Spice up your language lessons with Mobile Assisted Language Learning

As technology progressed, mobile phones continue to undergo constant development and have extended the far reach of human life. One major impact is traditional classroom education. Widespread access to such a device has changed the landscape of e-learning (Sharples, 2000).  The possibility of such technology is endless, and that includes learning new languages assisted by the use of mobile devices.

A wide range of technological resources such as computers, e-mail, video-conference, wikis, and the Internet have been adopted to enhance learning (Lee et al., 2019). This goes throughout almost the entirety of education fields. For language education, technology facilitates interactions with peers or collaborations (Adnan, 2017) and enhances individual language skill practice (Mak & Coniam, 2008).

Study Anywhere, Anytime

Such a technique is called Mobile-Assisted Language Learning. Abbreviated as MALL, this particular method helps learners to dive deeper into language, enhanced through the use of a mobile device. MALL can be considered as an ideal solution to language learning barriers in terms of time and place. In contrast to the traditional classroom learning, there is no need for both teachers and learners to sit in a classroom or in front of a computer for them to be able to obtain the teaching materials (Miangah et al., 2012).

MALL uses the mobile phone technology as a way of stressing learner centeredness and autonomy. According to Geddes (2004), MALL is the type of learning which takes place at any time and place, that is; it extends teaching and learning outside of the walls of the classroom. In other words, an importat feature of this learning type is that students would feel responsible for their own learning.

How to use MALL?

  1. Areas of mobile-based language learning are diverse, but the most common ones are vocabulary and grammar, listening, and reading comprehension. Many researchers were so interested in MALL approaches that they attempt to provide some strong supports to conduct further research on this discipline (Miangah, et al., 2012). A study by Kennedy and Levy provided learners with the option to receive messages covering known words in a new context through SMS to their mobile phones, as many as 9-10 messages per week. The result indicated that the messages were helpful for them to enhance their vocabulary learning (Kennedy & Levy, 2008).
  2. Similarly, for Thornton et al. (2005), the researchers sent short lessons for vocabulary enhancement via email through their students’ mobile phones as many as three times per day. As a result of this, their students’ post-test scores improved.
  3. Huang and Sun attempted to implement the mobile multimedia English listening practice system based on mobile technology capabilities by providing downloadable multimedia sound content. According to them, mobile multimedia English listening exercise system can enhance learners’ listening abilities to a higher degree (Huang et al., 2010).
  4. Another area that needs to be covered by language learning is reading comprehension. Reading practices and enhances vocabulary and in turn, helps learners promote their reading abilities (Chen & Hsu, 2008). Chen and Hsu (2008) attempted to present the Personalized Intelligent Mobile-learning system (abbreviated as PIM) which provides learners with English news articles based on their current reading abilities. To enhance their vocabulary, the PIM system automatically retrieves unknown vocabularies of individuals. The experiment resulted that news reading along with unfamiliar vocabulary learnings is very effective in prompting the learners’ comprehension towards English.

Whats next?

Though several kinds of research have been carried out towards the MALL technology as a growing field of study in language learning, there are still so many works left to be done and a large amount of information to be uncovered (Miangah, et al., 2012). Bear in mind that learners do not want just mobile devices; they want a high quality of mobile learning applications which satisfies and meets their needs and requirement to accept and use this technology (Almaaiah et al., 2016a). This poses as one of the challenges that m-learning holds, where providers are encouraged to create or utilize the most effective mobile learning platform as possible—suitably configured according to the learners’ preferences.

Yet, In spite of the challenges that mobile learning might face, the method has grown exponentially to provide a better environment for language learning (Miangah, et al., 2012).


Almaiah, M. A., Jalil, M. A., & Man, M., (2016a) Preliminary study for exploring the major problems and activities of mobile learning system: A case study of Jordan. Journal of Theoretical & Applied Information Technology 93(2).

Adnan, M. (2017). Learner perceptions of a concordancing tool for academic writing. Computer Assisted Language Learning. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2017.1301958.

Chen, C. M. & S.-H. Hsu. (2008). “Personalized Intelligent Mobile Learning System for Supporting

Effective English Learning”. Educational Technology & Society, 11 (3), pp. 153-180.

Huang,  C.  and  P.  Sun.  (2010)  “Using  mobile  technologies  to  support  mobile  multimedia  English listening  exercises  in  daily  life”.  In:  The  International  Conference  on  Computer  and  Network Technologies in Education (CNTE 2010), At: http://cnte2010.cs.nhcue.edu.tw/

Kennedy,  C.  &  M.  Levy.  (2008).  “L’italiano  al  telefonino:  Using  SMS  to  support  beginners’ language learning”. ReCALL, 20(3), pp. 315–350.

Lee, C., Yeung, A. S., Cheung, K. W. (2019) Learner perceptions versus technology usage: A study of adolescent English Learners in Hong Kong secondary schools.

Mak, B., & Coniam, D. (2008). Using Wikis to enhance and develop writing skills among secondary school students in Hong Kong. System.

Miangah, T. M., Nezarat, A. (2012). Mobile-Assisted Language Learning. International Journal of Parallel Emergent and Distributed Systems 3(1): 309-319

Sharples, M. (2000). The design of personal mobile technologies for lifelong learning. Computers and Education, 34 (3—4), pp. 253-270

Thornton, P. & C.Houser.  (2005). “Using mobile phones in English education in Japan. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning”, 21(3),  pp. 217–228.

Daniel Shen

Daniel Shen