Using smartphone applications to learn a language or as a personal translator will broaden your horizons. Take a look at these options. Duolingo is an ambitious Web translation project masquerading as a language-learning app. Dreamed up by a team of geniuses at Carnegie Mellon University, the free Duolingo teaches Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, or Italian while the student translates Web content. The team has promised an Android version this month, but at the moment only an iPhone version is available. Getting millions of people to participate in a "massive-scale online collaboration" is the aim of Duolingo. But you can forget all about that and just do the learning. You'll "learn by doing," says Duolingo's chief creator, Luis von Ahn. You jump in and begin seeing and hearing simple words in the foreign language and start translating, learning nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech without memorizing declensions and without tears. For a mind-boggling explanation of what's going on, watch von Ahn's presentation on massive-scale online collaboration at http://bit.ly/12VNTVv. For translating on the fly, there's Google Inc.'s Google Translate, a free app with versions for most devices, though the Android iteration has the most features. The app works in scores of languages including Azerbaijani, Estonian, Icelandic, Persian, Russian, and Urdu. With patience, you could use Google Translate to "converse" with someone even if neither of you knew the other's language. Type or speak a phrase and tap for the translation. The Android version has a "conversation mode" that displays each side of a discussion in cartoon-voice bubbles.
Apps that act as language labs. What a great idea! Duolingo, Google Translate, and Lingualia all offer ways to communicate in a different language even if the users do not know a hint of the language they are communicating in. I wonder why the App Vocre was not mentioned in this article though.
Flipping the classroom, an idea originated by Salman Khan in the KhanAcademy helps individualize student learning by permitting the teacher to guide her students where they have actual deficiencies in understanding instead of guessing where the deficiencies are.
Students need to know how important it is to write meaningful assessments on articles and topics they choose so that their peers can in turn make meaningful comments. Then they need to comment on their classmates' assessments. This way students engage in an online community that keeps everyone powerfully engaged.