Learn Spanish with Ruby Rei

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
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Role-player features Spanish-language practice, great art.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn some useful idiomatic Spanish words (don't say "OK," say "vale"!) and read and hear Spanish spoken in context. They can also make choices about the best Spanish word to use to respond in conversation or in writing. Also, kids can practice reading, hearing, speaking, and listening skills. In an independent study, kids using the game improved proficiency about double that of kids using online exercises.

Ease of Play

While it's pretty clear that you're supposed to tap the words on screen, it's not always clear what your next task in the game is. Plus, features for typing and recording aren't especially responsive, and it can be hard to know how to use them. 

Violence

Spaceship crashes in the early chapters, but it's pretty light cartoon peril. 

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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Learn Spanish with Ruby Rei is a role-playing game that helps kids learn Spanish. Its story features a space explorer named Ruby Rei who is marooned on a strange planet and roams around its mysterious surface trying to find her way home. The app is built to teach Spanish to English speakers and English to Spanish and Portuguese speakers. The narration appears in the target language -- the language you're trying to learn -- and you can toggle the on-screen captions between the target language and your native language. Users can create an account by linking to Facebook or by providing an email address, but there's no email-confirmation process. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

LEARN SPANISH WITH RUBY REI is a role-playing game that follows the adventures of a space explorer who is marooned on a strange planet. To play, you can tap to move through the game's 22 levels. The narration is in Spanish, and its captions appear in English at first. Later, captions appear in Spanish, and you can tap underlined words to transform them into English. Between brief cut scenes that move the story forward, users guide Ruby Rei from her crashed spaceship through a strange alien world on her journey back to find her friend Moli, the crashed ship's computer. Along the way, kids briefly practice all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) through some limited challenges, such as sending a text message to Moli or making a brief voice recording. 

Is it any good?

While the visuals are gorgeous and the concept behind the app is great, this role-player falls a bit short of a truly immersive experience. Guiding Ruby Rei across the planet mostly involves tapping and selecting multiple-choice answers, not coming up with answers on your own. When you do have a chance to type or speak, it's hard to know whether your answer was recorded properly, and it's also not especially clear how to move purposefully toward getting it right. Some clearer feedback or progress tracking -- even a progress bar on-screen or some encouraging feedback text when you've accomplished a task -- would help make it clearer that you're moving forward in the narrative and progressing through the language-based challenges. It would also be helpful if users could customize their experience, perhaps by saving words they learn to a glossary page or to a section of Ruby Rei's built-in diary. Overall, Learning Spanish with Ruby Rei is an interesting way to hear and practice Spanish vocabulary in a story-based context, but a bit more learning support would make it even stronger. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the process of learning a language and do it together. Learn a language along with your kid and compete on Learn Spanish with Ruby Rei. Then challenge each other to keep up a conversation in real life.

  • Talk about why it feels different to use a new language in a game than it does in a classroom. Is playing a game more like using a language in real life? 

  • Watch a film in the language your kids are studying. See how much they can pick up, and then turn on subtitles to check their skills.

App details

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For kids who love learning new languages

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