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his section will explore the topic of teachers verses apps with regards to context, personalisation and relevance.

A key factor the user considers when finding a suitable language learning app, is if it teaches relevant content. Users have different knowledge levels of the language prior to using the app, as well as having their own goals, therefore it is crucial that the content is relevant. However, this isn’t something apps can currently do, and do it well.

There is some evidence of apps trying to take this into consideration. For example, Memrise asks the user are they ‘beginners’ or ‘advanced’ prior to delivering the content. This will give these users different starting points. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that users will be starting at the correct point with regards to their previous knowledge. This is where teachers have the advantage. Teachers have the ability to empathise with their students regarding their current situation, age, learning environment and previous knowledge. They form relationships with their students; a source of motivation. Teachers have the ability to tailor their content to suit specific learners, making their experience personalised and more relevant.

For example, adult and child learners. How would this content be delivered to the child at an advanced level, without using over-complicated language? Similarly, how would an adult receive a beginner’s level education of the language, without feeling belittled through use of simplistic language?

This is where teachers step in with the human ability to consider the context of the learner. Alongside this, effective language learning requires the experience of speaking to real native speakers. Pre-recorded clips and chatbots are the closest experience to this an app can provide. In contrast, language teachers are, typically, fluent in the language they’re teaching, and can therefore provide this on-demand, and adapt the conversation to fit the context. Not only this, but they can hold conversations with their students, immersing them in real-life situations, or a reenactment of one at the very least.

There are many different models to identify learner types, but the three most widely-accepted types are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Visual learners learn best by looking at things, be it colour coded notes, diagrams, making lists or photographs. Auditory learners prefer to hear the information, through a teacher or sound clips. They can listen to others, or themselves, and retain the information easily. Kinaesthetic learners learn best through doing. Simply put, kinaesthetic learners enjoy handling objects, moving around or even just writing information out, at a simple level, over reading or listening.

There are both advantages and setbacks to learning through a teacher, depending on a student’s individual learning style. Through personal experience, I am a kinaesthetic learner. I find it easier to retain information by doing, and in my language classes, this was usually by drawing pictures throughout my notes that related to the points. As a kinaesthetic learner, the classroom wasn’t always the best learning environment for me; sitting stationary and not being able to interact with objects or applications to learn was difficult and therefore a downfall. However, auditory and visual learners could thrive being taught solely by a teacher as they could listen to retain information, or look at the information in a text book or on the board to take it all in. 

Another possible disadvantage to learning with a teacher in a classroom setting is that in large groups of students, there will be a combination of all learner types, therefore making it more difficult for teachers to personalise the lesson to suit a specific type of student. Oftentimes it would suit one type more so than the other two. On the other hand, in some lessons teachers will be able to make the lesson more interactive and involve a physical activity or role-playing scenarios. Role-playing is a popular teaching method in secondary language classes and appeals to kinaesthetic learners, and possibly auditory and visual, depending on the scenario. 

Applications have the ability to consider all three learning styles, also. Use of colour to highlight different topics or key words, sound clips of native language speakers and the learner interacting with the application means that most apps would cover all three learners at a very basic level. However, a downfall is that levels of efficiency would vary depending on the learner type, for example auditory learners would need majority of the content within the app to be delivered through sound clips or videos. Whereas with kinaesthetic learners, interacting with the app through a game or quiz is more beneficial. There will be drawbacks to both arguments as it is difficult to cater to everyone.