Co-Founder: Leslie Begert
Primary Audience: Elementary
FabuLingua helps kids learn languages through interactive children’s stories from writers and illustrators all over the world. Our unique method of maximizing comprehensible input through magical stories enables the subconscious development of listening, comprehension and reading skills while the child is engaged and stress-free.
During the LaunchPad, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions about the products. The Tech Center shared those questions with the entrepreneurs and here are the responses.
Is there an ideal time to use Fabulingua with children?
Maybe the question meant ‘time’ as in ‘age’? If so, FabuLingua is designed for children aged 2-10 years old. Some families choose to start even younger kids on it, because they too can benefit from this input in a second language, and often families are already using devices at these younger ages anyway. Typically these younger kids will fare better with the product if a caring adult is next to them, accompanying them through the experience. But even in those situations, we’ve had parents telling us how intuitive it is for those much younger kids. We have also heard of teachers using it with their teenage students. They seem to like that it’s not intimidating and feels ‘easy’ and low stress. Even parents have told us they learn a lot when their little ones do FabuLingua alongside them.
Krashen's theory of language acquisition lacks a social component. Do you have a fix for this?
In the future, as we onboard schools and classes we will have limited, age appropriate social components to the overworld, which will allow kids in a class or school to see how much progress their friends have made, and what XP points they have gained, how their avatars are dressed and with what accessories. The idea is to use these social elements to motivate the kids to read even more stories in FabuLingua.
Research on young kids and EdTech shows that Comp Input is stronger with in-person communication (body language, Q&A from adults). What research do you have to prove the effectiveness of this app?
Are you able to change the speed of the voice? Slowing it down or speeding it up?
How would this app apply to college level students? Have you tried this app with other languages such as Russian, Arabic, or Chinese?
We do have some college level students that use the app, they find it a low stress, reassuringly simple tool that supplements their learning. Because our stories are all created with very high quality art, many of them find it a beautiful environment in which to spend time, and they like the games. But we will remain focused on designing for children aged 2-10, albeit (like in a Pixar movie) the extremely high production quality means that plenty of adults also enjoy it.
Can you play the audio for your kids without the magical translations?
Is the program only in Spanish?
Can you turn off the translations? If my kids were bilingual, they may not want to hear the English translations.
Is your app available for other developers to modify its target language to other foreign languages than Spanish?
The red dress example was terrible!
Not sure I like the way the sentences are broken into pieces. People do not speak like that (Raquel se pone - Raquel puts in- el traje - the dress).
What would you say about current trends in language teaching that discourage translation as a way of teaching FLs?
The nature of something oral is that it is very temporary – only there for the moment in which it is spoken and then it vanishes, leaving behind it a wake of ‘comprehension’. You generally understand what that page was about, although you may not specifically know what each and every word means. But in your mind you are subconsciously creating a hypothesis that this word has this meaning and then using deduction over the course of the story and subsequent stories to confirm or disprove your hypothesis.
Raquel se pone/ Raquel puts on
Un vestido rojo/ a red dress
Y unos zapatos rojos/ and some red shoes
In this example you don’t know for sure that vestido is dress – vestido could be ‘rojo’ (if you were going by word order).
And yet a similar word to ‘rojo’ (‘rojos’) comes up in the next line and there is no reference to a dress in that segment, but there is a reference to red, which also came up with regards to the dress. Then when you touch the dress and it only talks of vestido and there is no mention of ‘rojo’ so your hypothesis is confirmed.
Because we translate in small chunks of meaning (we call them ‘interpretation phrases’) there is a lot of deduction going on subconsciously in each and every page (lots of hypotheses to be proved or disproved!). This means your brain is working hard to deduce and assimilate meaning, which is a very active participation of your mind in the construction of a new language map. It is very different from passively receiving translations as would be in the case of flashcards with a translation on the other side, or a bilingual book.
So we agree that traditional written translations are not helpful, but oral interpretations of short phrases that leave meaning behind, and require subconscious hypothesising and deduction – those are very helpful in creating comprehensible input.
How is the magical translation different from bilingual books? Are students just waiting for English? I appreciate OwnVoice authors!
So, at first glance it may feel similar to a traditional bilingual book, but there is never any written translation (only a temporary oral translation) and the phrases being translated are much shorter than in a traditional bilingual book. On top of that they are rhythmically interwoven into the target language at a cadence that means that the target language cannot be ignored the way it can be in a traditional bilingual book.
We also appreciate OwnVoice authors! We feel that by looking for stories from across Latin America and Spain we bring many more diverse voices into a child’s world.
There are many ways to make input comprehensible and from SLA research we know that translation is the least effective. Does the translation drop later?
What about scalability of the program?
We are currently working on our backend to be able to onboard classrooms and schools soon.
How long does it take to develop a unit? How do you engage the authors?
What type of assessment strategies do you apply to capture increase in fluency or comprehension?
The key for us is that none of these games, or anything in the app, should ever feel ‘like homework’, because if it does we will have lost the attention of many of our little language learners, and with it their capacity to learn a second language.
I really like the idea of reading in two languages and then different game activities!!! Hope it is affordable for teachers who have to use their own budget.
It also gives the impression that the only way for a Spanish story to make sense and be meaningful and enjoyable by kids is if provided with a translation.
We’d like to clarify here, that the Magical Translation is something kids will experience the first time they read through a story. After that they will unlock 4 other levels in that story that are all in the target language only. So the majority of their experience of any given story will be of the story in the target language, the Magical Translations version of the story is something that serves only as an introduction, as a way of gaining a foothold of comprehension. By the time they reach the last level, their enjoyment of the story is not associated only with a translation – it is associated with the illustrations, the interactions, the plot and sometimes the rhyme. All of the usual elements in an illustrated children’s book.
Many language learning experts say translation keeps students reliant on the translation for comprehension of texts. Thoughts?
We agree that traditional translations create a crutch and can therefore ultimately be harmful for language acquisition. But as the answer in question 12 shows, the Magical Translations differ in a number of key ways from a traditional translation, and they therefore have a totally different effect and never serve as that crutch. In addition, the Magical Translation is experienced the first time a story is read. Each of the subsequent levels that are unlocked in the story are in the target language which means that by the time the little language learner has got to the last level and ‘mastered’ the story, most of their experience in the story is in the target language. The Magical Translation was merely there at the start of their journey with that story.
You talked about stories from South America & Spain yet state this is a global platform. Plans for stories from the rest of the Spanish-speaking world?
Can I switch the language translations? My kids are stronger in Spanish than Mandarin, but could use a bilingual story in Mandarin and Spanish.
Does your app record children's voices?
Are the illustrations in the App vector?
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The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center is funded under a grant from the Institute of International Education (IIE), acting as the administrative agent of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) for The Language Flagship. One should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project P.I.: Dr. Julio C. Rodriguez