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A Game to Teach Foreign Language Skills to Children

SOCAP January 10, 2013

–> Who:  Ryan Wagner, Co-Founder of Penyo Pal
–> What: Penyo Pal is a digital game designed to teach 4-7 year-olds foreign language skills, teaching language through play.
–> How: Read this synopsis, learn more about Penyo Pal here, and check out this pitch video by Penyo Pal at Microsoft’s LAUNCH Education conference.
By Adam Smiley Poswolsky
Ryan Wagner grew up in Ontario, Canada, and studied nanoengineering in college, and then researched nanoverticals at Harvard Medical School. This year, he was part of a program in Canada called Next 36, which helps launch the careers of Canada’s most promising and innovative undergraduates. The program gives 36 people from all across Canada CEO-level mentorship, placing them in teams of four to start a tech business.
In May 2012, Wagner and his business partners moved in together, and started working on Penyo Pal. They launched their first product in June at the Microsoft LAUNCH Education conference in Silicon Valley, alongside 30 other companies, and were awarded the best overall 1.0 start-up. The Penyo Pal game is available to download for free for the iPhone and iPad. The game teaches 4-7 year-olds language skills through audio and vocabulary lessons. Wagner explains that this is the best age for children to soak in language skills; when they are most open to trying things and failing. Penyo Pal is currently available in Chinese and French, but plans for additional languages like Spanish are in development.
At SOCAP, Wagner was one of 100 scholarship entrepreneurs selected to participate in the Impact Accelerator@SOCAP program the weekend before the conference, where he met social entrepreneurs from all over the world.  “The coolest thing was meting all of the other entrepreneurs, everyone at SOCAP was really smart and doing something truly impactful,” noted Wagner.
Wagner mentioned to me that the inspiration behind Penyo Pal was to make learning fun. “Education is too rigid, we need more creativity in education, more technology, more games,” he explained, “Many children in the U.S. grow up learning English, but don’t know their parents’ first language. We’re marketing to that audience, for children looking to regain their parents’ language, as well as making learning foreign languages more accessible for other children,” he said.
Moving forward, Penyo Pal is working on enhancing character and story development in their platform, and working to foster online learning communities so that kids can interact with other users much like they would using a typical video game.

Penyo Pal Team

This article is a part of a series produced at SOCAP12 by New Empire Builders. New Empire Builders is a SOCAP12 media partner.

Impact Investing / Social Entrepreneurship
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