Little Pim Word Bag
Release Date:January 07, 2010
Summary:A useful language app guided by Little Pim the Panda, ambassador of multilingualism to young children everywhere.
People in this country tend to view bilingualism with an air of impressiveness, that it’s a rare skill few possess. They often reply, when asked if they speak another language, with astonishing sincerity coupled with a step back, “Oh god no, I don’t speak a word of Spanish.” There are many people who point to Europe as a role model, with its polyglot culture, and aspire for Americans to learn languages other than English – considering the large population of Spanish-speaking peoples in California, and the greater presence of China as a global power, it make sense diplomatically, to learn other languages. Given the United States’ position as a world power, a center of influence and global relations, it can seem embarrassing that many of our citizens cannot act as ambassadors for our country, only being able to communicate in their mother tongue. In some ways, it’s borderline lazy given our long-term status as the most powerful country in the world – English, after all, has long been considered the business language through which all other countries communicate. This may be changing, though, with China emerging as possibly a greater influence than the United States, and so our monolingualism has lately become an even larger issue of contention.
The developer of Little Pim Word Bag, Julia Pimsleur Levine, had such thoughts when she originally created the Little Pim concept in 2006. Having grown up bilingual, she felt there weren’t enough ways for a child in the United States to reap the benefits of a bilingual upbringing – foreign language classes usually don’t appear in public schools until junior high, and little to no educational programming was available for children to absorb, aside from maybe those Muzzy videos I, and the rest of my peers, remember from French class. The Little Pim DVD series is exceptional, has received many awards, and covers plenty of languages, including Spanish, French, Chinese, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, English, Arabic, German and Russian. The DVDs are heavily interactive, and involve many repetitions of phrases and words and concepts for children to watch and learn, much in the same way children imitate an adult’s word formations, later adapting these linguistic rubrics to their own, original thought. Given the exceptional nature of the DVDs, I had high expectations for the app by Animax, especially given the fairly limited supply of language apps peppering the App Store.
Little Pim Word Bag is cute, if lacking. Little Pim, himself, is as cute as ever, carrying his bottomless messenger bag wherever he goes, and pulling out objects of every type to share with you. I was a little disappointed that Little Pim only shares with you two languages – Spanish and French. It’s true, the original DVDs covered Spanish and French, possibly just French initially, and this app may very well just want to cover the original concept. I was hoping for Chinese to be included, though, instead of French, given its near vital importance today, but let’s face it: everyone loves the French language. It’s not entirely the most useful language, and it’s heavily romanticized, but many people desiring to learn another language favor French for its fluid and unique sound, resplendent with deep, guttural notes accented by a fluttering airiness, like the wind beneath a hummingbird’s wings. Chinese, also, is very difficult for Westerners to master, given its heavy reliance on pitch differences – one example would be that the sound “ma” depending on pronunciation, can mean either horse or mother. Regardless, I’m hoping the next Little Pim app will contain more languages to choose from.
The app is divided into three sections – eating and drinking, wake up smiling, and playtime – each of which contains its own unique set of words that correlate to the theme. The pictures for each section bob up and down, inviting your child to tap on them. Little Pim is shown in each, staring at you through googly red glasses, wielding a fork and knife, or laying back in redolence, happy obviously, from playing. For each section, Little Pim will bounce on screen, and introduce himself – “Hola! Yo me llamo pequeno Pim” for Spanish, and “Bonjour, je m’appelle petit Pim” for French. Little Pim will stand there on the grassy knoll waiting for you to tap him to begin the exercise; otherwise after several seconds, he’ll start on his own. Your child will watch as the Panda rummages about in his bag, and takes out something, which he’ll identify with an enlarged image of the object, and the written name beneath. For Eating and Drinking, Little Pim first brings out a cake, which miraculously remains pristine in all its chocolately goodness, and says the name aloud for the user: in Spanish, he says un pastel, and in French, he says un gateau, which funnily enough, almost sounds like un gato in Spanish, meaning cat. He’ll continue in this manner, until the section is complete; at any point, the user may tap one of the previous objects to hear the word repeated, and to give the image a second look.
Given my fluency in Spanish, I spent quite a bit of time brushing up on my basic French vocabulary (I was fortunate to begin both Spanish and French at an early age in private school, along with more intensive study in Junior High). My French accent isn’t the greatest – I have a tendency to roll my syllables together as in Spanish, and rumble my r’s, unconsciously – but despite being an adult, I really enjoyed listening to the bright music and reading aloud the names as they were voiced aloud to me. There’s no question: Little Pim Word Bag is an effective game, and it does have a trance-like quality to it. Besides, Little Pim is just so gosh darn cute. But, more languages would definitely be a great asset, as would a secondary feature in the app that would use the vocabulary learned in a contextual situation, possibly using the words together (“Let’s have lunch! What would you like to have?”) – having just a list of words may become boring, quickly, for most youngsters.
But, Little Pim Word Bag has its heart in the right place. Many people never become fluent in another language, and whatever bits and pieces they jumbled together in High School often go unused, and then, after a period of stagnation, most knowledge eventually just disappears. Starting off our kids young, on programs like the Little Pim series, can go a long way in at least instilling basic groundwork in languages other than English. By using the Little Pim Word Bag app, hopefully parents will see its benefit, and be inspired to check out the full DVD series.