The widespread ownership of sophisticated but affordable mobile technologies has extended opportunities for making language teaching and learning available beyond the traditional classroom. Researchers have therefore begun to investigate new uses for various mobile technologies to facilitate language learning. It is not surprising, then, that a growing body of research into using these technologies for language learning has been documented over the past several decades, making mobile assisted language learning (MALL) an emerging research field. We believe that a comprehensive analysis of MALL-related literature is necessary for those interested in MALL research tounderstand current practices and to direct future research in the field.
In order to trace how MALL has evolved in recent years and show
to what extent mobile devices are being used to support language learning, in this article, we analysed the MALL studies published from 2000 to 2012 with regard to the distribution of research topics and theoretical bases, the variety of mobile devices supported by the many mobile platforms and functions, and the diversity of methodological approaches.
A systematic and extensive review of MALL-related literature revealed that research in the field increased at a fast pace from 2008 and reached a peak in 2012. Teaching vocabulary with the use of cell phones and PDAs remained popular over this period. The writing process and grammar
acquisition tended to be neglected in the MALL studies. Furthermore, the need for solid theoretical bases helping to establish a link between theory and practice emerged since a significant number of studies did not base their research on any theoretical framework. MALL research also remained limited by its methodological approaches. Applied and design-based research dominated the field, and these studies generally adopted quantitative research methods.
Ultimately, this study provides an important reference base for future research in the field of MALL with the identification of the most widely examined areas and issues.