It's been a very long while since I've last written to you all, and I apologize for the long radio silence. Better late than never, however, so let me give you all an update on what we've been up to all this while!
Two years ago, my family and I relocated to China (in a beautiful city called Hangzhou, near Shanghai), in order to explore business opportunities in China for BrillKids.
After some time, what became increasingly apparent to me were two things:
- The huge desire of Chinese people to learn English
- The increasing desire of the rest of the world to learn Chinese
It wasn't long before I had an 'aha' moment and decided to try to address these two needs simultaneously. After many iterations and reiterations of ideas, we began to work on a social learning app that would attempt to make it as easy as possible for:
- Chinese speakers to learn and practice English;
- English-speakers to learn and practice Chinese;...from and with each other!
And actually, not just English and Chinese, but all major languages including French, Japanese and Spanish (though we expect that English and Chinese would be the most sought-after overall).
We originally planned to make this a new BrillKids products aimed at children 6 and up, called "Little Pal" (borrowing the idea of pen pals), but as we were developing it, we decided to first launch an adult version first, which addresses a larger audience and in many ways makes it easier to do.
So now, after more than a year and a half of development, we are ready to announce to coming launch of our new app, Hello Pal!What is Hello Pal?
In short, Hello Pal is the first-ever app that will allow you to talk to people from all over the world, in completely foreign languages, within just minutes!
Here are the key features of version 1:1. Social Messaging
On the surface, it will seem like a social messenger app like Whatsapp, where you can chat with your friends using text and audio messages.2. Connecting with Foreign Language Partners
The first difference is that you'll be able to search for language partners all around the world according to criteria such as nationality, location, fluent languages, learning languages, etc.3. Phrasebook Conversations
Most importantly, integrated into the chat messenger are phrasebooks which contain phrases that are commonly used in conversations.
Let's say you've opened a chat window with a new pal called Alice, and you'd like to speak some Mandarin Chinese to her.
Next, just do the following:
- Open the Chinese phrasebook
- choose a phrase you want to say
- listen to the guide audio
- record your voice and send
And there - you've just spoken in Chinese to Alice! Can our kids use this?
Well, this app wasn't really designed for our little ones, and will not even be under BrillKids (it will be a completely separate branding and under a different company with different owners).
Hello Pal was designed for adults and the phrases in the phrasebooks are therefore also geared towards what we anticipate adults would want to say when chatting with another adult.
This app also relies on translations to convey meaning (not pictures like with Little Reader), so depending on your child's reading level, it might be a little challenging navigate through the phrasebooks.
Having said that, I see no reason why our kids can't also use the app with our supervision. Your child could easily be chatting in Japanese with Grandma with your supervision, for example.
I think this will do fine until such time as we get around to doing Little Pal which will be dedicated to kids and contain parental controls.Beta Testing
We hope to start some limited beta testing soon and we would love for you all to join! To participate, please join this Facebook group we've created for this purpose:https://www.facebook.com/groups/648751111919030/
Please join the group and wait for news! When the time comes to start the testing, we'll contact you through the FB group.
Please also LIKE our FB page at: www.facebook.com/hellopalchat
In the meantime, you can learn more about our app here: www.hellopal.com
Looking forward to hearing from you all!
UPDATE - BETA HAS STARTED! See our Beta group on FB for more details!