20 Startups Changing The Way We Learn New Languages

Languages tend to stay the same, but the way we learn them is in a state of constant change. With new technology, great ideas, online courses, and an increasingly connected world, there are more new ways to learn a language today than ever before. For this, we can thank startups who are working hard to bring new and creative ways to get connected, practice language, and get access to language learning resources. Read on as we explore 20 startups who are making an impact on the way we learn new languages.

  1. Verbling

    Verbling has been described as the "chat roulette of language learning," allowing language learners to find someone to have one-on-one language exchanges with via online teleconference. Users are connected through spontaneous chat sessions, matched up by their language needs, and given a 10-minute session in which they can practice language before being cut off and connected with a new partner, offering an experience that sounds frenzied, fun, and learning-intensive. The startup recently raised $1 million in capital to continue its project and hire new talent.

  2. Lenguajero

    Bringing a social media spirit to language learning, Lenguajero has built a great community around learning both Spanish and English. Through the site, users can practice speaking, join a writing club to get corrections from native speakers, and participate in a fun community that explores other cultures. Amazingly, this project was bootstrapped by its two founders while living and traveling in South America and Mexico, built using the Google App engine.

  3. Voxy

    Voxy takes an on-the-go approach to language learning, turning content from users' lives into foreign language opportunities so that users can "learn a language from life." The smartphone app turns users' photos into flash cards, creates language lessons out of the latest headlines, and even uses a geo-located phrase book to target vocabulary learning based on your location, like a restaurant or playground. Voxy's app was the No. 1 ranked Education app for most of 2011 in 13 different countries.

  4. PlaySay

    Using Facebook for language learning, PlaySay allows users to add a language layer to the social media site, communicating and understanding different languages through pictures. Founder Ryan Meinzer says of the app, "Your Facebook friends are your new classmates. Check-ins, status updates, and pictures are your course materials," turning a social media site that so many spend a lot of time on into a great resource for language learning.

  5. Lingibli

    Like Voxy, Lingibli has set its sights on allowing submersive language learning to follow you wherever you go. Through the use of QR codes, smart phone users can improve their vocabulary by scanning to hear words spoken by native speakers. Students can use the app to learn the fundamentals of a language, gathering an understanding of just 100 words from each language offered.

  1. Memrise

    The people at Memrise think that learning a language should be as fun as playing a game. That's why this online learning platform combines memory learning with game-like experiences. They've turned learning a language into a game where you can interact with a rich community full of multimedia and mnemonics. This Boston-based startup recently made headlines when they released a Valentine's day video featuring 100 different languages in which to say "I love you."

  2. Hello-Hello

    Hello-Hello's language learning app combines social networking with learning. Students can access courses in 11 different languages, doing lessons anywhere, anytime using smartphones, and then help friends learn languages, sharing written or recorded feedback. The site also makes it easy to connect and make friends with native speakers around the world, offering a great opportunity to learn in a practical environment. Hello-Hello won the Best Startup Company Award at the 2011 SiliconIndia Startup City Event.

  3. Keewords

    Keeping up with language learning is a commitment that not everyone can stay on top of. Unless you're enrolled in a for-credit class, motivation for language learning can wane, but Keewords is working to help keep your interest on track. Creating a tool to track your goals and keep you accountable, Keewords offers challenges and competitions that can get you going on your goal to learn a new language.

  4. EnglishCentral

    Described as "YouTube meets Rosetta Stone meets Guitar Hero," EnglishCentral offers a 24/7 platform for Japanese speakers to learn the English language. Users can watch videos, improve vocabulary, and use interactive speech assessment technology to get immediate pronunciation feedback and assessment. This startup is so exciting that it won funding from Google Ventures.

  5. LingoBite

    Language learning typically involves a major time commitment, but LingoBite allows users to take on bite-sized lessons, covering roughly one topic within five minutes. Embracing the short attention spans of online learners, this service offers interesting content and keeps things fresh to help language learners make excellent progress.

  1. Wander

    Wander takes pen pals to a whole new level, connecting students with peers all over the world to learn about each others' lives and languages. Using new friends as a local guide, you can use Wander to learn about life in another country through daily photo missions and instant messaging. This startup recently pivoted from YongoPal into its current iteration.

  2. Babelverse

    Babelverse is working to develop the world's first universal translator, offering real-time voice translation that is powered by a global community. This tool can revolutionize language learning, as stumped students can use it as a resource to get past roadblocks and better understand a language. Babelverse took home the prize at LeWeb 2011, beating out 700 other startups.

  3. Native Tongue

    Like Memrise, Native Tongue is working to make language learning into a fun game. The startup has created a game called Mandarin Madness, which challenges English speakers to learn Mandarin by matching characters with a visual representation of their meaning. This fun, competitive method of learning helps to keep language learners' attention, and with visual representation, improves memory retention.

  4. Myngle

    If finding a foreign language tutor has been a challenge for you, you can get connected with the Myngle platform. This website is known as a "marketplace for languages," connecting teachers and students for private or group lessons. Students can select teachers based on their own specific needs, and can even try out demo lessons to make sure they're getting a good fit.

  5. WeblishPal

    WeblishPal co-founder Danny Wang used his less-than-ideal experience of learning English in a Chinese classroom to create this system that allows language learners to get regular interactions with native speakers. Although he studied for more than 10 years, his grasp of English was seriously lacking when he immigrated to Canada in 2000, and this startup works to improve upon the "crazily inadequate" classroom experience. Using WeblishPal, language learners can get connected with teachers through real-time video chats in order to see facial expressions, mouth movements, and more that can greatly improve language learning.

  1. Livemocha

    Combining traditional language learning with online interaction, Livemocha offers an incredibly useful foreign language experience. The site has instructional materials, including basic courses and active courses, plus peer feedback and social networking conversations with native speakers, deepening learning connections so that users can better understand a language as it's actually spoken.

  2. Early Expert

    This startup aims to help kids get an early grasp of foreign language, offering a multiple context approach that addresses the way that children learn language. Through mini games, kids can have fun learning words as they're used in real life, giving them the opportunity to learn foreign language in a brand new way.

  3. Words With Bears

    Words With Bears brings language learning to the Kinect, allowing users to "live the language" as they learn. They are working on the development of this software based on cheap, accessible tech that is fun to use and offers experiential learning. The idea was sparked at the Women 2.0 Startup Weekend 2011, winning the event, and it continues to grow.

  4. Polyspeaks

    Using this web-based chat tool, language learners worldwide can connect with chat partners. Unlike other startups that offer voice chat, Polyspeaks focuses on text, making it a comfortable environment for learners who are not yet ready to speak a foreign language.

  5. Lingt

    Lingt was created to help language learners tackle the challenge of huge vocabulary lists bit by bit. Instead of trying to cram lots of information very quickly, this startup helps you not only learn words, but review them just when they think you're going to forget them. The service was recently acquired by Dictionary.com and continues to grow.

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