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by Erica Fischer on Aug 26, 2011

The Best Apps for Foreign Language Education

The Best Apps for Foreign Language EducationThanks to all our participants of Thursday night’s #langchat! Our topic concerned apps #langchat teacher recommend to improve students’ their oral language skills, and participants had lots of fantastic ideas. Though there are many ways to use apps to further students’ oral abilities, one great advantage of using apps and related tech in the classroom is the easy availability of authentic resources. We branched from our topic to include lots of great suggestions in this area.

Disclaimer: Please check these apps yourself to ensure they meet the needs of your students. We are not responsible for the contents of these apps. This is a summary, and we have accurately reflected the recommendations presented by participants in #langchat, but we cannot be responsible for the content of apps listed in this post. App makers update their apps routinely, so the only way to know what content is in the app is to check it yourself. If you do find an app with questionable or offensive content, please alert us by email so we can update this summary.

Last week we took a look at the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, and this week we delved into further tech opportunities by checking out the world of apps. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, “app” is short for application, and usually refers to software you can run on smartphones and personal electronic devices (PEDs) such as iPads, iPods and Android phones.

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Technology in the Classroom

So why so much focus on apps and Web 2.0 tools lately? Technology is surging ahead and has really reshaped the way we communicate and do business — why not also change the way we educate ourselves and others?

Several of our participants come from schools who have decided to invest in new technology in the classroom, such as through purchasing class sets of iPads, iPods or even laptops (some schools have even decided to forego textbooks in favor of class sets! @tmsaue1). Many of these schools use this technology in the foreign language classroom exclusively, and it’s easy to see how our subjects can benefit from increased connections and communication with the world community.

If interested in this trend, check out this article on a Kentucky school’s decision to provide iPads to each of its students (@tmsaue1).

Problems with Increased Technology in the Classroom

Despite all the advantages of using apps and Web 2.0 tools to educate our students, there are a number of problems that must be considered. A primary concern is the same as using any technology in the classroom: is this actually adding to my students’ education, or can the task be done better another way? It’s easy to fall for the new, trendy look of an iPhone or iPad app, but we need to make sure that the tool we’re using is well-suited to our objective.

The key could be to ensure that the app contains authentic content, rather than a simple flashcard tool (@SECottrell). Apps that focus on memorization, vocab, etc. are probably not good choices, especially when used with students who are already struggling (@lindseybp).

As @tmsaue1 put it, we don’t need new apps to do old things. One way to avoid this is not to think of mobile devices as small computers. He recommends that teachers not use a feature of a mobile device if it can be done with a computer — stick to unique uses. The real beauty of mobile devices is that students can use them to personalize their learning. These devices are small, cheap and offer a choice in education that students don’t have with their textbook and teacher lectures.

Apps for Authentic Learning

One of the key benefits to using apps in foreign language education is the ability to access information, news and other media directly in the target language. Some of the most authentic learning apps aren’t intended for learners of the target language, but for actual native speakers.

These apps are great for students to both practice their listening or reading skills and learn about the target language culture at the same time — in whatever subject they’re interested in. That’s what personalizing learning is all about.

Note: Below are quite a few app suggestions made by our participants, and most are available for both Apple and other products, such as Android and Blackberry smartphones; however, in most cases the links below are only to the app’s iTunes store listing. If looking for another product’s app, Google the name to find the relevant download page.

  • @calicoteach recommends the High School Spanish App for students wanting to prepare for the AP or IB exams. Especially good for upper level students.
  • @cadamsf1 suggests the RTVE Noticias y Directos and the apps for authentic reading and listening news in Spanish.
  • @pamweseley suggests using travel-focused apps to explore and learn about different cities or regions in the target culture.
  • The Radios de España app offers 500+ radio stations (@SECottrell).
  • Libros Clasicos is an app for Spanish teachers that provides lots of Spanish-language books (@DiegoOjeda66).
  • RFI & MCD is an international news station with reporting in over a dozen languages (@erindebell).
  • For experiencing target language songs and music, try Pandora Radio’s app. It’s great because if students know just one song in the language, the app will suggest additional songs for them to try (@erindebell).
  • Flipboardis a great content-creation app that allows you to fashion personalized books with authentic content. @tmsaue1 uses one book per unit and finds that they’re great bellringer activities.
    • SECottrell shared iPad Curriculum’s blog post on Flipboard.
  • LeKiosque provides fantastic access to French magazines (@tmsaue1).
  • For a mixture of two cultures, try out Frases Cotidianas en Idioma Chino for daily Spanish-language Chinese idioms and Frases Cotidianas en Idioma Aleman for German idioms — and the same developer has other languages available as well (@DiegoOjeda66).
  • For Spanish-language books, movies and more, check out La Libreria Crabapps (@DiegoOjeda66).
  • Buy Spanish-language books for 99 cents each with the Cuentos para Dormir: HD app — great for elementary students (@tmsaue1).
  • Or for some free illustrated children’s stories in Spanish, check out Los Cuentos de Niño and Cuentitos Clásicos (@SECottrell).
  • For Spanish, a nice app for recipes is Que Rica Vida Recetario (@tmsaue1).
  • Check out Guia del Ocio for some authentic Spanish language practice (@katchiringa).
  • For Spanish sports, try out Mundo Deportivo, and for general Spanish-language videos, see Univision Videos (@SECottrell).
  • BrainPOP: Película del Día is a Spanish-language app that covers lots of different subjects — and free! (@szucsja)
  • @lindseybp likes the Roma Uno app to stream live Italian news from Rome.
  • @DiegoOjeda66 likes Mi Primeras Palabras for elementary Spanish.

Apps for Improving Oral Language Skills

In addition to allowing students access to authentic materials in the target language, apps and the tools they run on can also be used to practice oral language skills through self-recording and video creation.

  • @paulinobrenner has some steps on making a video using an iPod or iPad at
  • @DiegoOjeda66 uses the Speech with Milo app, recently available in Spanish. Another app that’s good and fun at the same time is Speak to the Animals — be sure to look for the version in your target language.
  • Check out Audioboo, iPadio and DragonDictation for some free audio recording apps (@SECottrell).
    • Audioboo allows students to create an audio portfolio of their language learning — powerful to show progress over time (@tmsaue1).

Miscellaneous Resources and App Lists

Participants shared so many fantastic suggestions that it was impossible to include them all in the commentary above. Check below for several lists of apps recommended for use in teaching foreign languages.

  • @SECottrell shared her Delicious tag for foreign language iPad apps, check it out at
  • @pamwesely shared a link to’s list of the best iPad apps — how many can be used in the foreign language classroom?
  • @szucsja provided a link to a blog focusing on the use of apps in the classroom at
  • @SECottrell also shared a list of apps for language learning compiled by Catherine Meissner at Check it out for apps dedicated to individual languages or all languages together.
  • If looking for your own apps, start here for iTunes’ Spanish-language apps, and here for the French-language apps.
  • @melindamlarson regularly uses iPod Touches and iPads in her classes, and shared a link to her list of favorite apps at
  • Check out @cybraryman1’s iPad page at for more apps and ideas for in-class activities.
  • @teachpaperless has a blog post on the facts and myths surrounding classroom iPads at
  • @szucsja recommends two art apps in SketchBook MobileX and Doodle Buddy.
    • @pamwesely says her daughter loves Drawing Pad for art.
    • Another app (free) for a Spanish art unit: Chilango Arte Público. It shows art in public spaces in Mexico and locates them on a map for culture learning (@szucsja).
  • For your older students, @DiegoOjeda66 recommends Como Seducir a una Chica.
  • @lindseybp shared this blog post from e-blahblah about some of the best apps for teaching and learning.

Wow! Participants shared lots of interesting and useful apps, but how can we go about finding even more authentic learning materials in this new branch of technology? First, @DiegoOjeda66 suggests using the target language while searching for new apps — this will ensure you find apps that are directed more towards native speakers. @tmsaue1 also suggests looking for providers such as department and grocery stores, TV stations, magazines and the like. Follow these two tips, combined with the arsenal of suggestions above, and you’ll be well on your way to offering your kids plenty of choices in their language learning endeavors.

Thanks again to all our participants, and especially to our moderators for the night, @DiegoOjeda66 and @SECottrell. Be sure to check out our language learning wiki at, and if you have suggestions for the next #langchat (Thursdays at 8 EST), feel free to make them on our public suggestion form. The full archive of Thursday’s chat is available here.


Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.


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