An Auto-Ethnographic Study on the Use of Apps for Language Learning

Antonie Alm, University of Otago

Click the video frame above to view the presentation. To ask the presenters a question about their presentation, please add a comment at the bottom of this page between October 3 and October 8. Presenters will check for and reply to questions each symposium day.


In this auto-ethnographic study, I describe and analyse my learning experiences as a novice learner of Spanish with mobile apps. Over a period of six months, I explored and used a range of different apps to study Spanish in pockets of (free) time (Kukulska-Hulmes, 2012) and documented my use of these apps, my observations and reflections on my learning process with the journaling app Day One.

The aim of this study was to experience the use of apps from a learner’s perspective. Language learning apps vary widely in scope and purpose and while only a minority of apps have been developed by educational specialists (Springer & Guillén, 2016), they can offer an unconventional and often intuitive approach to language learning. The language app Duolingo, for example, has a gaming component, which makes it one of the most popular apps on the market. Reverso, a translation app used by many language students, enables learners to match words and phrases with chunks of original L2 texts. HelloTalk claims to have the world’s largest mobile language learning community, connecting language learners from around the globe to chat at their pace with their chosen level of support (through translation, corrections, voice recordings).

As these tools become available to our language students and new digital language learning practices emerge, it is crucial to experience and to evaluate alternative approaches to language learning. This presentation will provide an overview of the apps I explored and a preliminary analysis of my diary entries.


Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2012). Language learning defined by time and place: A framework for next generation designs. In Diaz-Vera, Javier, E. (eds.) Left to my own device: Learner autonomy and mobile assisted language learning. Innovation and Leadership in English Language Teaching, 6. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 1-13.

Springer, S. & Guillén, G. (2016). Wands, Spells, and Magic Pills: The Lingo of Language Learning Products. Presentation at CALICO Conference 2016.

Antonie Alm

Department of Languages & Cultures
University of Otago