When discussing the benefits of learning a foreign language, most people think of the straightforward perks right away, such as being able to ask where the bathroom is if you are bursting in Beijing, or needing to ask for directions when bumbling about in Barcelona. But the betterment in ones life by learning another language goes much deeper than the basics named above. From improving your competitiveness in the job market and opening new job opportunities; thus granting you a greater likelihood of an ample salary, to psychological aspects whereby bilingualism has been identified to improve brain function; specifically the ability to focus attention, long and short-term memory and the performance of arithmetic and literary mental tasks.
Introducing LANGOOL: Language Learning Made Cool The intention of my app LANGOOL is to coax and encourage a younger market (aged between 6-15) to engage in learning any language of their choice (a selection of 32+ languages). The colourful and bright interface is based entirely around cute hand illustrated images, accompanied by the phonetic and literal sound/spelling of the given keyword. The actual name of the app is a clever mergence between 'language' and 'cool' - a play on words if you will, to show that learning a language is and can be fun.
Why make a language app for adolescents? Explaining the architecture of the brain and 'plasticity'
Child development and neuroscience is a field of study that greatly interests me. By recognising that the basic architecture of the brain is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood, I was naturally inspired to curate an app that would harness the early years 'window' of opportunity for learning, and to kickstart the process of retaining linguistic skills in youths. This 'window' can also be referred to by the term 'neuroplasticity'...
It is the early-most experiences that affect the quality of this so called 'brain architecture' by establishing either a sturdy or a fragile foundation for all of the learning, health and behaviour that follow. After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, so that brain circuits become more efficient. The brain is most flexible, or “plastic,” early in life to accommodate a wide range of environments and interactions, but as the maturing brain becomes more specialised to assume more complex functions, it is less capable of reorganising and adapting to new or unexpected challenges such as learning a language. It is for this reason that more effort should be put into place to curate learning apps that children and adolescents will actively want to play/use.
It is in the first year of neurological development, the parts of the brain that differentiate sound are becoming specialised to the language the baby/child has been exposed to; at the same time, the brain is already starting to lose the ability to recognise different sounds found in other languages. Early plasticity means it’s easier and more effective to influence a baby’s developing brain architecture than to rewire parts of its circuitry in the adult years - which is why developing this app was so pivotal: I want to enable this circuit system to spark and shine. And if this can be accomplished by means as simple as an illustrative, keyword based app, then why not push it?
Designing the App
I wanted the app to have a childlike charm to it, so took the intiative to go 'old school' and hand draw every illustration for the keywords provided in the app. This was done with a Staedtler fine-liner; then transferred into a MacBook (Air), where the image was tweaked using 'instant alpha' editing and heightening of contrast and black point.
The choice of fonts I wanted the readability of the words to be crystal clear, and minimalistic - so as to not confuse or put off the child/adolescent utilising the app. The main English vernacular is written in Prahaha and the following alternative language word and phonetically spelt versions are in Avenir Next.
The utilisation of pastel colours as opposed to bright, opaque and heavy contrast hues was purposefully selected so as to not be to glaring on the young, developing eyes of adolescents. Bright screens are rumoured to be notoriously detrimental for the eyes, with excessive screen time often leading to blurred vision, eye strain, and long-term vision problems like nearsightedness. Because screens emit blue light, this also disrupts our circadian rhythms at night when we're trying to fall asleep. So by opting for softer, less abrasive shades, the child's mind can remain focused on the black and white image and wording, as opposed to being distracted too much by bright colours.
I want the app to continuously develop itself and grow as the number of users increase. But for the time being, here are the languages currently available on LANGOOL:
Working with Apple
Collaborating with Apple to develop this app was an exciting and challenging opportunity for myself as a Creative Director for a multimedia creative design agency. This app, though not currently live, is sailing the horizon. The crystal ball of the app cosmos prophesies that success will bloom from this fun, engaging and interactive learning tool for children.