Lectica, A New Language Learning App that Lets Users Learn Like a Native Speaker

By Megan Jeffrey, National Foreign Language Center

Megan Jeffrey

With the market already heavily saturated with language learning apps, why create another?  This was the first question that the National Foreign Language Center asked when developing Lectica, a new free language app which launched in December 2021.

“While there are already a number of language learning apps, there weren’t any that really took learners to the next level in their language learning journeys”, said Kathy Kilday, Director of Product Development. “That’s where Lectica comes in.” Rather than use vocabulary and grammar gamification which many other apps use, Lectica seeks to provide a more authentic  and immersive language learning experience by exposing the learner to written, audio, and video source material created by native speakers for native speakers. Learners can set customized learning goals, track their achievements, and complete assessments at the end of each module to progress to more advanced levels. 

Picture 1 - Lectica’s ‘My Dashboard’ shows a user’s progress against their set goals, which are automatically reset each week. The language lessons are shown in the carousel at the bottom and also feature a progress bar percentage
Picture 1 – Lectica’s ‘My Dashboard’ shows a user’s progress against their set goals, which are automatically reset each week. The language lessons are shown in the carousel at the bottom and also feature a progress bar percentage

Featuring seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Spanish) with twelve more to come this year, Lectica has over 420 lessons aimed at boosting proficiency and accelerating acquisition at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. All of the material is authentically-sourced from countries where the target language is spoken, so learners can expect to encounter language the way it is used in real life. Lessons are designed to be short enough to fit language learning into busy schedules, and can be downloaded for offline access when on the go.

Native linguists and second language acquisition specialists used authentic media to create hundreds of Lectica lessons that are rich in comprehension, linguistic, grammatical, and cultural activities and notes. With a myriad of daily life topics to choose from, such as weather, food, housing, education, transportation, environment, leisure, and many more, teachers can easily integrate Lectica lessons into their curriculum for engaging enrichment. The linguistic and grammar activities and explanations can also be used to supplement other exercises, as they allow learners to experience the language as it is spoken or written in real life, with all its subtleties.

After selecting their language, proficiency level, and setting a weekly study goal, learners are given a brief description of the first lesson. Next, they will complete one or more preparatory activities to activate their existing knowledge, such as vocabulary in a particular topic, that will help them to get ready for the material they will encounter in the lesson. Completion of the preparatory activities brings learners to the heart of the lesson: an authentic audio, video, or written source text created by native speakers of the language for other native speakers. After reading, watching, or listening to the source material, learners complete a number of learning activities (for example multiple choice, select all that apply, sorting, true/false) to test their comprehension of the material and provide feedback. The learning activities are then scored; a score of 80% or higher earns the learner a ribbon on their dashboard. After completing all the lessons for the proficiency level, learners can take an assessment to move to the next proficiency level (from beginner to intermediate, for example). Learners can export a PDF of their completed lessons, including scores earned. This could allow teachers to include Lectica in courses as supplementary or preparatory material.

Some of Lectica’s other features include support tools such as voiceover narration of written material and captioning of video material, with custom media controls enabling users to speed up, slow down, or loop segments of media playback. 

Picture 2 - Users are able to control the speed of the media playback and loop segments, video clip with French subtitles as well as a choice between looping, french or english subtitles, and playback speed
Picture 2 – Users are able to control the speed of the media playback and loop segments

The app also includes glossaries narrated by native speakers that include terms that are hard to find in a standard dictionary such as slang, proverbs and idioms.

Picture 3 - Lectica offers an extensive glossary that includes pronunciation of each new term by a native speaker, a list of terms in French with audio icons next to them
Picture 3 – Lectica offers an extensive glossary that includes pronunciation of each new term by a native speaker

Background notes help learners understand the cultural or historical context of the source material.

Picture 4 - The background notes tool offers cultural, historical, and vocabulary notes to deepen the user’s understanding of and application of the target language, shows an example of a note that explains what Famileo is and something about its history (Famileo is a desktop and smartphone app that allows a group of users to collaborate in the digital design of a regular printed newspaper with personal messages and photographs.)
Picture 4 – The background notes tool offers cultural, historical, and vocabulary notes to deepen the user’s understanding of and application of the target language

The app also offers a transcript and translation with highlighted text tracking so users can follow along with the audio material.

Picture 5 - Lectica features highlighting in its translation tool so users can follow along with the text as they move through the lessons, shows a translation with one sentence from a paragraph highlighted.
Picture 5 – Lectica features highlighting in its translation tool so users can follow along with the text as they move through the lessons

The app also includes a variety of learning activities to check comprehension.

Picture 6 - Each language in Lectica has 60 lessons and include questions that engage the learners’ critical thinking skills, a question with possible answers. (Who are the intended users of the app as it is presented in the promotional video? Grandparents who want to communicate with family online, Grandparents who want to update their adult children, Grandchildren who want to update their grandparents.
Picture 6 – Each language in Lectica has 60 lessons and include questions that engage the learners’ critical thinking skills

“No other language app is as extensive and immersive as Lectica. It’s completely free, does not require a login nor collect user information, and has no ads, so users can learn a language without interruption,’ said Kilday. ‘This app truly is made for everyone.”

With twelve more languages to come this year, including Bosnian, Burmese, Croatian, Dari, German, Greek, Indonesian, Pashto, Portuguese, Serbian, Thai, and Vietnamese, Lectica is available for download in the App store for iOS now, and will be available in the Google Play store in summer 2022. 

For more information, you can also watch this informational video about the Lectica app:

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