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China Daily Website

Mandarin app aims at young learners

Updated: 2013-05-31 12:51
By Caroline Berg in New York ( China Daily)

Last year, Ian Carroll and Kristy Carr, two expatriate parents living in Hong Kong, launched a test version of the Kids Learn Mandarin digital app to offer a quality and fun language-learning tool for international children learning Chinese as a second language.

Yesterday, the founders of The Digital Learning Company rolled out a new and improved version of their original app, in partnership with the San Francisco-based Fingerprint Digital mobile entertainment company for kids.

"We were thinking about language learning and [Carroll and Carr] were well down the path of working on this Mandarin language app," said Nancy MacIntyre, CEO and co-founder of Fingerprint. "When we met them, we immediately recognized how much bigger we could make the product experience by adding additional content and reformatting it to make it more attractive to both the child and the parent."

The Mandarin-language learning app aims to teach 240 Mandarin words to children ages 3-8 through its host, Pei Pei the Panda, who introduces 12 fully interactive lessons covering such topics as numbers, colors, animals, food, sports and transportation.

"You can make a wildly educational product, but if kids won't engage with it, you're in trouble," MacIntyre said. "What we recognized is [The Digital Learning Company] had built this initial app with a tremendous amount of content that it was almost impossible for the consumer to really find and experience it all."

Fingerprint assisted in conducting dozens of tests with children over six months to help tweak and hone how the content is presented.

"We had the kids play the product every step of the way, so that we could make it as sticky and as fun as possible while maintaining the integrity of the program," said MacIntyre, who has helped former employers such as Hasbro Interactive and LeapFrog launch more than 100 games and 11 No 1 titles.

The updated Kids Learn Mandarin includes 96 mini-games, 12 lively music videos, 12 Chinese character writing lessons, as well as a personal playground that children can decorate with stickers they earn as they learn. The app also features a progress-report program, which provides interactive updates to parents on their child's achievements and subject mastery.

"There's been a lot of studies done around language learning as an early learning activity and as a benefit to a child's early development," MacIntyre said. "Learning languages helps you be more intellectually flexible and nimble, it really helps promote creative thinking and teaches memorization skills, and it opens kids up to the world around them."

Kids Learn Mandarin is available exclusively on the Fingerprint network for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Items can be purchased from the iTunes App Store.

"My personal philosophy is the most important thing we can do is to inspire a love of learning in little kids from the very beginning," MacIntyre said. "To get them learning something new everyday, discovering new things everyday and challenging kids to want to be curious about the world around them is really the highest calling for these types of products."