If you have kids and an iPad and you live in German-speaking Switzerland, you really should know about JustKidsApps.
Katrin Draemann Barothy is the software developer behind JustKidsApps, and she has created some fun, interactive “storybooks” for the iPad. What is particularly useful for those of us in German-speaking Switzerland is that two of her top apps, Heidi stories and Grimm’s Frog King, have both English and German options, thereby supporting our children’s language learning (and our own, for that matter).
As of this writing, Barothy has 14 items available. Among these are “lite,” or partial “tester” versions (free) of the big story apps. Here’s some information about three of probably the most popular apps:
The Frog King/Der Froschkönig
This classic from the Brothers Grimm is available in both English and High German. Furthermore, there is a straight version of the story and a funny “alternative” version, which has a child making comments (sometimes quite astute) and asking questions as an adult voice reads the story aloud. The “Games/Jokes/Facts” section has exactly that, plus a “Frog Family Album” and a quiz about the story and about toads and frogs in general.
Heidi Story Collection/Heidi Gesamtausgabe
The collection breaks the original story of Heidi into three parts: Heidi on the Alp, Heidi in Frankfurt, and Heidi and Klara. Each part is available separately, in case the whole collection is too big for your iPad (but it’s better and also cheaper to just buy the whole collection, if you can). Besides the English and German versions, a “Swiss German” option exists, though it does not give you the story in Swiss German; rather, you can touch some of the characters to hear them say things in dialect. You can have Heidi tell her own story (in the first person) or read it silently to yourself (told in third person). In addition, you can choose to have the words highlighted as Heidi reads, so budding readers can follow along.
The “Bits and Bobs” sections include quizzes, jokes, games, and information on Switzerland.
I am a sucker for Advent calendars, so I was excited to see this one. There are two versions, sold separately for SFr. 4 each: one English and one German. Click on the number for the day, and you are taken to a picture, story, recipe, poem or little game. Even the English calendar can help your knowledge of local Swiss customs, as there is a recipe for a Grittibänz (bread man for Saint Nicolas’s Day) among the other features. The “doors” cannot be opened until the appropriate day, though you can change that option in the iPad settings to make all doors available at all times.
As mentioned above, there are currently 14 items available from JustKidsApps in the App store. There will soon, however, be more. Apropos language learning, Barothy is currently in the final stages of developing some software with the creator of the Motlies (a motley bunch of cartoon animals) to support English, German and Spanish learning. I had a peek at the German vocabulary module in development, and it was pretty fun and certainly colorful, thanks in part to the Motlies. Different lessons give basic vocabulary words and then have you play games (on one of them the speed gradually increases to the point where it becomes quite challenging and also funny) to test how well you’ve learned them. Those lessons should be available sometime next year.
As I said at the beginning, if you have kids and an iPad, and especially (but not only) if you live in German-speaking Switzerland, you must check out JustKidsApps. I am sure your children will enjoy these stories, and the prices are very reasonable. At the very least, investigate some of their free samples, or download the free Motlies Christmas story. If my children were still small enough, I would sit down with them and read through the German versions multiple times, for our amusement and edification.
By Carol McDonald