Tag Archives: Foreign Language

The Use of Mobile Devices in Learning Foreign Languages: Survey of a Private University

Reviewed By: Abraham Escalante, Stephanie Frame, & Rosario Mireles

Link to article: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1984/?utm_source=digitalcommons.unl.edu%2Flibphilprac%2F1984&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages

The Use of Mobile Devices in Learning Foreign Languages: Survey of a Private University

Reviewed By: Abraham Escalante, Stephanie Frame, & Rosario Mireles

Date: 4 April 2020

Link to article: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1984/?utm_source=digitalcommons.unl.edu%2Flibphilprac%2F1984&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages


Students all over the world have embraced mobile device technology to help them in their learning. Mobile technology has allowed students more freedom to pursue the learning of languages because the learner can access their device at any time, not just when he or she is in the language lab or classroom. This study, conducted by researchers Oriogu, Ejemezu, and Ogbuiyi, looks at how students at Afe Babalola University in Nigeria used mobile devices to learn a variety of languages. The research indicates that students are overwhelmingly positive about the impact that mobile devices have had on their language learning, despite some challenges with device interfaces and access to Wi-Fi. This was a broad study that opens the door for much more detailed research on how students use mobile devices, as well as the effect of mobile device use on language learning.

This article represents an international perspective in that it investigates the use of mobile devices in learning of foreign languages in Afe Babalola University in Ado-Editi, Nigeria. This study adds Nigeria to the list of countries such as Taiwan, Australia, and China, that have studied how university students can benefit from having language learning programs accessible on a mobile device (Chen et al. 2008; Goodwin-Jones, 2005; Levy & Kennedy, 2005). Perhaps, as more of these studies are conducted globally, the university instructor will have a more informed and effective pedagogy for his/her foreign language learners, especially in increasing autonomy and self-sufficiency among learners. In addition, while studies have focused on how mobile technology is used in the acquisition of English, this study includes other target languages, such as Chinese and French.

Core Research Questions

What type of mobile devices do students use in learning a foreign language?
What is the extent of Nigerian students’ knowledge of foreign languages?
What is the impact of mobile devices on learning of foreign languages by students?
What challenges were encountered on the use of mobile devices by students as they learned a foreign language?


A survey method was used to collect the data for the study. The survey consisted of some demographic questions and then an open answer question for RQ1, a Likert scale item for RQ2, and then a series of yes/no questions to answer RQs 3 and 4. The article says it focused on “students offering foreign languages in the institution” (n.p.), which is unclear due to vocabulary choice. One could interpret that as meaning that the survey was given to students who were enrolled in foreign language courses at the university. No information is given as to whether survey distribution was paper or electronic. There were 250 surveys administered, out of which 207 were used in the final analysis of data. Data were analyzed using “frequency counts, simple percentage, mean, and standard deviation” (n.p.).

Findings and Conclusions

This study focused on the use of mobile devices in learning a foreign language by university students in Nigeria. Of the 207 students whose surveys were counted in the final analysis, the majority were female, 58.9%, and males were 31.1%. The majority of respondents were in the 19-21 age bracket (57%). The results of the survey showed that the most commonly reported mobile devices used by students were Android (58.5%), iPhone (44.9%), and iPad (42.5%). Most students reported having very good knowledge of the English language; their Chinese and French knowledge was reported as good. German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish language knowledge was reported as poor. Furthermore, the results indicated that the majority of students said that using a mobile device had a significant effect on their learning of a foreign language. The vast majority of students said that mobile devices had helped them learn independently, improve knowledge of syntax, morphology, and vocabulary, and improve spoken and written skills. The two major challenges that students reported were 1) limited access to institution Wi-Fi and 2) poor interface and storage capacity of mobile devices. Despite these drawbacks, this study indicated that mobile devices do play a vital role in a university student’s foreign language acquisition. Oriogu, Ejemezu, and Ogbuiyi (2018) state that although mobile technology devices are commonplace with students, they can be better utilized as a tool in learning a foreign language.

What American Libraries Can Learn

American libraries can have mobile devices accessible for use or checkout, equipped with language apps for patrons who are linguistically diverse or who want to learn another language. As the study indicates, mobile devices should be equipped with high storage capacity and have interfaces that work seamlessly for users. Developing the interface may be tasked to librarians or IT staff. In addition, libraries need to pressure local, state, and federal governments, where applicable, to take measures that increase community access to affordable, strong, and fast internet connections. As many Americans are finding out during this pandemic, it is not just people in the developing world who lack access to technology and the internet, without which technology falters. The digital divide is alive in our communities as well. American libraries can look to further studies that focus on the use of particular apps for language learning when considering which programs and applications to install on devices.


Chen, N. S., Hsieh, S. W., & Kinshuk, S. (2008). Effects of short-term memory and content
representation type on mobile language learning, Language Learning and Technology,12
(3), pp. 93–113.

Godwin-Jones, R. (2005). Messaging, gaming, peer-to-peer sharing: Language learning
strategies and tools for the millennial generation, Language Learning & Technology,
9(1), pp. 17-22.

Levy, M., & Kennedy, C. (2005). Learning Italian via mobile SMS. In A. Kukulska-Hulme & J.
Traxler (Eds.), Mobile Learning: A Handbook for Educators and Trainers. London,
Taylor and Francis.

Oriogu, C. D., & Ejemezu, C. I., & Ogbuiyi, C. D. (2018). The use of mobile devices in learning foreign languages: Survey of a private university, Library Philosophy and Practice eJournal, http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1984