In Pili Pop Labs‘ immersive language-learning apps, you play a cute alien creature who has just landed on Earth and needs to acquire human language — fast. I gave Pili Pop: Español (2015; iOS and Android) a try to brush up on my (rusty) Spanish.
Vocabulary (numbers, clothing, animals, fruits, body parts, etc.) is presented in kid-friendly concept-themed sections. Each provides 90-second listening and speaking activities with three progressive levels to help develop full fluency. For example,the clothing-themed section’s listening activities invite you to
- drag items (specified in a diagram) from a closet to a model as the narrator names the pieces of clothing
- dress the model with items specified verbally
- listen to a question (e.g. ¿Puedas poner el pantalón sobre modelo?) and respond by dragging the correct piece of clothing to the model
In the three speaking activities, you
- listen to and repeat the name of an item
- identify an item of clothing with the correct word
- listen to a question (¿Qué quiere modelo?) and answer in a full sentence (El modelo quiere la camiseta)
Correct responses earn you stars; stars earn you puzzle pieces to complete funny images of you-as-alien hanging out with human characters. If you need help, a visual dictionary is easily accessible within each activity and from the section menu. Bright, cartoonlike visuals are appealing (and incorporate a range of skin tones as well as non-stereotypical gender roles, e.g., Luisa the pirate and Carlos the clothier). Cheery music and plenty of encouragement add to the welcoming atmosphere.
All instructions and tutorials are given entirely in spoken Spanish, and there is very little text within the app, but lots of visual cues, context clues, and repetition aid understanding. This immersive approach allows children to learn grammar seamlessly alongside vocabulary, encouraging “intuitive assimilation” of active language.
A locked Parents menu describes the pedagogical method behind the app; it also allows parents to subscribe for monthly content updates and set up progress reports. Month-to-month subscriptions start at $9.99. The app is also available for learning English (iOS and Android) and French (iOS and Android); each offers either two themes or a one-week full trial for free.