Austin moms create mobile apps for bilingual home, kids’ sports games
MamaLingua and Name the Teammate help parents teach children English or Spanish and follow their children’s sports games.
Aileen Passariello-McAleer and Christia Madacsi Hoffman wanted their children to learn Spanish at a young age, and they bet that they weren’t the only moms who wanted to create a bilingual environment at home. The Austin moms created the MamaLingua app, which offers real phrases a mom would actually use with her child.
The phrases are things like: “Do you have to go to the bathroom? ¿Tienes que ir al baño?” or “Do you like this book? ¿Te gusta este libro?”
“We’re giving them basic stuff that is relevant,” Passariello-McAleer says. It’s in the context of their everyday life, making it more likely to be memorable rather than learning words and phrases that don’t apply.
The app allows you to set English or Spanish as your primary language, and you don’t just read the phrase. It pronounces it for you. There’s also a vocabulary tab of words commonly used. You can select favorites that you personally use often and sort by category or alphabetically.
MamaLingua has a free version as well as a premium ver-
sion for $7.99 on iTunes and on Google Play. The free version has just a taste of the phrases the premium version has.
New phrases get added to the app, and on MamaLingua’s Facebook page, new offerings are posted regularly. The app is geared for young children from birth to age 3 but can extend through early elementary school age.
“It’s straightforward,” Passariello-McAleer says. “It’s for parents to learn and to teach.” And it’s on a device that parents often have around them — the cellphone.
Passariello-McAleer and Hoffman have backgrounds in language. PassarielloMcAleer’s parents are Venezuelan and she grew up in a bilingual home and speaks only Spanish to her children, who are 3 and 6, but her husband speaks English to them. Hoffman studied French in college and lived for a time in her childhood in Hungary.
Passariello-McAleer previously worked at IBM and has a Master of Business from the University of Texas. Hoffman is a writer and graphic designer but recently got into acting and can be seen in commercials and magazine ads. They connected through their mutual interest in raising bilingual children at a meetup group PassarielloMcAleer started.
Even if Hoffman had studied Spanish instead of French, she says, she wouldn’t have learned the phrases that she would need to speak to her daughter, who is 5.
With other programs, Hoffman says, “it’s one word at a time,” and that’s not how kids pick up language. The early years are when kids are most likely to find it easier to learn a second language, plus their brain is constantly developing the pathways to make language acquisition easier later in their lives. Being bilingual has been shown to improve intelligence as well as critical thinking skills.
Passariello-McAleer and Hoffman are working with schools that are either bilingual or have a strong Spanish-speaking population to get them the app. Parents can use it to learn English, and their children, who are learning English in school, can use it to help their parents.
They also are working to sell Spanish books for parents to read to their children.
What’s going on in the game? Now you can know
Austin mom Laura LeMond has two boys, ages 14 and 16, who grew up playing flag football. She remembers having to ask a fellow parent, “Who’s that kid who just scored?” When they got older in middle school and high school, she would get a paper roster of the team to try to follow the game.
We previously featured LeMond as the founder of Mosaic weighted blankets. Now’s she’s created the app Name the Teammate.
The app allows an administrator to plug in the roster of kids and then give access to the parents on the team. The coach can post the schedule and link to Google Maps to get to each field or court. Come game day, the coach can send out email notifications of player positions or record stats and share them. Parents can follow the game and see who just did what. The opposing team can also opt in and see who the other team’s players are.
LeMond says, as a parent, she has “spent hours of sitting at different sporting events, and I just didn’t know who the kid who was scoring.” The app allows teams to decide what level of information they want to provide.
It does take parent or coach involvement, but LeMond believes many parents would be willing to do it. As any parent who has a kid in sports knows, “it takes a certain amount of dedication to drive the kids and get there. It’s completely self-organized.”
The app is free on iTunes and Google Play, but eventually there might be a premium version with additional features.
You can set your primary language on MamaLingua to English or to Spanish.
Name the Teammate, from Austin mom Laura LeMond, helps you keep a schedule of games.
The MamaLingua app helps parents and their young children learn Spanish or English. It’s from the minds of Austin moms Aileen Passariello-McAleer and Christia Madacsi Hoffman.
Parents can control the information seen by users of Name the Teammate.
The coach or administrator can load all of the teammates onto the Name the Teammate app.
The app lets you look up words and phrases by category.