A blue friendly creature can teach you a new language!
Yes, I did use blue, friendly, creature and teach in the same sentence. And no, the language is not NaʼviBy Maneka Tanwani 30 May, 2014
This article has nothing to do with the movie Avatar. All the Na’vi talk was this author’s attempt to grab your attention. And considering you are reading this, means she was successful. But there is definitely a blue creature involved. He is just called the ‘word monster’.
Wondering what I am talking about?
We live in a globalised world and we cannot afford to be siloed. It has become imperative to learn about new cultures and languages. Especially with businesses knowing no boundaries, what with even startups aiming to have a global presence, the need to catch the pulse of the local community is stronger than ever.
If you want to take your startup to Japan, it will definitely help if you knew a few basics of the country’s language. But who has the time and not that learning a new language is easy.
Coming from an Israel-based startup that goes with the same name, Lingua.ly is a tool that can help you learn the language you want while browsing the internet. Yes, it is as simple as that.
How does it work?
Users need to install the Lingua.ly Chrome extension; after which they can go to any web page and double click on any word that they want to learn. Lingua.ly will translate it and save it to their words. It works on any web page, including Facebook, email, etc.
Language learning needs context. This tool automatically prepares flashcards, wherein a user can look at pictures, listen to examples and learn pronunciation to boost memory.
It also generates smart quizzes to help practise what has been learned. It throws articles with the words a user has learned to understand context in real content from around the web. The tool also suggests words around the ones that the user already knows to expand vocabulary.
“Lingua.ly provides students with a learning platform which includes a dictionary, flashcard maker, smart spaced repetition vocabulary review system and most importantly reading suggestions sourced from the web, which are personalised to each student’s working vocabulary. The system tracks the language that learners look up as they surf the web, evaluating their look up and practice patterns to determine which words they are learning and how well they know them,” explained Meredith Cicerchia, Director, Communications and E-Learning, Lingua.ly, in conversation with e27.
“It also pays attention to words they have been exposed to and don’t click on, using statistics to understand the probability that the word is already known by the user. All of this information is used to match learners to authentic content from the web, which contains a 90:10 known to unknown words ratio to create optimised conditions for further vocabulary acquisition from context,” she added.
Currently the tool supports more than 20 languages, and one can learn English, Spanish, French, Hebrew and Arabic. The startup can add a language in three to four days as there is no content creation or lesson development involved. It works with a dictionary, indexing the web.
Another feature is aligning learning to your field of interest. Users can make learning very specific and choose their area of interest. Are you a tech professional? Learn tech jargon in a new language. One can learn in any domain – from physics to food to math.
In pursuit of Series A
Founded in 2011 by academicians and language enthusiasts Dr Jan Ihmels and Dr Orly Fuhrman, Lingua.ly received seed funding of US$800,000 from angel investors. The team is currently looking for Series A funding.
The startup is right now working on getting its products out in July then the focus will shift on securing investment.
Where are the monies?
Lingua.ly works on a freemium model. Cicerchia told e27 that they are never going to charge users. “We are very nimble. It does not cost us anything to create products, except for the server cost. We are aiming to complement classroom learning,” she said.
The startup does not plan to make money from advertisements either. The business model it is banking on right now is partnerships with schools and other learning institutions. It has recently signed up with a school in Israel.
Currently with five full time employees, the startup is looking to expand once the funding is in place. That will include getting talent on board as well as joining hands with complementary solution providers.
Let us talk some numbers
According to data shared by the company, it has 150,000 sign-ups to date and enjoys current weekly sign up rate of 20,000.
But how many words are searched and learned? An average user looks up eight words per week, while some look up 250 words and more. Current average monthly words looked up are one million.
Its Chrome extension engagement is 47 per cent, while on the Android app is 36 per cent. It expects iOS engagement — the app will be released in July — to be higher. Its web app is scheduled to be out anytime now.
More than half signups are from China
Though Lingua.ly can be used by people from across the globe, it is seeing major traction in Asia. This Cicerchia attributes to the booming business scene in the continent. “English is imperative to international business and Asia is hence a big market for us. In fact, 50 to 60 per cent of our sign ups are from China,” she shared.
She further added that India is an interesting market for the startup. Lingua.ly helps to learn the basics of a language but works best at intermediate level. Here is where India is unique as it has a large English-speaking population that can use this tool to advance their learning to the next level.
What did I learn?
Choose a language you want to learn. Check.
Choose your area of interest. Check.
Go to the web and look for words. Check.
Une crafe, Le blanc de poulet, Aligot, La galette, Au gratin, Le fromage, Le café
Hungry? You bet!
Verdict: Lingua.ly is really simple to use and makes learning fun. I will definitely go back to learn more. Hopefully in a month’s time my vocabulary of French cuisine will be much better!
À la prochaine…