When I planned my first trip to Tokyo last year, I didn’t give myself a heavy itinerary. I had whimsical notions of wandering the unnamed streets and seeing which way the wind took me. So instead, I poured my energy into learning one crucial thing: The basics of Japanese language. After all, I may be able to cheat my way through other alphabetical languages, but I doubted I’d have such luck when trying to decipher entirely new characters.
A well-traveled friend of mine recommended I try Drops, a language app that uses word games to help you learn mnemonically and efficiently. The free version gives you five minutes of learning a day—a perfectly manageable commitment with my busy life. Plus, it focuses on vocabulary (as opposed to grammar) so I could quickly build up my word bank. No, I wouldn’t be fluent, but I would have all the words I needed for necessities. Within one month, I knew enough Japanese that I felt fully confident going into a 10-day trip.
Often, when I was playing Drops on my phone, my twin daughters would peek over my wrists and ask what “game” I was playing. (The app has an interface that does, indeed, look and feel more like a game than an educational tool.) I explained it was an app for grown-ups to learn new languages, and maybe one day they’d be able to play, too.
From my mouth to Drops’ ears: They have now released a kids’ version called Droplets. (How cute is that?) Not only that—I discovered that my subscription to Drops now automatically comes with a subscription to Droplets—as well as Scripts, Drops’ alphabet learning app—and that Droplets allows a family of up to five kids to use the app tracking each of their progress separately. Perfect for the twins!
My girls were so excited to play “Mommy’s favorite game” that I didn’t have the heart to tell them they’d be learning a language in the process. They chose Spanish, and immediately took to the colorful, simple interface and beautiful illustrations. I love that Droplets is swipe-only: The experience is easy and fast-paced, yet it still provides immediate feedback and easy-to-follow progress. Bonus: No kids’ car sickness from trying to use the keyboard.
Just like Drops, the free version of Droplets has a built-in 5-minute limitation. This is especially brilliant for little ones because it automatically limits screen time while still providing a digestible amount of learning. Parents don’t have to worry about overstimulation or burn-out, while Droplets is the bad cop saying, “Time’s up!” Win-win!
Although my kids are on the younger side, I think Droplets will be an amazing app to grow with because the competencies are ideal for tweens and teens. Both Drops and Droplets focus on the three Cs: Core vocabulary, confidence, and consistency.
Just as I found when learning Japanese, it’s most beneficial for kids to start with a breadth of vocabulary, rather than jumping into the complexities of grammar. It makes sense: Research has shown that vocabulary leads to comprehension (meaning, even if you can’t speak a language, you can still understand it), and with comprehension comes confidence. Once you have the basic tools, it’s much easier to learn the nuances of speaking and writing.
By equipping our school-aged children with these core competencies, we’re making it super accessible, fun, and easy to process language learning, almost like osmosis, one drop at a time.
With all of that information dancing in my head, I started thinking about how Droplets would be a great supplementary tool for when my kids choose their language classes in middle school, and then how it could grow with them into high school. And then I fell down a rabbit hole of imagining them as young women who had mastered Spanish so they could study abroad, and how they’d go to Barcelona and fall in love with twin brother sommeliers, and how they’d get married and live in Europe and I would just miss them so much, and—
BING! Just like that, five minutes is up and our Droplets lesson for the day is done. My girls are little girls again… just a little bit wiser in Spanish.
About the Author: Kristyn Merritt is a writer, editor, artist, and branding expert specializing in lifestyle and life sciences content. Her work has appeared in major platforms across all media, from magazines, television and newspapers to retail, e-commerce and digital. Kristyn lives in the Bay Area with her brilliant husband, troublemaking twin daughters, and oft-neglected rowing machine.