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Hello Atlas app review

hello-atlas-titleThe free Hello Atlas app (Wide Eyed Editions, October 2016; iOS and Android), a companion to the book of the same title, offers a simple introduction to over one hundred languages through greetings and introductory phrases. The opening menu is a slightly animated world map (boats and whales float around the continents), with seven labels: North & Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Antarctica. Touching a label opens a menu of languages spoken on that continent, each accompanied by an illustration of a child. When you open the language, that child “speaks” a series of basic phrases in his or her language from “Hello,” to “What’s your name?,” to “Pleased to meet you,” to “Happy birthday!”

hello-atlas-south-america hello-atlas-guajiro
The children in the pictures maintain the book’s whimsical mid-century art style. (However, they aren’t animated in any way, making for little visual interest in the app’s design.) While the book provides the names of the languages in their own alphabets, here each phrase is transliterated into just the Roman alphabet, accompanied by an English translation, so users will not learn what written Mandarin or Arabic, for example, look like from the app. What the app does provide is a pronunciation guide to the book, enabling you to hear actual people speaking the phrases. The quality of the recordings varies between languages: while the French recording sounds like an actual enthusiastic child speaking, other languages are spoken by expressionless adult voices, often too quickly for users to repeat.

This app works best in tandem with the print Hello Atlas, adding voices to the book’s more nuanced content. While it is nice to see such a variety of languages represented, including many languages of indigenous peoples worldwide, the app itself is pretty bare-bones. I will say that I was deeply amused by the differences in pronunciation between English (Australian), English (US), English (UK), and English (Antarctica) — apparently you develop a bit of a drawl living at the South Pole.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 8.0 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 4.1 and up). Recommended for primary users and up; free.

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