Vocabla

Common Sense Media says

Casual definitions teach English learners the vernacular.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Ease of play

Step-by-step tutorials help users get started, but do not make it apparent that pre-created lists exist. Accessing pre-made lists first could help users get started with the app right away.

Violence

Users may type in words related to violence. Violent terms may appear in some pre-created word lists.

Sex

Library contains collections of words from songs by artists such as Lady Gaga that may contain sexual references.

Language

Some lists from songs and movies contain inappropriate language. For example, a list from Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" contains the word s--t. Teens can also type in inappropriate words.

Consumerism

In addition to encouraging a connection Facebook, the library features word lists highlighting popular artists, movies and books. However, the focus is on the vocabulary, not selling products.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References to drinking, drugs and smoking may appear in some of the pre-made lists, particularly those related to songs and movies.

Privacy & safety

Users must create an account or login with a Facebook account. However, developers keep personal information private. Connecting with other users, sharing lists and posting on social networking is encouraged.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Vocabla is an app that allows both English language learners and native speakers to expand their vocabularies. It generally doesn't focus on the most formal definitions; teens will learn English vocabulary words they'll actually use in every day conversation. However, this means some words teens access may be inappropriate: you can monitor use to keep the focus on appropriate words and restrict social media access. 

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • letter or word recognition
  • vocabulary

Skills

Self-Direction

  • motivation
  • work to achieve goals
  • achieving goals
  • goal-setting

Communication

  • speaking

Tech Skills

  • social media

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

The simple flash card games may not motivate most language learners, but the ability to make custom word lists or access lists related to hot topics like popular books, songs, and movies will.

Learning Approach

Teens learn words they'll actually use. Customizable word lists make language learning accessible to all levels of English language speakers. However, the accuracy of the crowdsourced definitions can't always be counted on.

Support

Step-by-step directions help users get started and track their progress, but leave out some of the important features of the app.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • letter or word recognition
  • vocabulary

Skills

Self-Direction

  • motivation
  • work to achieve goals
  • achieving goals
  • goal-setting

Communication

  • speaking

Tech Skills

  • social media

Kids can learn to recognize and define English words they use in everyday conversation. This includes words from popular movies, books and songs (but may also include inappropriate language!). Definitions go beyond the standard dictionary definitions and focus on real-world meanings and popular connotations, meaning it's not necessarily the place to find very formal defintions. Points, advancing through levels, and positive praise keep teens motivated to play until they've mastered their lists. Opportunities to connect with other users or share milestones through social media help get friends and family cheering them on as well. For kids hoping to improve their English and speak in a casual manner, Vocabla's great, but its loose style makes it just a piece of the puzzle for full language learning. 

This Learning Rating review was written by Stacy Zeiger

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What's it about?

Vocabla lets language learners create custom word lists or access word lists based on popular topics. Using those lists, kids practice matching vocab words with their definitions or translations through both a multiple choice and short answer game. Select your native language: Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Portuguese, or Polish. If you select "other language" during setup, the app will default to English. You can then browse user-created lists or begin entering words for your own custom lists. Once you select or create a word list, you'll see words in their native language (or the English definition) and must choose the corresponding English word. While playing games, kids earn points and reach milestones, encouraging them to keep practicing and building their English vocabulary. Kids can share progress with others using the app or through social media.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

The strength of Vocabla is as a platform for student-created vocab study lists. In addition, some of the ready-made lists will be useful for English learners. However, Vocabla's goal is to teach words that kids "actually use," which can result in some inappropriate content and awkward definitions. Thankfully, most words feature multiple definitions for users to choose. ​However, the app doesn't allow students to input their own definitions -- only the vocab words. And the definitions automatically generated by the app aren't always the most common usage. For example, the app's definition of "wolf" is "a man who is aggressive in making amorous advances to women." While this might be an informal definition of "wolf," it's probably not the definition the student who created the list "animals/los animales" meant to use. The app does give the option to choose an alternate definition, but judging from the user-generated word lists, that feature isn't obvious to all users. With a Pro account upgrade, kids can hear pronunciations of the words, which is a helpful feature. However, the flashcard-style learning activities lack depth, and aren't likely to cement learning in the best way. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about slang and how it fits into a well-rounded vocabulary. Why is it important to know the true definitions of words?

  • Suggest words for kids to add to their word lists or create words lists for them based on their interests (animals, science, music, etc).

App details

Devices:iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
Price:Free
Pricing structure:Free
Release date:October 27, 2013
Category:Education
Topics:High school
Size:8.40 MB
Publisher:Langapp Sp. z o. o.
Version:2.1
Minimum software requirements:Requires iOS 6.1 or later

This review of Vocabla was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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