusive ads along the bottom of the screen. A paid subscription offers far more access, but it’s at a much steeper price. If you want to do only a few minutes of drills per day, perhaps the ads won’t bother you, but they might be a deal-breaker for educators or for other users, who might prefer a comparable free app.
Overall User Consensus About the App
The game’s quick pace and cool visual style will reel learners in, and the brief time limit for the drills will keep them motivated.
Curriculum and Instruction
The repetitive approach to learning language helps new words stick, and it’s great that even beginners have so many choices for how to get started.
There’s great progress tracking both during play and after, when you review the words you’ve already seen.