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Recommended Resources: “Little Lexicon,” a Fun, Innovative App for Budding Bilingual Kids and Confused Loved Ones

Little Lexicon

Although I’ve been keeping a journal about my kids since they were born, one thing I wish I had done with more discipline was making notes about their first words—even their first half-formed words.

For example, when Lulu was about 18 months old, I wrote…

Lulu’s first sign of distinguishing English and Japanese occurred in February 2006 when she began, but not always accurately, using “up” to me when she wanted me to pick her up and “dak” (for “dakko”) when making the same request to her mother.

However, I know there were many more of these first words that were lost to the busy days of early childhood…and I’m afraid I made even fewer notes like this about my son, born nearly three years later. (There’s always less enthusiasm for the poor second-born children!)

So when Ryan Cole, an American designer now living in the Czech Republic with his Czech wife and their two young sons, told me about his creation—a fun, innovative app that not only enables parents to more easily note their children’s first words, it even translates these words into other languages so loved ones can comprehend them, too—I thought it was a solution well worth sharing. (I even considered having a third child just to use it myself, but my wife was against the idea.)

I’ll let Ryan tell you more about Little Lexicon, in his own words…

1. Could you give us a Tweetable idea of Little Lexicon? What is it?
Little Lexicon lets you collect and share your bilingual toddler’s first words with those you love. At it’s core, it’s all about helping your family and friends understand what your kid is saying. It’ll also make sure you don’t forget those first words.

2. Could you describe it in more detail? Who is it for? How would it be useful?
Right now the app is pretty simple. After signing up you can create a book (which is really just a collection of words), and then start adding words to it. To add a word, first you type it as your kid says it phonetically. This is really the trickiest and most fun part. Then you enter what they are trying to say, and the app translates that to the other language. This way even my mom can enter new words without having to know Czech.

Then you can share this “book” with people by email, or make it public for anyone who knows the link. This way you can share it with babysitters, family, and friends.

I’ve made it with people like me and my family in mind. Parents who are raising bilingual kids are almost by necessity living far away from some part of their family. This can be a strain as it becomes hard to keep everyone in the family loop. The Internet is a great boon to this, so why not create a tailor-made solution to our very specific problem? Facebook, family blogs, and Skype are great for what they do, but they fall down a bit when you want to use it for something like this.

The added value is that you’ll never forget the first words your kid learns. It’s so easy to think in the moment “How could I ever forget that he said Strabadoodies!” but I’ve talked to dozens of parents who struggled to recall even a few of these words. It should work well on mobile, too, so you can add words no matter where you are.

3. What prompted you to create Little Lexicon? Could you share your personal experience using it with your own family?
Well, maybe a story would be a good way to explain. About a year ago, when Oliver, my oldest boy, started talking it was a real mishmash of languages. Some English, some Czech. For us this was no big deal, but for instance when my mom would visit she would have no idea what he was saying. This made me a bit sad since we were so pumped about him talking. She just felt left out. I started explaining the words as he would say them, but there were times when I wasn’t around and she couldn’t figure it out.

Being a web guy, I decided to make some simple web site where I could add words easily from my phone. As these types of projects tend to do, it eventually grew into this little web application. It was a big hit for my parents and family in the States, as well as the Czech relatives here as Ollie was learning more and more English.

This initial thing I built was never meant to be used by a lot of people, so I rebuilt it from the ground up as a web service. Now anyone can sign up and use it to break down their own family language barriers.

4. What sort of feedback have you gotten from other parents?
Initially, I shared the idea, and then the product with my friends who also have bilingual kids with the same situation, and got a lot of really helpful feedback. Most recently, Maria from Trilingual Mama has started using it to help her monolingual sister-in-law who will be keeping her kids for a bit while she is away on business. I’m really curious what use they find for it during that period.

These sorts of projects are very iterative in nature so I welcome any feedback anyone wants to share. I’m constantly working on ideas for improvements and new features.

5. How much does it cost? Could I twist your arm (or tickle your armpit) for a special offer to readers of Bilingual Monkeys?
You can sign up for free and it will let you make 35 words and share with 5 people by email. To upgrade and get unlimited words, public sharing, and more email shares costs $5. However, since at this point I’m more interested in getting feedback and improving the service, I’m giving away promo codes to early users.

Lucky for me my armpits aren’t ticklish. 🙂 However, since I love Bilingual Monkeys your readers can use the code themonkeysentme to upgrade for free. Once you create a book, click on any of the “Upgrade Book” buttons and enter that code. Note: This special offer is good until March 31, 2015.

6. Where can parents learn more about Little Lexicon and get the app?
You can go to to sign up and learn more about the app. Right now it’s just a web app, so you’ll need Internet access, and a web browser to use it. I have plans to make a mobile app as well, but that’s down the road a bit.

7. Anything else we should know about Little Lexicon or its maker?
There is a lot more info on the Little Lexicon website if readers want to learn more. About me, well, I wish I were more interesting. 🙂 I’m just an American in Prague living it one day at a time, and trying to make the world a slightly better place. I hope you enjoy it!

Ryan Cole grew up in the small town of Aledo, Texas where he enjoyed a childhood full of fun and small town adventure. After graduating from the University of North Texas he moved to Amsterdam where he met a lovely Czech girl. Now he lives and works in Prague where he is raising two funny Czech American boys together with his lovely Czech wife Markéta and her hairy dog Bara. He works as a graphic designer, programmer, and university lecturer.

How about you? Would “Little Lexicon” be a helpful app for your situation? Why not give it a try?


4 Responses

  1. Thank you Adam for this great article!
    I had stumbled across the Little Lexicon website recently and was taken with the idea but the app is making it even better as you can add words on the go (and with little ones this is essential!). This would have come in handy about 3 yrs ago when I was going into hospital to have my 2nd baby and my 1st little girl, who was about 2yrs, was to be minded by her lovely Uncle who traveled from overseas and was not familiar with her lingo at all! Plus, with the complication that any attempt at a word having double the possibilities with 2 languages, he had his work cut-out! We actually made him a little dictionary at the time with the most crucial sounds/words so he could understand what she was trying to say…so there is certainly a need for an app like this! And how cute to have them recorded forever…pity both my girls are now just a little too old…well done to Ryan!

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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