Product Review of Lingua.ly – learn a language with vocabulary and articles
This language-learning app lets users review vocabulary by reading online news articles in the target language. Users set their native language and a target language (one must be English) and add words they already know to the app’s dictionary. The app then generates a reading list of brief news articles and headlines featuring those words. Users can manually add new words by tapping words within articles, and can quiz themselves on flashcards they create for each word.
It’s important to note the app doesn’t work without an Internet connection. Additionally, flashcards automatically include images from the Bing search engine, and results can be uneven at best (an industrial meat slicer for the word slice) and inappropriate at worst (a series of appalling images for infected). A pop-up warns that images appear automatically and the app might not be appropriate for kids under 13. Some might feel it’s inappropriate for learners of any age.
Have kids input their latest (or most troublesome) vocabulary words into the word list and browse articles to build fluency. Brainstorm a list of words that might fit one of the pre-set categories (like arts, food, or education) and add them to the vocab list to get a wider reading list on the subjects they enjoy. Challenge kids to read widely, sampling articles from several categories within the app.
Lingua.ly’s concept is brilliant: Scaffolding language-learning by starting with a few words kids know and building from there is a terrific idea. Unfortunately, the good intentions are unevenly executed. Populating the dictionary with key words turns out to be critical. Two words automatically included in every language are the words for “dog” and “cat,” and there are understandably few breaking news articles about dogs or cats. So it’s possible for the app’s reading section to turn up no search results if the dictionary is limited.
While spoken dictionary entries are well-pronounced and readers have great accents, it’s unfortunate more words aren’t available for definition, especially grammatical particles or words with different gender or number (perro and perras). While some are included, the differences aren’t illustrated or explained. Additionally, when a word is clicked, it’s automatically added to the dictionary, but there’s no easy way to remove a word. Between the inconsistencies and the iffy flashcard images, you might want to look elsewhere for an appropriate classroom tool.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Kids will enjoy browsing articles by topic based on their interests; however, selection is often slim and articles are extremely short.
Curriculum and Instruction
The idea of learning vocabulary in context is solid and could offer great motivation. Unfortunately, users have to enter a great deal of vocabulary on their own to make full use of the feature.
Although pronunciation features are useful for some words, many other words (especially grammatical particles) are not available in the dictionary, which makes it tough to build fluency.