The Creative Minds Behind Poppy & Buddy
Jeff Brown – founder of the Poppy & Buddy language learning stories and e-library app:
I read somewhere that the best time for anyone to learn a second language is before the age of six – the time when we are all acquiring our first language. I saw, from my own experience with my then toddler twins, how reading stories to kids – in addition to everyday speech – contributes significantly to their first language acquisition. I could easily see the benefits of a product that would combine illustrated stories with narrations in multiple languages, interactive features and games for children to be able to see, read, hear, begin to comprehend and eventually learn two or more languages, at the same time.
I searched and searched but couldn’t find any products that met my expectations, so I decided to make one. I gave a very primitive version of the product to my twins who, at aged 3, learnt to count to ten in French with perfect Parisian accents, in about 6 days from using the product for 5 – 10 minutes per day. That was a great incentive to strive further. After many trials and errors and starts and stops, I managed to assemble a fantastic team of software developers, translators, narrators, musicians, testers, researchers, and of course the brilliant artist Richard Hoit, and together we created the Poppy & Buddy stories and app.
We gave a still basic version of the product to the University of Auckland’s Early Learning Lab (ELLA) and their researchers formally studied the app using a sample of 4 year olds. The results showed a 40% average improvement in the children’s second language comprehension and a 20% average improvement in their first language comprehension. That was the proof I needed to forge ahead with confidence. We are now up to 16 stories in 17 languages and are continually testing and looking for ways to improve the product’s ability to help kids around the world learn a second language while helping with their first language acquisition too.
The benefits of being bi-lingual are many, all well proven. If Poppy & Buddy can help children – in New Zealand and anywhere in the world – find their voices in different languages, then the project will have been worth what it has taken to get here.