‘Lala & Ara’ and ‘Arti’: Bringing colorful language to a new whole dimension
May 05, 2018
This Christmas, consider the priceless gifts of language and script! Download the “Lala & Ara,” free and interactive mobile apps and experience our beautiful mother tongue and alphabet with the youngest members of your brood.
Interactive game; Language learning; Children
The game is offered in both Western and Eastern Armenian.
A crisis of color
We’ve heard it time and again: the Armenian language in the diaspora is in a crisis. As former Hamazkayin Armenia Office Director, Nare Mikaelian, once stated, “while the Armenian language in the diaspora has not yet reached a concerning level, it is approaching there.” So, how does one steer course away from the blinding white iceberg and into a safe green space?
If you ask the folks at Hamazkayin, they have a few colorful ideas: their mobile application, Lala & Ara, launched in 2015, has provided countless children with the tools to learn shapes, colors, and letters—all through the Armenian language. Designed for children aged three and up, the app is comprised of a series of interactive games, where children flow through levels, guided by the main characters, Lala and Ara (common names for Armenian girls and boys, respectively).
The mission is to teach the Armenian language while the human mind is essentially a sponge, absorbing new material without much effort. Each game follows the same structure, introducing basic concepts (like colors, shapes, sizes, and letters) to our youngest students. As an added benefit, children develop their memories, concentration, logic, imagination, and multitasking abilities. Not bad for a toddler, right?
What started as one game quickly turned into two, as the popularity of World of Colors prompted the creation of World of Shapes, and later, with funding by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Hamazkayin Eastern Region, a third game, called World of Letters was added to the application’s growing repertoire. But the biggest mark of success has little to do with numbers or downloads, but the fact that the words learned in the games enter the daily lexicon of the children, says project manager, Arin Kalousdian.
As easy as Ա, Բ, Գ ('ayb, ben, gim' | A, B, C)
As any professional in the field knows, creating quality child content that is both informative and interesting for the target demographic is not an easy feat, and the team behind Lala & Ara is accordingly meticulous. Even the aptly-named “Arti” (meaning “modern”) handwritten font used for the application was carefully, and specifically, crafted for a child user. Designed in 2017, also at the behest of Hamazkayin, Arti’s aim was to create consistency between the different types of Armenian fonts that children get exposed to. Typically, this discrepancy has caused confusion and frustration among our youngest learners.
With Lala & Ara’s signature use of colors and shapes, combined with Arti’s mission of presenting an alphabet script that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally useful, the two initiatives seamlessly come together. Arti is a versatile addition to the shortlist of Armenian scripts, which can be used on various applications, such as CorelDRAW, QuarkxPress, and Adobe Photoshop. You can download Arti free of charge here.
Why an A grade?
With this mobile app, Hamazkayin has managed to convey something deeper than the content itself. With the emphasis on the synthesis of technology and youth engagement, this is a sharp admission that the tools and tactics with which we teach Armenian have to adapt to our times. In this way, Lala & Ara provides a refreshing approach to the typical black-and-white thinking of many Armenian language learning processes.
From rosy-cheeked talking dolls to sports bags embroidered with the smiling faces of their hero(ine)s, Lala & Ara have cleverly (and warmly) tapped into the many facets of a young child’s life, adding color and dimension, using the gentle tonality of an inviting tongue. (Though the games are free, the dolls and other merchandise are available for purchase.) Through fun, quality mobile games, the creators of this app have tapped into something profound: they are clearly learning from, and speaking in, our generation’s language, in order to teach us theirs. Is it possible to speak two languages simultaneously?
Our favorite price: free! Even better, there are no in-app purchases within the games themselves, so kids can play easy without adult supervision.
Four years and tens of thousands of downloads later, the success of Lala & Ara continues to grow, with over 1,000 followers on Instagram and just shy of 15,000 likes on Facebook. If you want to read testimonials from parents (or just view photos of cute tots), check out their pages, and you will see why the hype around this game is intensifying.
How to download
Visit the Hamazkayin page on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Pick from two different options: One teaches Western Armenian and the other Eastern Armenian. Take your pick and click!
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