I’ve decided to end my work-overload-induced radio silence (more on that in another post) with a project that I’ve backed and want to share.
I’ve been browsing Kickstarter a bit lately (please read that as “too much”) and I stumbled upon a new language learning app called Fluent Panda. If you want to back it, hurry, because there are only a few hours left!
Of course, there is more to this app than an admittedly adorable mascot. The creators of Fluent Panda, EduLift, describe themselves as:
EduLift is a small but successful ‘edutech’ startup founded by two internationally-minded Harvard and Oxford students passionate about language learning, but unsatisfied with any method on the market.
LinguaLift, their other offering, is a browser-based course with several languages available. I decided, before donating to Fluent Panda, to sign up for their 14-day free trial to see what it’s about.
Not seeing any of the languages I’m currently working on, I choose to start looking at Russian, which is one of several available languages that are on my list of future acquisitions. So far, I like the site layout and the organization of the lessons, which begin with learning Cyrillic. I will be doing this through “Cyrillic Camp,” which focuses solely on the alphabet, but I can choose to use this tool on its own or alongside the first few lessons.
Since I was reviewing the site to determine whether I wanted to donate for the app, I jumped ahead a few lessons to “05 Strengths and Weaknesses.” Here I found a simple explanation of linguistic cases and why they pose a challenge to native English speakers, and examples of the few cases used in English to illustrate exactly what a case is. This is something I had trouble wrapping my own head around when I started learning Hungarian, so I like seeing an easy-to-understand explanation for beginning language learners. The lesson then leads the user through the prepositional case and promises additional cases in subsequent lessons – taking it nice and slow.
Next, I jumped ahead to lesson “11 Lost in the City,” where I discovered a discussion about the four Russian verbs meaning “to go” and the semantic differences between them. I like this level of detail, too. I’ve used many language learning applications that offer only a dictionary definition of a word and don’t give as much differentiation as necessary to understand the different uses and connotations of words with similar meanings.
I would have to say that while this site will not replace conversations with native speakers and immersion as learning tools, it’s a good place to start. It definitely seems geared toward beginner learners to help them get a good feel for the language and develop some comfort with it before jumping to finding a language partner. Though I hope to see more languages in the future, such as German (for its wide usage in business) and other languages that are on my personal list (Italian, Spanish, Hungarian), I do like the overall feel of the site. The pricing isn’t bad, either, especially compared to other systems. $149 a year, and a monthly plan is available. I’ll probably continue using the site for a while to see where it takes me.
As for the app, there is one additional, very important aspect that I’m enthusiastic about. The app will offer free language learning opportunities to developing countries. I love the idea of helping people in developing countries find an edge that can help bring economic opportunities to their home areas.
After looking it over, I’ve decided to contribute to the Fluent Panda project. I can’t wait to see what the app is capable of. If you want to support this project, too, HURRY to Kickstarter and donate. They’re almost there, but there are only a few hours left!
Note: Fully funded! When I get my copy of the app, I will most definitely review it here. Mandarin is on my list, and maybe I’ll get over my fear of tonal languages long enough to try that. I have access to a native speaker at work, so I really should just do it!