I'm always on the lookout for new ways of exploring languages with our children, and the new app Unuhi immediately caught my eye. We've been using it this half term to compare French/English and English/Italian texts and brush up our vocabulary together whilst on holiday, but it's also so much fun to change the two language combinations to languages we are less familiar with, for example to see Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin scripts. We are hooked, so I asked Unuhi founder, Mark Bassett, a few questions to get the full story.
Hi Mark, thanks for talking to us about your new bilingual books app, Unuhi. Please can you explain what the name Unuhi means?
Hi Cate, thank you for taking a look at our new app! Unuhi means 'to translate' in Hawaiian. It should be pronounced 'ooo-noo-hee'. I have heard quite a few amusing pronunciations though. Anyway, I thought it sounded fun and of course the name is relevant to what we are about.
Tell us a bit about what the app does and why you created it.
Unuhi offers bilingual books and flashcards for children in any combination of 20 languages. Be it a short fun story in Spanish to English, or flashcards in Polish to Mandarin, the idea is you choose. I had the idea a little over a year ago when I came across an French-to-English printed bilingual book. I thought it would make an interesting educational app that would make bilingual books more accessible and available in more language combinations than ever before. The app was built by our tech wizard Charlie and designed by our designer guru Simon.
How does it work? Is it an audio book?
The app is free to download and Rikki’s Week of Weather, our free book, introduces the days of the week and the weather in a fun way with our cute robot Rikki. Other content is available as an in-app purchase which we will add to regularly. There are sound effects in one book but no audio of the text as yet. It's aimed more towards a bilingual parent or teacher who would act as the audio at this stage, but audio is something we would like to add in the future. We are on the App Store for iPad and iPhone now, with an Android version due to be out by Christmas.
It's a dual-language app. Which languages are available and in which combinations?
With Unuhi you can currently choose to read bilingual books and flashcards in any combination of 20 languages: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English (UK & US), Filipino, Finnish, French, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish (EU & LA), Swedish & Thai. You can even turn off a language so that just one language is visible. As language learning, reading and discovering new cultures becomes ever more important for children, Unuhi offers more options with bilingual books than ever before.
A tricky question, but isn’t encouraging even more screentime for children a rather controversial idea? Why should parents make the exception for your app?
Hours sitting in front of a screen is good for nobody. But not all screentime is created equal. If they provide a quality learning experience then screens, as a tool for that, can help. We also like to think that Unuhi is used by the parent and child together when reading a story, it's at the heart of what we do. This is quality time and the parent or teacher can then monitor the amount of time spent on a screen.
Anything else parents or teachers should know about Unuhi?
Actually we’d love to know what YOU think about the app. Feedback is really important for us. We are a new company with lots of plans for Unuhi in the future but we also want to hear from parents, teachers and children who have ideas, maybe even a story!
If you'd like to get in touch with Mark you can drop him a line at [email protected] and visit the website here. You can download the app to try it for free on the App Store here or on Google Play here.