Language learning for children in an interconnected world.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected by internet and mobile technologies, the languages used for information exchange have grown in number and usage. Here is a chart of growth of internet languages from 2000 to 2007, from USJournal.com.

Global Internet Usage by Language 2000-2007 (via usjournal.com)

Global Internet Usage by Language

As parents there is a need to prepare children for such a multilingual world. Children who are comfortable with multiple languages and cultures will enjoy greater confidence and connectedness when they travel or meet people around the world. Spanish, French and German for example are languages that kids in the U.S. often have the opportunity to learn in school.

Our native language often forms a big part of our identity. Global mobility is high and immigrant parents would like to introduce their kids to the language that was spoken in their native country – whether Chinese, Korean, German, French, Hindi, Telugu, Bengali or Marathi and others.

Tutors and formal classes are effective and recommended but require a good amount of time and investment. Both parents and kids are busier than ever and have less time to spend on new language learning.

The good news is that technology is making language learning easier, faster and cheaper to sandwich in our daily routine, so you can catch and learn soundbites of a new language when you are travelling on a train, bus or car, or over a game at the dinner table from an app in your pocket.

Rolling Train apps are designed to make your goal of learning the basics of your dream language easier to reach. They make a great gift for children who are exploring languages on their mobile device which they can access anywhere at anytime. They are chockful of content including hundreds of phrases with sound in 21 languages. By bundling multiple languages together they train children your favorite language, while exposing them to diversity and saving you money.

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Language learning in the family

When do family members need to learn a language ?

  • Kids need it for easily picking up their mother tongue – a lifelong communication skill that opens up new horizons for them for the rest of their lives.
  • Teens need it for staying motivated and ahead in their extra language coursework.
  • Young adults need it for travel and for meeting new people from round the world.
  • Mom may need it for talking to other moms or communicating with the nanny or babysitter.
  • Dad needs it for his trip to a foreign country and interacting with business associates in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
  • Grandfather need it while visiting  you -  e.g. for dealing with customs at the airport, and for communicating when travelling independantly in a foreign country.
  • Grandma can use the mother tongue for teaching and interacting with the grandkids.

The earlier one starts and the greater the communication channels available for learning, the faster one can pick up a language and begin reaping its benefits. Especially for kids it is easy to pick up a language when young, but it gets progressively harder to pick up the script and sounds of a new language as they grow.

Our apps for Asia, Europe and India can help you read the script, hear the sounds, and track learning progress for your target language in your spare time.  They also let you to interact and play with friends and family in different languages with over 400 possible language pairs.

Give your family the learning advantage today !

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Language learning and life

The first sounds of a newborn baby do not sound like an adult language. The first few years the baby absorbs sights and sounds from her family and surrounding people, babbling perhaps but not quite putting sentences coherently together. But, much before a toddler can express herself verbally, a baby can express her needs through physical actions like pointing at things, noises and facial expressions of various levels of approval and disapproval of objects and actions.

When we learn our first language, we develop the mental apparatus of a fully formed human language – rich in vocabulary, supported by  structure of grammar, supported by sounds, senses and symbols that reinforce the structure and vocabulary. Moreover we use our native language to interact with others around us, our family, friends and teachers. This gives us continuous positive reinforcement for learning.

We find that language allows us to give symbols to things, to label or name them.  This simple action then allows us to manipulate anything about the universe inside our heads – the faraway sun, moon and stars, the stellar distances we can describe in terms of their distances, shapes, colors, sizes, composition and so on. We can create relationships between any set of symbols in the language, and thereby the known universe. This ability to describe and manipulate reality in our heads through the use of symbols is extremely empowering. We are only limited by the senses and our ability to process new information.

After investing so much effort in learning our first language and reaping its many benefits, why would we want to learn a new language ? If it’s just another set of symbols, why not use the existing set we already know.  Is our existing language in some ways incomplete? Is there a universal set of symbols we must know to fully describe the universe? Many people have thought of this. One well known attempt was the “Characteristica Universalis” or the Alphabet of human thought by Leibnitz.  He thought of it when encountering a new Asian language, I believe Chinese.

What I find interesting about learning a new language is that it allows construction of new patterns of thought, of discovering different kinds of associations that are possible in the realm of human thought, thereby expanding one’s human experience.

I’ll tell you a story. Once when travelling in Beijing, I happened on an art exhibition. An eager young artist caught hold of me looking at his painting and enthusiastically started talking about it to me in Chinese. I asked him what it was.  “Ai, Ai.. love” he replied in a mix of Chinese and English. He knew the English word for it and I understood that the symbol he described was probably the Chinese symbol for love, but this confounded me because the symbol in no way inspired in me that particular emotion.  So I asked him again about this symbol and why it stood for love. He answered by talking ever louder in Chinese. I in turn kept asking louder in English.

A friendly interpreter came to us to break the impasse and understood my question. His answer was simply – the character is drawn to impress the artist’s girlfriend. If the letter was written very simply, what space would there be to show flourish in his expression ?

Whether this answer was accurate, he did point me to a new association. That the primal source of the creative impulse  – is to impress the potential suitor or the potential benefactor.  It’s not so much about describing reality as it is about this very human desire.   This is what gives rise to nuance and flourish and poetry in human expression. That is why human languages appear so fluid and flexible, even messy and unstructured to us, say in contrast to arithmetic.

When learning a new language we have to create this space for new association, a space where we can interact with not only the sights and sounds but also different meanings embedded in the new language.   Learning a new language gives us the opportunity to look at the world once again with a beginner’s mind.

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Quick language learning apps just released

If you’re headed to Europe, Asia or India, and want to make the most of your trip, Rolling Train apps are for you. They are designed to maximize your language learning ROI -  to train you in a frictionless manner on the go.

✈ Speak and learn Chinese, Japanese, Korean and English. Download  here.
✈ Speak and learn  Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Russian, Turkish and English. Download here.
✈ Speak and learn  Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Assamese, Kannada, Malayalam and English.  Download here.

For every learning task, there is an effort and there is a payoff. We  minimize the effort, by making the User Interface fast and intuitive. A visual  mosaic enables you to zoom into a specific category and phrase. Search allows you to find words instantly. Autoscrolling and tracking help to keep your mind engaged.

We increase the payoff by instantly speaking phrases at the tap of a button. So you can speak relevant phrases to your context – Shopping, Travel, Greetings, Relationships etc. Listen to phrases in your target language and learn without having to type or organize yourself.

You can also explore words of a foreign language through a wordgame to test your skills or challenge others.  If you like wordgames like Scrabble or Bingo, you’ll love playing Bingo in your favorite language – whether in French, German, Chinese, Hindi or Tamil.

You can switch languages for example, English to Spanish or Spanish to English. This way you can learn and speak English as well.   This  can be very useful, for example,  if you are learning English as a second language (ESL) .

Finally, since we love languages and comparing them, we grouped geographically close languages together. If you ever wondered about similarities between Spanish and Portuguese or Japanese and Korean, or Tamil and Malayalam,  these apps make it easy to do that.

The app links above have detailed descriptions.  Click on them to read and buy.

They’ve just been released. The introductory price is $3.99 for a limited number of copies, so get your desired app before it reverts to the regular price. Note that these work on both your iPad and iPhone.

Let’s get rolling on the Rolling Train !  Enjoy and thanks for reading.

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Welcome to the Rolling Train

Buy a ticket to the Rolling Train. A unique iPhone app that lets you experience,  listen, speak and play in different languages from around the world !

It all started during a trip to a foreign city where I could barely understand the language. I had several translation apps on my phone as I wanted to train myself on the basics of the language. They were’nt doing the job very well and I struggled to navigate with ease.

One day I was in a hurry to catch a train to a different city to meet a friend. When I arrived at the train station, I found out after struggling through several translations that I was at the wrong train station !  So I missed the train.

Now that would be ok if I were able to reach the right station easily. But it took me several translation attempts through rush hour, tens of taxicab dollars and anxious moments to find my way to the right station and terminal.

I eventually got on the train to my destination. Once on the train the journey was quite smooth by contrast.  This made me wonder if learning a language could not be made as frictionless as the train ride itself.  The train runs on tracks – predefined for a certain origin and target destination and so could language learning be especially for the traveller in a hurry.

Even for normal foreign language learning, it takes far too much effort – involving books, computers and hours of instruction and dedicated time.

This problem that I personally faced, led me to a journey to create a set of mobile apps for language learning that make it really easy to use, translate, experience, and learn your favorite foreign language on the go.

We invite you to join us on this fascinating journey !

Please click on Asia, Europe or India to find out more about the app for your language.

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