Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2015
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Alphabets

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Writing system study tool needs letter sounds to make an impact

Subjects & skills
Skills
N/A

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • World Languages
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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5 images

Pros: Simple interface and big text make it easy to explore subtle differences between letters.

Cons: Without audio features, it's impossible to know the sounds the letters represent.

Bottom Line: Without systematic ways to read or study, this app works better as a trivia reference than a learning aid.

Use Alphabets as a reference for kids beginning language study in any of the included languages. Kids can use the Morse Code list to create secret messages to one another, experimenting with how to best use the system to write and decode messages. Social studies classes might have kids compare different alphabets (like Greek and Russian) and discuss historical, religious, and cultural reasons why these writing systems are similar and different. 

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Alphabets is a quiz and study tool for exploring seven world language writing systems. The main menu includes four sections (Learn, Games, List, and More Apps), and within each section, users' choices are Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Korean, Morse Code, and Roman. In Learn, users can choose among the seven language options and view letters in that writing system one by one, in that script's alphabetical order. Each symbol's flashcard includes the name of the letter (like "Alef" for the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet) and the symbol itself. Both the uppercase and lowercase versions of the letter appear here, if applicable. In Games, users select a target language and take a 10-question quiz where they view 10 symbols at random and then choose the letter's correct name. The List option displays the symbols and their names in a list format, and the More Apps link takes users to the Play store to purchase other apps from the developer. 

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Alphabets is a neat reference, and it's nice to be able to so quickly browse different languages' writing systems. Kids who want to explore the different sets of symbols for each writing system will be intrigued to learn the symbols and their variations in each language (like viewing the uppercase and lowercase symbols for several languages). The interface is simple and easy to browse, though pop-up ads and links to buy more apps distract. 

The key point that this app overlooks is the critical link between letters and sounds. The languages included here are all phonetic, and it's worth pointing out the sounds that these letters represent. Additionally, it would be great if users could see what a word or a sentence looks like with these symbols, and how that word might be pronounced. The inclusion of Morse Code is jarring, as this isn't so much a unique alphabet as a series of alternate symbols for the Roman alphabet. Overall, without the context of whole words and sounds, this is more of a quick reference guide to letter shapes rather than a go-to guide for learning world writing systems.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Different alphabets are easy to access and explore, but kids will lose interest without audio features or ways to customize their experience.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Knowing the symbols' names isn't the same as knowing how to pronounce them or combine them in words, limiting the app's learning potential and utility for language learners.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Navigation is simple, but there's no way to track progress or get help.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Tracey W. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
P.S. Is 54
Bronx, NY
Learning Foreign Letters ! ! !

This product is a great way for kids to enhance another written language . Kids who want to explore the different sets of symbols for each writing system will be able to learn the symbols and their variations in each language For example, viewing the uppercase and lowercase symbols for several languages. Social Studies classes may use this to compare the different writing aspects and can also learn the historical context behind it. Through use of this app, children unwittingly begin to discover initial sounds as they are exposed to the different languages. It would be great if users could see what a word or a sentence looks like with these symbols and how that word might be pronounced. This would be better if there was a little short story connected to it where kids can practice to read to it. This product is a great find for early multiple language learners.

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