You Can Haz Spanish!

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Last month, we wrote about the potentially dire consequences of the UK’s foreign language shortage for our economy. How do we get more people to learn another language? As it turns out, the common housecat  may hold the key.

Say what? According to research performed by a company called Memrise, people retain information better when it is presented in the form of cute cat pictures. As Memrise COO Ben Whately explained to the BBC:

“We wanted to know what kinds of visual mnemonics were most effective at helping people to learn fast. The pattern began to emerge that pictures of cats always featured disproportionately among the most effective.”

Now, you can channel your obsession with funny cat memes into something productive: learning another language. Memrise’s CatAcademy app, launched on the 20th of November, teaches helpful Spanish words and phrases using crowdsourced illustrations of felines in a variety of poses and situations. For example, a picture of a cat laying on a bed with its tongue hanging out teaches the phrase “Llama alk doctor!” (call the doctor.)

Memrise CEO Ed Cooke explained the rationale behind the app further in an interview with Forbes:

“Learning has always been rather implicitly serious. We set out to harness the power of meme-like imagery. We’re focusing on conversation, not translation. It basically comes down to this. What we remember is what we can easily pay attention to.  It’s logical, we’re bringing what we enjoy looking at to the learning space. It’s designed to be perfectly addictive, taking the silliest things in the world and applying an effective learning process.”

CatAcademy is only available for iOS users at the moment. If you have an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod touch you can download it here for 99¢. Enjoy!