Phrasalstein

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Phrasalstein App Poster Image
Learning English can be scary, but monsters make it fun.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn some of the phrasal verbs used in the English language. These phrases are especially confusing for English-language learners, and the short animations, definitions, and sample sentences will help kids understand words that don't always translate literally. Phrasalstein includes terms such as "lock up," "mist over," "tidy up," and "wash down." Kids, especially those learning the English language, will enjoy discovering about 60 phrasal verbs with Dr. Frankenstein's monster mash.

Ease of Play

Scrolling the dial rather than merely tapping answers takes some getting used to, but the other controls are pretty straightforward. Phrasalstein is geared especially for English-language learners, so the option is available to get instructions and definitions in other languages (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, German, and Russian).

Violence

Some mild cartoon violence goes with the monster theme. For the phrasal "break through," a body pops out of a man's stomach, showing some blood. For "go off," a bomb explodes.

 

Sex

One of the phrasals included is "vamp up," described as a woman wearing clothes that make her more sexually attractive to men. The animation shows the Bride of Frankenstein changing into a sexy dress for Dr. Frankenstein.

Language
Consumerism

Home page includes a link to the app stores for more apps by Cambridge University Press, some free and some paid.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Phrasalstein uses a Frankenstein theme to teach English phrasals -- the combination of a verb with a preposition that alters the word's meaning and makes learning the English language tricky. The monsters are cartoon-scary but charming in clumsy, monster-like manner. Kids old enough to work on learning phrasal verbs will find the skits that demonstrate their meanings funny and effective.

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What's it about?

The English language is complicated, and phrasal verbs are one of its many tricky parts: "go in," "go for," "go off" -- same verb, different meanings. PHRASALSTEIN uses monsters and short animations to demonstrate the meanings of common phrasal verbs. The whole process is set up like a machine in Dr. Frankenstein's lab. Kids scroll the dial to a verb and a preposition and hit "view." A window opens showing a short animated clip that demonstrates the meaning of the phrasal verb, and another window gives the meaning or translation and a sample sentence. This great tool for English-language learners lets kids customize the language in Settings and view instructions and translations in their chosen language, with the sample sentence in both English and that language. To test understanding, kids can challenge themselves in the exercise section, where they'll view the short animated clip demonstrating a phrasal verb in action and match it to the correct term on the dial.

Is it any good?

Phrasalstein doesn't have broad appeal since it's focused on English-language phrasal verbs, which are most likely already ingrained in native English speakers' grammar. For English-language learners of any age, however, the cross-cultural appeal of Frankenstein, Dracula, and their monster crew make learning this tricky aspect of the English language fun. Short, simple animations demonstrate the concepts in a way that makes sense, and the option to see instructions and translations in other languages makes it easier to use.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Challenge yourself and your child to "catch" the English phrases you use that don't follow the rules of logic or grammar (or make sense to someone learning the language).

  • For English-language learners, read widely and listen to talk radio to hear conversational English phrasing.

App details

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For kids who love language, monsters

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