The Daily Disney -- by Steven Ford Orlando Sentinel 9:59 p.m. EST, March 7, 2012
Looking for a good excuse to purchase Apple’s newest edition iPad announced today?
Disney offers one for parents: Buy it to help the kids learn.
It’s stating the obvious to say Disney is known as an entertainment company. But it creates a host of educational initiatives, too, and one of its latest offerings is a case in point.
Disney Publishing Worldwide recently released its first language-learning app, “Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3.” The iOS app is designed for Apple’s iPad and is the first in a series of Disney storybooks that are designed to help children learn to read in various languages. This app teaches key English and Mandarin words and grammar.
Employing multiple versions of the Disney-Pixar story of Woody, Buzz and the gang, the app transforms from English to Chinese throughout various levels of the storyline. For example, the first level is written in English only. The second level introduces beginning Chinese, and intermediate Chinese is employed by level three. By the time the app’s user advances to level five, the storyline is presented fully in Chinese.
The app uses the educational concept called Diglot Weave. This form of language learning, like its name suggests, weaves new language words and rules into another language already known by the student. As more foreign-language words become familiar to the student, increasingly unfamiliar words are introduced. Gradually, the student is able to comprehend both his or her native language and the new one.
The “Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3” app uses this concept and also employs bilingual narration. App users also can tap individual words to hear their pronunciation.
In a press release announcing the app, Dr. Yuhua Ji called the app “a real industry first.” Ji is a professor at Xiamen University and a pioneer in this kind of learning process. He also was an adviser on the Disney project.
A Disney spokesperson says other stories will later be used to teach Chinese to children, and Disney may be releasing a Spanish-language learning app next.
The app is available at the iTunes store for $4.99.