Learning to Speak Indonesian Using Mobile Apps

At Cinta Bahasa we have quite a few students who started learning Indonesian first with free mobile apps such as Duolingo and Babbel, and then they decided to expand on their learning by taking a course with us.

Why did they make that choice, and how can you use mobile apps to get the most out of learning to speak bahasa Indonesia?

In this short post, we’ll talk about language learning apps and reveal the ways that they can strengthen how you learn languages for maximum benefit to you, the language learner.

Which Mobile Apps do people use?

Duolingo and Babbel are two popular and free mobile apps for Android and Apple devices that offer many languages to start learning. We can’t tell you which one is better, both are fine and it is really up to you to try them both and decide which one you prefer.

We first heard about Duolingo in 2013, just as it was coming out from our student, the famous author Tim Ferriss, who wrote “The 4-Hour Workweek”, “The 4-Hour Body”, “Tribe of Mentors” and others. He was an early-stage investor in the company and as you may know, very well acquainted with the tools and techniques of rapidly learning and mastering anything. He has gone from zero to winning dance competitions, martial arts competitions, and many other rapid-learning achievements. He has a very specific approach to rapidly acquiring languages. Babbel has also been around for a very long time and has a very similar offering to Duolingo.

Surely there are other apps as well that could be considered, but these are the two most-popular ones our students tell us about, and any others will be similar in what they offer.

What’s So Great About Language-Learning Apps?

What makes Babbel and Duolingo such awesome language learning apps is that they use gamification to keep you, the language learner, motivated to keep on using the app and continuing to build your vocabulary in the language.

They also use a variety of activities to keep you engaged, and give your brain the opportunity to use what you have learned in different contexts, which strengthens your linguistic flexibility. As your brain becomes more flexible in applying the language, you will be better able to communicate correctly and effectively in a variety of different situations.

They also use the scientifically-proven learning technique of ‘spaced repetition’. Spaced repetition is the ability to more firmly recall words by seeing them repeated at specific, or spaced, periods of time. This helps you to build a vocabulary that sticks in your mind and doesn’t fall out easily as long as you either continue to use the app, thanks to their gamification. As long as you are using the app frequently, spaced repetition will work for you.

It’s great to use these apps to start learning words, then short sentences, then more complex sentences and phrases. The reading and writing side of language-learning is a good way to start as it activates the visual side of your learning so that you can start to read.

Then you grow into into listening comprehension, which is great for when you start to hear people speaking the words that you have become familiar seeing. You can start to identify specific words when you hear a native speaker speak, know what those words mean and get the gist of what they’re saying. They are great tools for building and maintaining your vocabulary in a way that you can see in your mind, and hear through the audio recordings.

Over time, you may learn to speak just by doing that, but we’ve seen that happen only with about 5% of language learners. This is because Duolingo and Babbel are great at solving part of the language-learning puzzle, but not all of it. There’s an additional part of the language-learning puzzle> that’s needed and this is where learning at Cinta Bahasa comes in.

This is because language-learning apps can only take you so far, and then it’s time to remove the training wheels and really learn how to speak with the people around you.

Both Babbel and Duolingo treat the written language like the spoken language, and bahasa Indonesia is absolutely not spoken like it is written. The first few units are fine, but as soon as you start getting into Unit 3 or higher, what you learn starts to diverge from how people really speak, and this can cause communication problems for you later on.

Another thing we notice is that the apps generate rather random sentences, rather than focusing on sentences that are only really practical, useful or make sense. So you end up learning sentences which you would never use in the real world. Although this might be good theoretically, to be able to say things you would never need to say in real life, we think it is better to focus on learning sentences that are useful. This is what a human teacher can do.>

Learning with a real teacher completes the most important part of the language-learning puzzle because they are able to strengthen what you have learned, help correct mistakes that may have crept in, and fill in missing areas that may have not been fully covered.

A real teacher can also listen to you speak and help you to speak correctly and carry on a conversation, which strengthens the verbal communication part of learning a language. It’s also about hearing your pronunciation and improving it so that you sound more and more like a native speaker. This is something that a mobile app cannot do.

Another important and often-overlooked part of learning a language is movement. Many people do not learn to communicate in a language only with their head, but also with their body. Learning with movement has become an important part of learning a language and helps us to develop other ways of understanding what other people are saying and how they are expressing their feelings.

Learning at Cinta Bahasa can also provide you with the very important cultural element to language, such as etiquette and styles of social speech between different kinds of people such as friends, family, colleagues, employers, officials, etc.

So use Duolingo or Babbel, everyday, and also take Group or Private classes at Cinta Bahasa. Tell your teacher that you are also using Duolingo, so that you can incorporate what you are learning there into your classes as well. You will then be using the best of both worlds to become a fluent speaker of bahasa Indonesia. Semoga sukses!