It’s been shown that children have an easier time retaining languages than adults, so starting your tot on a foreign language early is a smart move if you want a bilingual teen. PBS’ new iPad app Little Pim Spanish is designed for tykes age 5 and under. The app is centered on the plushy panda star of the station’s direct-to-DVD foreign language series, “Little Pim.”
Little Pim Spanish features three mini-games, each with three levels, which teach Spanish basics for mealtime, playtime and bedtime. Level one of each game focuses on common nouns. Level two centers on verbs, and level three combines the two to form basic phrases. Little Pim guides the child through the game, first presenting each word verbally, and asking the child to repeat aloud three times. Each term is coupled with an image of the item or action, and the child is asked to match the term with its image to help reinforce the knowledge.
Little Pim is a supportive guide, and kids should be drawn to the character, but I didn’t feel like the app was fully conceived. I found it strange that there was no English translation provided in the app. For example, the phrase Él se sienta en el sofa is accompanied by an image of Pim sitting on a sofa. I have to wonder if the option to have Pim state in English, “He sits on the sofa,” would help children, perhaps at later stages in their language training, to better understand the meaning, rather than learning repetition with little context. Additionally, it’d be a nice option to have the app present the games entirely in English and require the child to answer in Spanish for a further challenge. I also didn’t think the app made the best use of iPad’s interface. The matching games are a perfect opportunity for users to drag items around the screen, but this app only uses simple taps and does the rest of the work for you. I’d think even young kids would be able to handle more interaction than is available in this app.
Little Pim Spanish is a safe app presented by a reputable source, but there are other Spanish-centered apps available for kids, so I’d suggest a bit of comparison shopping before hitting buy.