Say bonjour to the gift that keeps on giving: Little Pim. This edutaintment series teaches babies, toddlers and preschoolers foreign languages by making them fun and engaging. Thanks in large part to Little Pim, a cuddly panda who serves as your tot’s guide to far off lands, the series is loved by children and their parents alike.
Here, we talk to Little Pim founder Julia Pimsleur Levine about the series she created out of a desire to find a suitable way for her son to learn French, why little is big when it comes to a child’s ability to learn a new language and more.
TFG : Why did you start your business?
Julia Pimsleur Levine: When my son Emmett was born, I looked for easy ways to introduce him to French since I was raised speaking French and English. I couldn’t find a well-made, comprehensive introduction to French, and then realized thousands of parents must be in the same situation as me, wanting to get their kids started on learning a second language at the time they learn best. I created Little Pim™ to fill that gap!
JPL: The Entertainment Immersion MethodTM combines animation and real kids engaged in every day activities. Each 35-minute DVD is segmented into 5-minute episodes to accommodate a young child’s attention span and encourage pausing for parent interaction. Simple sentences are broken down into easy-to-understand parts, and reinforced through repetition and strategic recombining of words and phrases.
Children get very attached to Little Pim, the series “teacher” who is a lovable cartoon panda bear. He invites young viewers to join him in his playful antics as they learn the language along with real children. Children who watch three DVDs for several weeks pick up over 180 basic words in kid-friendly topics such as playing, eating and drinking and napping.
TFG: Why does being younger make it easier for kids to learn a new language?
JPL: Scientific research has proven through many widely published and cited studies that young children can learn multiple languages with ease before the age of 6 years. During the first few years of life, the brain is actually hard wired to effortlessly absorb new words and develop a native accent. Unfortunately, we lose this ability right around age six and from then on it gets harder each year to learn a second language. That’s why it’s so important for parents to start exposing their child to a second language at a young age, even if it’s just a few hours a week. It will make learning new words and imitating the accent so much easier for their kids later in life. We recommend parents start even before the child can speak, which helps their brain’s neuro-pathways stay open to the sounds of languages other than their mother tongue.
Spanish and French are our bestsellers across all products, but Mandarin Chinese has been steadily gaining in popularity. The interest in Chinese is directly related to parents considering how their children will have the greatest advantages in a global economy. Also, because Chinese is a tonal language it’s even harder to learn than a romance language, so starting early is even more important. We released German, Russian and Italian last year (we offer a total of ten languages), and those have been very popular as well.
TFG: What’s your advice to parents who are interested in having their kids learn a second language but think they don’t have the time to devote to the process?
JPL: Little Pim was created in part to solve this problem! Our mission statement is “to make foreign language learning easy, fun and accessible for young children everywhere.” We think every child has the right to start learning a second language at the age he or she learns best, and whether or not his or her parents speak a second language. The “fun” part of our mission is that kids love learning with Little Pim the panda. The “easy” part is that our DVD series is as simple to use as any purely entertainment DVD. You just put it on a few times a week and your child will start to say new words in a second language. We also provide on screen subtitles for parents to follow along, and free companion guides on our web site for parents who want to get more involved. The “accessible” part is the price point, as we think you shouldn’t have pay hundreds of dollars for classes or a Spanish, French or Mandarin-speaking nanny to give your child the benefits of learning a second language. Little Pim costs the same amount as any entertainment DVD and provides the same amount of amusement for the kids, but you know they are also learning a language. It’s truly a win-win!
JPL: The gift sets are our top-selling items. They make great presents on any budget, and parents love to give and get them. We offer them in various combinations, from our Intro Gift Set ($27.95 for Disc 1 + a panda + a music CD in an adorable reusable tote), to our Deluxe Gift Set ($84.95) which includes a 3-pak, flash cards, plush panda, and a CD, to the whole kit and caboodle ($109.95) with includes our entire series of 6 DVDs.
TFG: What’s your proudest moment as a business owner?
JPL: I am proudest of what we have created when parents tell us their children love learning a second language with Little Pim. I meet so many people who hated language class in school and as a result never learned to speak a second language, but wish they had. I was lucky that my parents raised me bilingual in French, and always felt this was the best gift they ever gave me. At Little Pim, we are excited about launching a generation of little language learners whom speaking a second language as a fun and exciting thing to do. We are proud to be the ones starting them on that learning journey and also consider it a real privilege and honor. We work with leading early childhood educators and two professional language advisors on every language we offer. We also spend countless hours pouring over our materials to ensure they are high quality and educationally appropriate for our young audiences.
TFG: What exciting things are on the horizon?
JPL: We are adding Portuguese (Brazilian). On the digital side, we have an iPad app in the works, to add to our two iPhone apps already on the market (Word Bag and Talking Coloring Book). We’re also redesigning our web site,so check back for surprises and great videos and photos of kids speaking a second language.
For more from Little Pim, go to www.littlepim.com.