Learning a first additional language can be a daunting and anxious task for both the learner and the parent. Whuzoo’s online language resource has proven to help children to utilise technology to learn a new language, switching learners on to language learning and growing their confidence in the process. Greg Jones from Whuzoo shares the story behind their business and product:
Information Technology (IT) has revolutionised our world and children today have little idea of how communications happened before the internet, texting, WhatsApp, YouTube and instant messaging. It’s how they are wired. While parents and educators are aware of the IT revolution, they fail to recognise how pervasive it is. It is the lingua franca, the language of the day. Kids ‘switch on’ to anything IT related and the power of IT and its appeal must be used in the classroom to achieve the goals of education.
We became aware of this dilemma when we, like many other parents, experienced frustration in trying to help our children with their language learning. They attend a good school with great leaders and great educators – but often they were just ‘switched off’, even though their marks were ‘OK’. Daily we were struggling through the worksheets the children had to work through to build their vocabulary. It was a major source of friction and we just knew that there had to be a better way. A way that would give them the tools to master a language working at their own speed and in their own time – and could maybe add some fun.
We realised that we needed to appeal to kids using technology that they are familiar with, and organise their language learning to make it easier for them to manage their work in bite-sized chunks. Having developed IT systems for businesses and governmental organisations for many years, we also recognised that we needed to work with the language educators to understand their requirements and how best to support the learning process.
The first programmes were created to help our own children master their Afrikaans and isiZulu learning and almost immediately the friction disappeared. Now they were in charge of determining when to tackle their language homework and could build up their vocabulary by testing themselves on their spelling. We demonstrated these programmes to the school’s language teachers and the immediate request was for these to be developed into a resource that the school could use.
Whuzoo was then established and the programmes were enhanced with pronunciations for all the words and phrases in the wordbase. We worked closely with the school’s language teachers to identify which aspects of the syllabus would benefit from using interactive technology and the computer program was put on a web app for learners to use on their PC, tablet or smartphone.
The concept was a hit and parents and teachers experienced the same results we had – the learners marks improved as did their attitude towards learning. Parents and teachers could also see how the children had ‘switched on’ to language learning and how their confidence grew. The initial programmes for the grade 4-7 Afrikaans and isiZulu syllabuses showed encouraging results and the school requested that we broaden the reach and that we engage with associate and feeder schools. The results were equally encouraging.
Where the programmes are endorsed by the school management and language head as a required resource for the relevant language syllabuses, the kids flourish. The ‘partnership in language learning’ fosters the collaboration that is essential to language learning, and allows everyone to identify areas for improvement or suggest ideas to enhance it – parents, language specialists, the learners and ourselves. The language learning initiative’s continued growth bears testimony to the fact that the innovative use of IT can help kids with their language learning – and with other areas of education, too.
Please view the website for more information and get in touch so that we begin the language learning journey with you.