Language Learning For Esl Learners English Language Essay

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21st century education is going through a paradigm shift where new technologies challenge our learning and modes of instruction. New literacies and new media are shaping the instructional and pedagogical practices of the global education system. An emerging technology in this scenario is Mobile Assisted Language Learning. Technologies like MALL holds immense possibility to increase the overall effectiveness of language learning within and beyond the classroom in countries like India, where English is taught as a second language, While engineers, content developers and instructional designers are working towards making MALL an accessible reality, English teachers should start taking into consideration the unbound potential of this revolution in language learning.

The field of mobile assisted language learning for ESL learners in India is yet to be seriously explored and instructional and pedagogical framework is still lacking. A collaborative effort needs to be made by ESL learners and teachers to make the above context a reality in India. This paper is an exploratory study about the potential of mobile learning (m-learning) in second language acquisition and teaching in India. The paper analyses the challenges, prospects and consequence of using mobile-assisted language learning, for learners and trainers in the India.

KEYWORDS: Mobile assisted language learning, ESL, Communication, Education, M- learning, MALL


India is a multilingual country, however along with the vernacular medium; English is taught as a compulsory subject both at school and college levels using various approaches. Nevertheless we, cannot ignore the fact that literacy practices are changing rapidly in the 21st-century. The computer is transforming our world and shaping new social and pedagogical practices. The trend of inculcating new literacies and digital technology in education has become increasingly global and multigenerational. Traditional concepts of education are giving way to dramatically innovative ways of teaching, thinking, learning and acquiring knowledge.

Learners nowadays are carrying new literacies (Web 2.0 environments, iPods, mobile communication, wikis, vlogs etc) into schools and colleges. In this new backdrop of digital communication, print texts are often juxtaposed with digital tools that provide multiple visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modes of easy representation.

Given the thrust in information and communication technologies and the ever increasing global and multicultural workplaces, the methods of language learning and teaching, today has undergone a sea change. The focus is no longer on grammar, memorization and learning by rote, but on using language , cultural and technology as a means to transcended physical boundaries and facilitate global connections. Language learning is now more learner-centered, collaborative and technologically driven. The trends in language learning are directed to empower learners to communicate with others across the globe in real time. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has aptly highlighted these shifts in literacy as "moving from the conventional sense of reading and writing only print text to an expanded sense of reading and writing multiple forms of print-mixed and non-print texts…"

A relatively new phenomenon in this scenario is Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL). Mobile phones are portable, handheld devices offering increasingly powerful applications like multimedia, social networking, communication and geo-location (GPS). With the huge availability and easy accessibility of services in India, the usability and flexibility of these devices can be exploited for mobile learning (m-learning) approaches in the ESL context.

Mobile Assisted Language Learning or MALL is a subset of Mobile Learning (m-learning) and Computer-assisted language learning (CALL). MALL is an approach to language learning that is assisted or enhanced through the use of a handheld mobile device. Due to the growth of wireless and emerging technologies today, MALL is available through numerous devices including mobile computers, PDAs, MP3 players, Smartphones, iPods, Tablet PCs, to support learners' language learning. With MALL, learners are able to access language learning materials and communicate with their teachers and peers anytime, anywhere. The mobile phone revolution has made the accessibility of mobile devices very easy and affordable for almost everybody in India. Thus m-learning for the future ESL learners appears to be a very useful application due to its ubiquitous nature, comparatively low cost, speed, availability of various applications and diverse modes of language. Apart from the various challenges involved, M- Learning in India offers abundant opportunities in ESL education. There is a current need to harness the possibilities of MALL, scan and develop pedagogies suitable for ESL from the perspective of learners as well as teachers.

This paper basically identifies existing global trends in the use of mobile devices to support language learning and in respect, analyses the prospects, significance and challenges of using mobile-assisted language learning for second language acquisition in India.


For the purpose of the current paper, text was reviewed on MALL-related literature mostly published in foremost peer reviewed, CALL-related journals. Google Scholar and other online database were also referred to for literature in this field. E-learning journals and papers published in the area of CALL were also explored along with several relevant papers presented at mobile learning conferences.

Due to the rapid rate of publication and non availability of extensive MALL-related literature in the Indian context, the overview presented here is not exhaustive; though the available body of literature for MALL is small in size when only published, peer-reviewed journals are considered. However there are vast amounts of publications in the form of non-peer reviewed publications and conference papers which are not easily accessible. This explains the ever-changing character of mobile devices and the time frames required for creating and publishing research that conforms to the strict guidelines of academic publishing.

Trifanova, Knapp, Ronchetti, and Gamper (2004, p.) defined mobile devices as „…any device that is small, autonomous and unobtrusive enough to accompany us in every moment", and Stockwell (2007) claimed that the term 'Mobile' ‟ may refer to broader range of devices including wireless laptop computers, portable DVD players, and even handheld electronic games."

The potential of mobile technology in the language classroom has gained increased interest in recent years (Chinnery, 2006). A range of devices such as mobile phones and PDAs have been explored for language learning purposes (Motiwalla, 2007; Thornton & Houser, 2003), Designing collaborative, constructionist and contextual applications for handheld devices.(Computers & Education, 46(3), 294-308). Mobile learning: A framework and evaluation, (Computers & Education 49 (3), pp. 581-596). As such, what makes mobile devices useful, is their compact size, portability, and utility which promises progress of language learning from exclusively classroom or laboratory environments to informal or beyond the class settings.

As MALL technology is ubiquitous, relatively cheap, and devices are portable a variety of applications have been explored over the years. One of the traditional approaches is its application for the delivery of content for language learning. For instance, researchers adopted text messages as a means of providing vocabulary practice for quizzes and surveys (Levy, M., & Kennedy, C. 2008) ex; for Learning Italian via mobile SMS, (Kukulska-Hulme & J. Traxler (Eds.), for mini-lessons (Thornton & Houser, 2003, 2005). Mobile-based email has also been used to encourage vocabulary learning and web-based video clips have been used to learn idioms through mobile phones (Thornton & Houser, 2005). A theoretically significant feature of mobile devices lies in their potential for situated learning (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005; Lave & Wenger, 1991). As learning occurs outside of classroom, this also encourages context-driven learning. Moreover, mobile devices minimize the separation between in-class and out-of-class learning (Reinders & Lewis, 2009).

Ogata and Yano (2003) for example, built a "location-aware" mobile learning system that takes account of the relative position of speakers (important in Japanese culture) and location (formal or informal) to recommend specific greetings and language to L2 learners of Japanese. (Chen, Hsieh & Kinshuk, 2008) Taiwanese learners found the mobile learning convenient as they could enjoy "bite-size-chunks‟ of learning contents through the relatively small screen. These being an evident pedagogic will over time, reform the development of traditional teaching materials as well. Thornton and Houser (2002; 2003; 2005) developed several innovative projects using mobile phones to teach English at a Japanese university. They also developed a course management system, Poodle, to facilitate installation of language learning material to mobile phones. City College Southampton developed a web based "media board" (similar to a web-board but supporting Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) as well as Short Message Service (SMS) and supplied learners of English as a Second Language (ESL) with mobile phones with voice recording facilities and inbuilt cameras (JISC, 2005).

Godwin-Jones highlighted language studies- Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE), County Meath Project, FluenzMandarin engaged readers with recent language learning developments via the use of mobile applications worldwide. Whereas MILLEE consists of e-learning gamers for mobile phones that used English language as the medium of instruction for learners of English in India, CountyMeath Project was a language study in which Irish was taught in the Dublin area. On the other hand, Fluenz Mandarin was a language-related application for wireless devices available in a Windows Mobile version. (Microsoft research program2010)

An investigation of the MALL literature reveals that it is, indeed revolutionary, ubiquitous and useful and has immense potential for second language acquisition studies. However mobile language learning has received very little attention in SLA research. Likewise the perspective of MALL for SLA (second language acquisition) in India has been given very little consideration.


Before using the services of mobile technology an analysis of the attitudes and awareness of learners and teachers who shall be engaged with technology assisted language learning is required.

Due to constraints of time and availability of other resources, the investigation was restricted to a small scale, exploring only specific aspects necessary for the study. This present study focuses only on Approach, Attitude and Awareness towards introducing MALL in India.

20 English language learners (In age group of 19-30) and 20 English language teachers (10 new and 10old generation ESL teachers) representing a cross- section of the English teaching community from various technical and non technical colleges in India, were takes as respondents.

This study is based on the methodology of qualitative analysis (small scale). The methods used are survey conducted by using questionnaires and informal interviews. The questions formulated for both questionnaires and interviews (after a brief explanation about the concept) for the investigation are as follows:


Do you think blended learning is a necessity now?

Can MALL be a useful Medium to Learn a Second Language?

Are ESL teachers ready to use the MALL technology? With or without reservations?

What are the pedagogic challenges involved?

Will teachers explore available applications and select apps that they can effectively integrate into their learning processes for language learning?

What challenges do ESL teachers apprehend during the process of Designing, Learning, Cost and Implementation of MALL in India?

Will you be interested to be an active participant for exploring MALL in India?


Do you think blended learning is a necessity now?

Can MALL be a Useful Medium to Learn a Second Language?

Will learners explore available applications and select apps that they can effectively integrate into their learning processes for language learning?

What challenges do ESL learners apprehend during the process of Designing, Learning, Cost and Implementation of MALL in India?

The preferences of language learners towards the most useful device (to choose among given options) for language learning.

Will you be interested to be an active participant for exploring MALL in India?


In this segment the responses to questions have been integrated into sections followed by some expert suggestions and relevant discussions.

Blended Learning

Both learners and teachers of ESL seemed to be aware of the influence of technology on language and the rampant use of CALL in language learning. Therefore both were of the opinion that blended learning is in and cannot be avoided any more. All agreed that constant use and awareness of technology is necessary for effective learning

The convenience of access of blended learning was pointed out by the teachers as one of the most significant benefits. Another important advantage, as seen by the teachers, is the learner-centered approach implemented through this application. Given that the blended courses follow a continuous thematic consistent interactive approach, they are seen by teachers as useful communicative approach to language learning. On the negative side almost all teachers indicated that the reduced face-to-face element of language learning can be seen as a major deterrent, mostly for beginner level students or those who need more guidance in their learning.

Can MALL be a Useful Medium to Learn a Second Language?

Language teachers were apprehensive about the usage and application of MALL, because as of now everything is a distant possibility and nobody has hands on experience or idea, moreover teachers are confident of tried and tested approaches which are non-technical in nature. But all most all teachers were ready to experience MALL before further comments.

The set of Learners sounded more convinced as they are more confident about the use of mobile technology; however they agreed to be ignorant about using mobile devices for language learning and considered this as an "exciting" and "interesting" approach which they were waiting to explore.

Fig: 1 Readiness for Mobile Learning

Ninety percent learners within the age group of 30 were eager to know more and use this technology. While some fifteen percent were not sure or apprehensive about inherent challenges involved.

New generation second language teachers were found to be highly appreciative of the possibilities of mobile-assisted language learning (MALL), as most young generation teachers are skilled mobile users because of the prevalence of mobile devices. However, the older generation teachers were quite skeptic about the effectiveness of MALL in given conditions. Most of their concerns were based on their inability or inefficiency in using technology for educational purposes, along with the efficacy of using mobile devices for learning a language, which is quite contradictory to the traditional teaching approaches. The issue of teacher apprehension focused on the knowledge and attitude towards employing a mobile device in teaching English as a foreign language is a major deterrent.

Learner Preferences towards the Use of Different Devices for Language Learning.

Fig: 2. Preference towards most useful device for language learning

ESL learners had a more favorable view towards using this technology, mostly because they are more technically sound than their teachers. Learners showed preference towards MALL due to their familiarity with and user friendliness of the working environment. The following characteristics of Mobile devices afford a range of learning strategies known to be effective for language acquisition: highly portable, designed to work with text, images, audio, and video; ability to connect with other devices and the Internet, function as mini computers by running applications and storing data.

Computers are still considered as dependable favorites, (they are not mobile devices) Learners consider CDs and MP3 players as good listening exercises. Pods and Tablets are the latest craze and learners think these devices can be more user friendly as compared to mobiles for the purpose of Language learning in particular, though costs are on the higher side. Learners were more positively inclined towards Tabs particularly for language learning as they are portable, give better visibility and clarity than mobile phones; include all features of a PC however high-price was the only deterrent. As for mobile phones, learners were apprehensive regarding the usability and effectiveness of learning English using this medium.

Because of the widespread ownership of mobile devices and mobile technology, smart phones and tablets can become language learning tools, allowing learners to easily and immediately access materials from a variety of sources and to engage with those materials where and when they please. This phenomenon should allow learners to extend language learning in new ways beyond their usual learning routine.

The students' choice was restricted to of four devices: Computers, CD and MP3 players, Mobile phones, IPods/Itabs

The Current Challenges

Even before mobile-assisted language learning can become an accessible reality in India we need to consider some serious challenges inherent with employing MALL. The various challenges mentioned by respondents are;

Learning English as a Second language in India

Traditional methods of language acquisition have their own advantages and disadvantages. Non native speakers of English in India have the tendency to learn English only as a subject rather than a language. Moreover due to lack of favorable environment learners are unable to practice their learning. In addition to the above limited teaching hours prove a major constraint as learners are from diverse cultural and language backgrounds with basic and sometimes no knowledge of the elements of the English language.

Teacher anxiety

Though communication technology have slowly and effectively crept into school and college education ESL teachers and learners are still using the traditional mode of learning and teaching mostly because teaching of English in India is still examination-oriented. Unfortunately most Indian teachers also lack the familiarity with the latest developments in ELT pedagogy.

Without rigorous training and proper awareness the very concept of mobile education can be intimidating and difficult to accept. Teacher anxiety over losing their authority in the classroom and being replaced by technology as the learning process becomes more learner-centered can also be a major hindrance in understanding and appreciating the changing scenario.

Student Attitude

Most learners in India are very techno-friendly, thanks to the boom in the IT sector and easy access to latest technology. Thus learners surely will exhibit a positive attitude towards MALL if it becomes a reality. But learners' excitement in a new technology for the sole purpose of learning may be short lived. As we know mobile devices are liked the world over for their convenience, youngsters like it more for their usability factor… something that they can use or misuse according to their whims and fancies. However any pedagogic use shall be disciplined, routine and time bound taking away much of the freedom involved in using these devices. Moreover cost incurred in using the framework, network availability, and the degree of teacher involvement can further restrain adaptability.

Digital Literacy Barriers

In India roughly 50 percent of people aren't IT literate or have access to digital information. MALL can be a difficult proposal as content and information is designed for an audience that comprehends at an advanced literacy level. People should also have discretionary money to spend on digital information and technology. From the digital literacy point of view widespread use of MALL in India can mean a distant dream. Any technology assisted learning can create a digital divide by giving tech-savvy learners an advantage over non-technical learners and create a feeling of isolation for non-technical learners. As technology gets redundant it will be difficult for teachers and learners to cope up with frequent changes every now and then.


Even though cellular phones are very affordable today, not everyone can afford the data plan that telecommunication companies charge for web access. Users also lose money when poor network service and low bandwidth in their area consumes call credit while trying to connect a call or access the internet. Multiple media formats and reformats additional learning curve for non-technical learners and faculty and uses of additional applications may also add on to costs. Pre- implementation support issues are also very time- consuming and cost intensive. In contrast to the personal usage use of mobile phones learners will have to pay phone charges incurred by the use of pedagogical applications as pedagogical resources can carry substantial expenses.

There can be significant additional user cost and transmission charges if media other than text is involved. Smart phones can connect to the Internet and allow easy browsing but again, phone-based Internet connections are pricey in India, which many learners will be unable or unwilling to pay. Device costs and connectivity outside metropolitan areas are other deterrents.


Most cellular phones and portable devices support small screens. Therefore it is, not feasible to use these tiny screens to read long text or work on exercises, since continuous visual focus and mental concentration on the small screen can strain the eyes, cause headaches and make you lose interest in the long run. Devices that support bigger screens like iPods, tablets and big screen 3G phones are too costly to be used by everyone. 

Curriculum and Pedagogy 

In India where English is a second language, and the population is scattered into large segments of isolated, rural populations, cultural minorities, various literacy levels (both general and digital literacy).Content development for MALL in the Indian context can be very challenging due to the above, thus it is essential to develop pedagogical content that match national curriculum requirements and are meaningful locally to ensure that MALL can be widely accessible. Research on student attitude towards MALL reveals an interesting finding; which is a disconnect between positive attitudes towards MALL, actual engagement and use of the mobile system. It was found that the use of systems responds to users' preferences more commonly ignoring teacher's instructions or suggestions. It is not surprising then, that learners rank convenience as a strong factor for using mobile devices. Since learners see mobile devices as devices of convenience they don't familiarize themselves to new uses but use the device to adapt content to their own needs and usefulness.

Other Challenges

There are also a host of other issues like technology access to teachers and learners all over India, implementation of technology through the help of affordable network connectivity, creating and applying suitable content which can be used by all concerned, forming a body of dedicated engineers, educationists, programmers and researchers who can keep up with the latest on MALL and be able to use them effectively and efficiently.

Suggestions and Possibilities

The powerful applications and features of mobile devices carry great potential and possibilities for teachers and learners 'of English. In his research paper Prof. S.J. Ghotekar says; "There are several pedagogical reasons to consider using mobile phones in the second language classroom. Most importantly, phones are social tools that facilitate authentic and relevant communication and collaboration among learners. This makes them an ideal tool to support. The Situated learning theory, which states that learning, is more likely to take place when information is contextually relevant and can be put to immediate use. For example, second language learners can use mobile technology to access relevant vocabulary and expressions while at a bank opening an account, to look up movie reviews while at the theater, or to discuss weekend plans with an English speaking friend. Since mobile phones are part of learners' everyday routines; they help minimize the separation between the classroom and the outside world. Any tool that can increase learners' access to the language will contribute greatly to their progress. Another compelling argument for using mobile phones in the classroom is that they give learners control over their own learning. Learners control the medium, and teachers, by elaborating how best to use the medium, provide a blueprint for autonomous learning, especially during the wide range of daily social activities where mobile phones are most likely to be used."

Prensky (2004) rightly comments, "Cell phones are not just communication devices sparking new modalities of interaction between people, but like all communication and computing devices, cell phones can be used to learn." MALL is a sort of revolution because it can change the relationship between learners and the technological object, create new learning environments and be ubiquitous and synchronous.

MALL for Learners in India

While mobile devices are just an element of the whole CALL environment Kirubahar, Santhi & Subashini(2010) indicate that "M-learning not only breaks barriers but also presents new challenges in the educational area" (Kirubahar et al., 2010). The author's overview and case for M-Learning further proves the need for more studies around MALL in order to better understand how to reach the potential mentioned. Studies by the researcher support a picture of positive attitudes towards mobile learning, but there is a lack of peer-reviewed published research till date.

Thus the effectiveness in using MALL for ESL learners in India lies in using mobile technologies both as an enhancer in the classroom and beyond it. However this phenomenon should strongly involve an empirical basis by which teachers can effectively integrate m-learning activities into the design of the language course. M-learning should be viewed as a teaching-learning partnership which is a complement to the traditional classroom. Sharma and Kitchens says," it is imperative that instructors learn about and adapt to the changing environments, when and where appropriate."

India being a technology hub, implementing MALL requires only that the inherent challenges be dissolved and a strong and effective pedagogic framework be made for implementation. It requires a collaborative effort from teachers, engineers, instructional designers, content writers, programmers and the like to keep up with this changing phenomenon and to effectively facilitate mobile learning.

Shifting Notions

The people who hold the major responsibility for pioneering MALL in India are the educators. There needs to be a shift in the traditional mindset and everybody should eagerly embrace new technology that is reforming education, otherwise we are at a loss of becoming redundant. Though the transition cannot be made overnight, but a beginning has to be made somewhere.

To help educators make the transition, Naismith et al. propose the following suggestions for integrating mobile learning to the six major learning types:

Collaborative learning: Mobile devices provide a handy additional means of communication and a portable means of electronic information gathering and sharing.

Situated learning: Learners can take mobile devices into authentic learning environments or "context-aware" environments, such as specially equipped museums.

Behaviorism: Quick feedback or reinforcement can be facilitated through mobile devices.

Constructivism: Mobile devices enable immersive experiences such as those provided by simulations or games.

Support/coordination: Mobile devices provide just-in-time access to learning resources, news, information, planners, address books, calculators, and so on.

Informal/lifelong learning: Mobile devices accompany users in their everyday experiences and become a convenient source of information or means of communication that assists with learning.

Because of research findings that teachers need time to adapt to new learning and integrate this new knowledge into their practice through experimentation, and then bank on these outcomes to make appropriate adjustments, a hands-on approach for using technology should be provided (Gooler, Kautzer, & Knuth, ; Rosenfeld & Martinez-Pons, ).

After initial training regarding the attributes of a mobile device, teachers require an experimental period to practice their understanding of the device. Two effective strategies to help pre-service teachers adopt a technology in their teaching were proposed by Kay (2007): Collaboration and Using authentic tasks. Egbert, Paulus, and Nakamichi are of the opinion that teachers learn best in a collaborative and authentic context by seeing methods used in actual classrooms, by trying out mobile techniques and receiving feedback on their efforts, and by observing and talking with fellow teachers. Granger, Morbey, Lotherington, Owston, and Wideman (2002) suggested a supportive and collaborative relationship among teachers and a commitment to pedagogically sound implementation of mobile technology, as highly useful factors for successful ICT implementation.

Research in the computer field has shown that while fundamental skills are necessary for technology literacy, teachers may not need to develop advanced skills to be successful CALL practitioners, Hubbard (2007). Peters (2006) identified the need to prepare teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom rather than prepare them to be technical or technology experts. Teachers need sufficient background and familiarity with language teaching technology solutions, rather than simply expanding their technology knowledge in general (Hegelheimer et all). Teacher preparation from CALL may benefit from a focus on developing contextualized confidence within certain teaching domains or types of technology, rather than expecting teachers to develop a high level of confidence in technology across domains (Kessler & Plakans). Kim & Hannafin say; "When teacher experiences are situated in authentic teaching problems and experiences, teachers will learn about and implement technology more successfully in their future classrooms." Using authentic tasks which allow related selection, integration and hands-on experience, in a sample practice design is also needed for a useful learning experience. Thus by interacting with the environment, the device, and other educators, teachers can effectively adopt a mobile device supported by their prior experiences and existing knowledge structures.

Along with the above the educator needs necessary management and infrastructural support along with digital efficacy to be able to incorporate all of these for a better learning environment.

Minimizing Cost

At this point I would like to refer to the MobLang program meant to study language through your mobile, a project co-funded by the European Union. They used the following cost effective ways for implementing MALL which can also be well adapted in the initial stages in India as well.

"All data are stored locally on a micro SD memory card.  Since the smallest such cards can hold 2GB of data, and an entire Language package requires less than 100MB, most phones with a memory card installed should have no difficulty accommodating the program. Even if a memory card has to be purchased, the cost to users would quite less. Lesson content is provided for free as part of the project. This can be downloaded via an Internet link to any computer and transferred to an SD card either directly or through a USB connection to a phone. Since the program is installed on a memory card, there are never any phone or data transmission charges to access it. Moreover, because the SD card operates independently of any telephone connections, this application can even run on a mobile phone without a SIM card." 

The above is a proven case, however if engineers, teachers and educational institutions are mutually involved in the MALL project we can look forward to many more cost effective versions. Learners with sound digital knowledge can also develop their own projects and programs by using their local network and support. (For efficient performance, student involvement requires guidance by experts.)

Pedagogical Implications

MALL has gone to the extent of serving as a primary source of language education for learners while supporting the retention and utilization of newly-acquired language skills. Pilot studies on mobile contribution in short exercises and tasks have been conducted in many places over the world and it was found that learners are able to retain their linguistic aptitudes while reducing the risk of degradation of valuable knowledge, abilities and skills. For example 'Duke University provided all incoming freshmen with free iPods equipped with voice recorders. Amongst the pilot courses utilizing the players were several language courses, which utilized both their listening and recording capabilities' (Belanger, 2005). Dias (2002a, 2002b) offered a web-board accessible via mobile phone so that learners could exchange text-based asynchronous exchanges, to promote learner-learner interaction. News from over the world reveal that MALL designers have begun implementing techniques to maximize the benefits of these devices by increasing the number of possible delivery tools to include very-short tutorials to full courses of mobile language learning programs.

If properly facilitated Mobile communication devices offer a unique opportunity for learners by providing instructional materials and interaction through their mobile devices wherever and whenever they need it. Instructors also benefit as they, too, can access services and interact with learners while on the move.

This section incorporates certain practical ideas suggested by experts for implementing MALL. They are not exhaustive but may be useful to make a modest beginning and encourage further experimentation and research.

Pedagogic Framework

Developing a pedagogical framework for MALL requires understanding of the delivery platform and good instructional practices. Of late mobile devices and connectivity are becoming highly affordable in India, due to huge competition and governmental subsidies and wide network coverage. There is a need to develop original educational content, adapt existing content, and convert print-based content to digital media. These are tasks which require content development specialists, programmers, multimedia course authors, and web-developers are needed. Technology should supports interactive content where learners, teachers, librarians, can view, listen and interact with the content and submit responses. 

The following is a simple framework for mobile architecture:







Fig 3: Model architecture for mobile assisted language class

The user interacts with the mobile phone for interactive language learning. 

The server (web server) maintains the database for contents and exercises. 

Through web gateway user connects to web server for accessing contents and exercises. 

Using basic facilities and infrastructure following forms of content can be developed for language learning: 

Short conversational dialog models. 

List of phrases for L2 users. 

Using recorded audio stories with the ability to read the printed text while listening to develop listening and reading skills.

Audio playback of common objects and actions into the new language and translations into users' languages through illustrative picture dictionaries.

Preparatory exercises for tests like TOESL, TOEIC and IELTS. 

Interactive questions and intelligent response, which includes: checkbox questions (single choice, multiple choice).

Text-messaging can be used for language classroom discussion, tutoring games, quizzes, opinion polls and reminders,

If accurately implemented the right pedagogical framework can have significant implications for mobile learning in India. Educators will have to become facilitators of learning to create new learning pathways that are more personal, positioned, collaborative, and long term (Mobile Assisted Language Learning Applications)

Types of Mobile Based Learning

Listening Comprehension

The first stage in any language learning exercises is listening. In this context Huang and Sun designed a system composing of two subsystems for learning listening skills through listening exercises. A multimedia materials website that uploaded and maintained video materials, and a set of multimedia English listening exercise on the mobile phone for the learners to repeat exercises in English listening in a ubiquitous learning environment. They endeavored to implement the mobile multimedia English listening practice system based on the potential of mobile technology to provide learners download multimedia sound contents from mobile devices, register the learning website, order mobile learning courses and activate reception of learning courses. According to Huang and Sun, mobile multimedia English listening exercise system can enhance learner's English listening abilities to a high degree. (Huang, C.and P. Sun.2010). Thus it is possible to design a mobile platform in which learners listen to a text by vocal service, followed by a listening comprehension quiz based on the text.

Reading Comprehension

Reading practices help learners to enhance their vocabulary and vocabulary knowledge, helps them to promote reading comprehension. (Yannick.J. 2007) Learners can be presented reading activities either through SMS sent to the learners or by a well-designed learning course installed on the mobile devices and in both cases the learners are provided with a reading text function to evaluate their reading comprehension skill, upon finishing the activity. While testing an effective and flexible learning environment for English learners, Chen and Hsu attempted to present a personalized intelligent mobile learning system known as PIM in which the learners were provided with English news articles based on their reading abilities evaluated by fuzzy item response theory. The PIM system would automatically discover and retrieve unknown vocabularies of individual learners from the reading English news articles which would help to promote the reading abilities of English news. The experimental results of the study indicated that English news reading learning along with unfamiliar vocabulary learning with self-assessing feedback response are very effective in prompting reading comprehension and reading abilities of the learners. (Chen.C. M. & Hsu.S.H. 2008) Mobile learning reading comprehension programs where reading function is accompanied by text announcer pronunciation will be more helpful to simultaneously promote both reading comprehension and listening comprehension.

Learning Vocabulary

Depending on the level of language proficiency of the learners, activities focusing on vocabulary learning via mobile phone differ from one research project to other. Sending e-mail or SMS to students is a common way of learning new vocabulary Levy and Kennedy in their study gave learners the option to receive nine or ten SMS's per week to their mobile phones, covering known words in new contexts. The results indicated that the messages were very helpful for learning vocabulary. Similarly, Thornton and Houser sent short mini-lessons for learning vocabulary three times a day through email to students' mobile phones. They used new words in multiple contexts for the learners to infer meaning. The results showed an improved range of scores on post-tests which were very encouraging.

Various other strategies for learning vocabulary via mobile phones can also be used like, providing learners with some customized vocabulary practices based on activities done in the classroom. Learners are asked to complete the phone based tasks and send them back to their instructors. In a study conducted by Chen, et al., earning vocabulary was accompanied by the pictorial annotation; learners were provided with verbal as well as pictorial annotation for learning English vocabulary. Results showed that the pictorial annotation helped learners with higher visual and lower verbal ability to retain vocabulary.

Learning Grammar

Grammatical lessons can be learnt through mobile devices through a specifically designed program installed in mobiles. Grammatical explanations may also be presented to learners via vocal service or short message service. Grammatical rules are taught, followed by multiple-choice activities where learners select the correct answer from the given alternatives. Learners have to respond to grammatical exercises in the form of 'true-false' or 'fill-in the blanks'.


The new generation mobile devices allow users to access multimedia functions along with listening and speaking. By augmenting various functions of the system like providing a dictionary for looking up new words and their proper phonetic form, the speaking skills and pronunciation of the learners can be well improved. A good m-learning service should consist of speech facilities, using which the learners may download dictionaries on the PDA1 with sound functions so that they can learn the correct pronunciation of unfamiliar or new words based on their learning needs. Multimedia functions in mobile devices give learners the opportunity to record their own voice, enabling teachers to make a better assessment of the students' weaknesses in pronunciation.

The Praxis learning podcast line is a platform providing a social-based, context-driven and software-enhanced website for learning foreign languages. It has been working to provide mobile language learning features for Smart phones, PDAs etc., enabling learners to learn phonetics of a given language on the mobile phones, in an interactive way using multimedia functions. Both the speech aspect and textual aspect of mobile learning are very significant, since they enable learners to be at ease with a system which records their voice and allows them to listen back to themselves. After that, they can compare their voice with an ideal pronunciation and make improvements. (Microsoft research program.2010)

Game-based Learning

Game-based learning is a theme for mobile learning where learning materials are designed to be incorporated with aspects of the physical environment. In such environments, learning activities are made possible using the mobile technology which serves as a link between the real world of knowledge and the visual world of the game. TimeLab, for instance, is a game about climate change and its effects. Players succeed to get information about the introduction of possible new environmental laws via their mobile devices in different locations as they progress in the game. They later discuss the results of the game in the classroom (Microsoft research program.2010).

M-learning games can also be used to teach second language skills such as grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling and listening and reading comprehension. According to Canny, cell phones offer an ideal platform for learning since they are ubiquitous, affordable, and compact and wireless. (Microsoft research program.2010)

The researchers of the project MILLEE at the University of California (UC Berkeley) selected a series of games that comprise a curriculum equivalent to an ESL course on simple English language skills. These cell phone-based learning games were tested in North India. The results showed that the learning games produced significant learning benefits and this type of learning enhanced student's basic skills and provided clues to the sustainability and scalability of their approach. (Microsoft research program2010)


The perspectives presented in the study prove that mobile technology for language learning is an effective and useful concept. It is a paradigm shift from e-learning to m-learning. As the mobile device is quite a popular gadget and mobile learning techniques involves the principle of 'anytime anywhere', which makes it available to the user as and when required. Mobile phones also effectively utilize time and the user is not bound by time constraints, this may enable the mobile language class to carry on a variety of learning programs in a well-timed and interactive manner.

While studies seem to reveal that learners have positive attitudes towards mobile learning and the statistics demonstrate that mobile has a huge reach, yet there is big disconnect when it comes to SLA through MALL. Experiments and studies have been general, limited, small in size and non-conclusive, moreover they present very little in the way of SLA on MALL, especially in India. The Second major problem is the inherent challenges involved in using MALL in a country like India, unless these basic barriers are removed, MALL cannot become a nationwide reality. The other difficulty is formulating a pedagogical framework which can be used effectively for language learning on mobile devices. This situation calls for some immediate thought and discussion, considering the opportunity presented by the combination of positive attitudes and technological advancements.

The process of learning, teaching and assessment is changing dramatically in the digital age. As language learning is becoming more collaborative, learner-centered and technology driven, education is becoming reconceptualized. Learners are transcending geographical and physical boundaries to connect to the world around them, by using their language, technology and cultural skills. Considering the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, their ever improving functionality and pedagogical adaptability, we can envision a positive environment which will provide excellent support to foreign language learning in India.

To conclude, while every technology has some advantages and limitations, mobile devices are no exception. It is therefore essential to consider various aspects when designing and implementing the learning environment. Mobile technologies can be instrumental in second language instruction as " mobile technologies in education is moving from small-scale and short-term trials or pilots into sustained and blended development projects…" (Traxler, 2005) However we must not forget that mobile devices aren't instructors' just instructional tools, where technology can be only as good as the pedagogy behind it. Thus the effective use of mobile assisted language learning in India requires the involvement of thoughtful instructors, efficient technology management, availability and effective application of second language pedagogy.


The present study conducted an analysis on individual articles, by connecting them to other studies to present a picture of the global developments in the area of MALL. But as a whole body of research there is space for further analysis and discussion. Few researches seem to have reflected on how to use mobile devices for learning a second language. A collaborative pedagogical approach that involves both the teacher and the learners needs to be explored. Most mobile technology at present supports only non-interactive, static content. However using current capabilities of mobile devices, a variety of content can be developed for language learning. But developing curriculum for MALL requires understanding of both good instructional practices and the delivery platform.

To conclude then, MALL has rarely been explored in India; till date CALL activities with electronic quizzes, grammar drills and vocabulary lists dominate the language learning scenario. Overall, our survey revealed that although learners and teachers in India are eager to explore MALL there are currently few or no reported advances in the field of using MALL for SLA as compared to the range of approaches and learning activities in other parts of the world. The ways in which wireless technology is integrated into the curriculum after removing the inherent challenges, along with quality and enthusiastic teaching are a fundamental challenge to the success of any MALL program.