Charlottesville 12-Year-Old Working to Develop Multilingual Apps - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Charlottesville 12-Year-Old Working to Develop Multilingual Apps

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Most kids are kicking off their summers with some time by the pool and a break from the books, but one Charlottesville sixth-grader is taking on a one-of-a-kind technology project this summer.

Many of us are familiar with "slow and steady wins the race" and the morals we learn from our favorite fables. Now, 12-year-old Maya Nguyen-Tuong is trying to make that experience multilingual - but she needs some help to get her idea off the ground.

She said, "I'm bilingual and so I talk to my parents in French and school's English and I really like Spanish."

Maya and her parents are taking their love for languages to a whole new level. 

"We're taking classic fables and we're simplifying them for littler kids, but we're incorporating another language and we're doing that in seven languages," Maya said.

The family is trying to transform three classic fables – The Tortoise and the Hare, The Cicada and the Ant, and The Fox and the Stork – into an interactive, multilingual experience.  Seven languages – French, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Vietnamese and another language voted on by the community – will be embedded into the English tales.

"So for example for the hair and the tortoise, you would have the tortoise say, ‘Alors, tu viens? I am coming!  Hold on!  Je mange.  This grass is so good!'  So you go back and forth and you do understand what's going on, even though you don't know the language," said Karine Nguyen-Tuong, Maya's mom.

The project will be available through iPad apps and online.  The apps will be free, but Maya has created a Kickstarter page to help make this project a reality.

"We're asking for $3,500 to make these three fables in seven languages and that would be used to help development funds, technology, but mostly to hire native speakers so that some of the languages are going to be trickier than others, especially languages that we're not familiar with like Chinese, Arabic, Hindi," said Anh Nguyen-Tuong, Maya's dad.

Maya says her ambitious summer assignment is designed to give kids a tool that might be useful in the future.  "I think it's important for kids to be exposed to different sounds because in life you might need to know them," she said.

Karine said, "By the end of the project, we hope that everybody would be able to at least count from one to 12, say greetings, you know what your name is, talk about food, talk about the weather – all that in seven languages."

Maya has organized a Kickstarter party, where she will be talking to people about her project and giving out a free book.  It will be held at C'ville Coffee this Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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