The creators of Memrise – a free, online language learning program – have recently released a wonderful app called CatAcademy. The app, which teaches Spanish through entertaining pictures of cats, is quite ingenious and definitely worth downloading for anyone wanting to learn the basics of the language.
CatAcademy’s key function is to associate an image with a word or phrase. This philosophy stems from Memrise, whose program was designed from studies that show that vivid, sensory memories will create a stronger connection in the brain. By this logic, linking language to relatable and unique phrases or images, called “mems,” should make memorizing a new language easier.
CatAcademy takes this idea and adds a little more fun. Cats are widely beloved, and have recently been a staple of Internet memes, and CatAcademy uses this to its advantage. There are plenty of amusing images of cats, paired with appropriate Spanish phrases, for users to learn. According to CatAcademy, “Cuteness has been shown by Japanese researchers to enhance cognitive function. It helps you relax, attend more closely, and it promotes theta waves – which aid concentration.”
It would be easy for this app to rely on cute pictures and call it good, but it actually implements solid language learning techniques as well. Throughout their studies, CatAcademy gives quick grammar lessons, delving further into the study of the language. In addition, users study in five unique learning styles: practicing the initial phrase, answering multiple choice questions, typing or spelling the phrase, listening to the phrase, and choosing the best response for conversation.Each of these styles is very helpful in learning the language, and the multitude of studying options ensures that a student really has the knowledge down pat. The ability to “converse” is the most appealing feature; while it isn’t a substitution for live, natural conversation, practicing the various ways one can use a phrase in specific situations is still very beneficial.
The app does have its limits: you’re aren't going to become a fluent Spanish speaker with your cat companions. CatAcademy is best utilized by those brand new to the language, hoping to establish some basic skills. Considering CatAcademy is completely free, it’s a fantastic deal! (Accelerated Spanish courses will cost an additional fee, however.)