Rugby Language apps: Can phones replace classrooms?

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Media captionCan you really learn a language on your phone?

Can apps ever replace classroom language learning or even help revive minority or even dying languages?

Apps offer languages – real or invented – not popular enough to be taught at evening classes or most universities.

Esperanto, invented to create world peace, Avatar’s Na’vi, Elvish and Star Trek’s Klingon are all on the table.

Guy Baron, head of modern languages at Aberystwyth University, said there had been “snobbishness” towards apps, but wants technology used in teaching.

Apart from the weird and wonderful fictitious languages available, people may choose apps to learn a popular language such as Spanish or French, citing the ability to go at their own pace and fit sessions around their existing commitments.

Some apps offer quizzes or word and phrase repetition to boost learning, while others have complete programmes with tutor guidance and the chance to communicate with native speakers.

But users say there are pitfalls such as not fully understanding the grammar and missing the classroom environment with peer support.

Dr Baron said apps should be used alongside traditional classroom methods, not to the exclusion of traditional teaching.

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Amy Jo Price

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Amy Jo Price is learning Welsh and Gaelic due to having ancestors from Wales and Scotland

For Amy Jo Price, a teacher from Alabama in the US, language apps have become part of her morning routine.

She use Duolingo for Welsh and Mango for Gaelic, to honour her ancestral roots in Wales and Scotland.

“I log in the same time every morning while I’m drinking my tea and eating breakfast.

“I have made contacts on different Facebook pages and make it a point to discuss the languages and practise with them.”

Eugenia Iglesias, based in Patagonia, Argentina, where there is a Welsh settlement, said it was difficult learning via an app – so is taking classes as well.

“Sometimes it’s a bit tricky because you miss a lot of grammar structures. You have to learn by repeating sentences.

“I do both (classes and apps) to have a wider understanding of the Welsh language.”

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The language learning industry is crowded one

Rugby Which languages are people choosing?

People can sign up without much, if any, expense and learn at their own pace ahead of a holiday or event – Japanese overtook Italian in popularity among the Welsh users of the app Busuu ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosted in Japan.

There was a 97% rise in Busuu users from Wales signing up to learn Japanese in the 12 months leading up to the tournament and a 140% rise during the first week of games – though developers will not release actual numbers of learners, saying it is commercially sensitive information.

Spanish is generally one of the most popular languages among UK learners – online and offline – and is considered one of the simpler languages for English speakers to learn.

On Babbel, 43% of learners from Wales are learning Spanish, about 28% of Busuu’s 450,000 Welsh users are registered to learn Spanish and the language takes 25% of Duolingo’s learners.

On Duolingo, Japanese is up by 52% this year, which again developers attributed to the

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