Every once in a while you just stumble into something interesting. Last night, my high school son asked me if I had seen the new language learning app from the Church. I looked at him quizzically. Surely if there was a new app, I’d have heard about it by now. I asked him where he found the app, and he told me in the Gospel Living App. Sure enough, right there in the Gospel Living App, was the link, “Make a Friend While Speaking Portuguese.”
I clicked on the link and followed it to the app store. In the app store, the creator is listed as Global Learning Technologies, so at first I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. Trusting in Gospel Living, I downloaded the app and clicked login. It took me to a landing page that required my church logon information, so I now new it was linked to the Church.
But that still didn’t answer my question about the app and where it came from. Where was all the fanfare at a new app? Surely there would be some. Turns out the software TALL has been in use for some time by the Church. TALL Embark has been in the app store for at least a year. I’m usually pretty up-to-date on tech, especially church tech. Maybe I missed the boat on this one.
TALL (Technology Assisted Language Learning)
Some may be thinking that TALL sounds really familiar. It should if you’ve served a foreign mission in the last 15 years. The TALL software has been used at the MTC to help missionaries learn their mission language. However, just like anything with technology, it eventually needed updating. A couple of years ago, Global Educational Technologies was tasked to redesign the software to make it more user friendly. A cursory search for TALL Embark and Global Educational Technologies, brought me to an article on Medium. Lead Designer for the project Brett Gunter, graciously gave all the details about how the design of the software came to be. I won’t bore you with all tech talk, but there are a few nuggets I pulled from his article. You can read the entire article here.
Before creating something new, Brett and the Team at GET first had to discover the sticking points of the previous software versions. The learning the following:
- Missionaries were bored with TALL.
- They didn’t trust TALL because the design was old and outdated.
- There was no way to review content they had already studied.
- The activities weren’t varied enough to keep them engaged, which goes back to the boredom.
According to Brett, they solved these issues by making the app more fun and inviting. Mirroring apps like Duolingo, TALL Embark has a “gamified” experience, with challenge modes, and the ability to review previously studied content.
Whether you use the desktop version or app, the design and flow is reminiscent of other language learning apps. When logging in, users are asked to select one of the 59 languages they’d like to learn and their native language. Users can then choose, Basic Core, Lessons and Extra Mile.
This app is probably a good fit for someone wanting to learn gospel specific language. While it does cover the alphabet and basic grammar, if you are wanting a full emersion, it would need to be coupled with a more robust software or learning environment. That being said, in the era of missionaries using smart phones on their missions, this app can be a wonderful tool in sharpening language skills, while avoiding ad-laden apps and software from other developers.