One thing I get really excited about is the creation of grassroots resources for language learners. I like the idea of learners taking things into their own hands and not waiting for some corporation or focus group to decide what we need. I created The Turkish Listening Library and Ingilizce Öğrenmek because I saw needs that were not being met. Are they the best sites in the world? By no means, but they are part of a growing corpus of resources for language learners. I look at what Krystle is doing over at Navajo Now, at the super cool sites of Lang-8 and Rhinospike and hundreds of other great sites and I get excited about the world of language learning. And so today I want to share another story and in so doing I hope that you might be inspired to go out and do the same. Franck and Cristina are the creators of a great free app for the ipad and in today’s post they share their journey of creating Princess Learn Chinese.
My wife and I are from Spain and France and we met in the US. We have two children, Elena is 6-years old and Pablo 3. We live in New Jersey, we speak Spanish and French at home, and the children learn English at school.
My wife and I grew up in bilingual regions of Europe: Alsace in France and the Basque Country in Spain. We have a few beliefs that keep us focused in our language learning journey:
- We believe that learning generates happiness
- We believe that learning new languages opens the door to greater opportunities
- We believe that if young children start learning a new language today, it will create a more peaceful world tomorrow
- We believe in using everyday life to expose children to a new language, 10 minutes at a time.
At the beginning of this year we decided to learn Chinese. We love to learn, and we thought it would make our children more open-minded. And in the future, the likelihood that they interact with people in China is fairly high. We started taking classes on Saturday afternoon at Huaxia Verona, in New Jersey, as a family.
We also saw the impact that the iPad had in our life. It was very easy for us to find apps in French and Spanish to help our kids reinforce their language skills. Since we wanted to learn more about technology and apply the Chinese we were learning, we said to ourselves: why not build an app to make it fun for our children to gain exposure to Chinese.
That’s how the idea was born. Now was the time to figure out how to do it. As parents, to help Elena and Pablo learn Spanish and French, we read a lot of stories, during breakfast and at night. We play games, draw pictures, sing songs in the car, watch French cartoons on youtube,… We wanted to build an app that touches on different ways of learning as we do it with our kids.
We checked out many apps, looked at reviews of parents, see what children like, talked about it with friends on week-ends, and came up with ideas that we could use to listen to words and expressions in another language.
We came up with a very detailed script on how we would want each screen of the app to look like. I worked on it early in the morning before going to work, and again late in the evening together with my wife after the children went to bed.
Next step was to find freelancers that could help us in our mission to inspire children to learn new languages. We used google searches and websites like odesk.com, guru.com and elance.com to find people with the skills we needed: illustration, voice over, programming, sound editing. We looked at work the freelancers did before, and since our budget was very limited, we tried to find the best value for money. Fortunately it was a project that many people wanted to be part of, and we found great people to work with (we have them listed in our iPad and iPhone app, Princesses Learn Chinese).
We started with the idea in February 2011, and the app was completed and launched in Apple app store in September 2011. It took a good 4h per day to get things done: giving directions to our programmer in India in the morning, chatting via Skype, reviewing the visuals done by our illustrator, sending voice over files to our sound editor, working with Chinese teachers, etc.
The project was fun: we learned many things a long the way, interacted with people in different parts of the world, practiced our Chinese, and involved our children in providing feedback. It was a real family project. The positive feedback from parents and the encouragement from teachers make it very rewarding. Hopefully some other children out there will have fun gaining exposure to their first Chinese words and expressions.
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