I recently moved to the Netherlands for school, and hopefully to stay. While the process has been an adjustment in many ways, the most important of all my concerns is learning the language. Of course there are practical matters like learning to ride a bike, learning to put a cover on a duvet properly, and finding out how to traverse Dutch stairs without breaking my legs, but communicating affects my confidence, helps me get around, and, if I want to stay, affects my prospects of becoming a citizen and getting a job.
As the world becomes more interconnected, travelers, migrants, refugees and avid learners are finding new ways to learn languages. Sometimes practical reasons, like irregular work or school hours, lack of financial support or living in a remote location means that learners can't afford to pay for classes or to attend lessons regularly.
Conventional methods are still important, of course. Many language learners appreciate classes and benefit from speaking partners. However, companies are beginning to offer more flexible options that target specific learning groups; one such startup is the Madrid-based educational technology company, Lingokids.
Lingokids offers innovative ways for children from two to eight years to learn the English language, through interactive language games. Currently, their apps are in English and simplified Chinese, but in the future they plan to expand, adding Spanish and many other languages.
Lingokids offers an alternative to traditional teaching methods by implementing interactive, multi-media technologies and embedding lessons into the context of games.
Their programs, which are controlled by a parent or guardian, allow children to interact with native English teachers who have experience teaching in schools and teaching private courses. In addition, the teacher adapts to the student's schedule (even when they're on vacation) and the classes are personalized to the pace and educational level of the learner. Parents and guardians can follow the progress of their child's learning by receiving an email report after each lesson.
To determine whether or not the classes are a good choice, potential users can attend a 30-minute free trial class. This class helps evaluate the child's level and can be booked according to the preferred schedule of the learner and guardian. Following the trial lesson, a report will be sent to the parent or guardian with an assessment of the child's level.
The startup works well because they've identified a specific niche in their market. It's difficult to obtain good quality early childhood language assistance that isn't time consuming, rigidly structured or very expensive. In reply to this need, Lingokids decided to create a program that was fun, easy to learn from, had adult supervision and overhead support and was flexible.
This is a concept that many learners, like myself, are quickly becoming familiar with. In fact, the first time many of us learned languages we were in a classroom or meeting a study partner at the library but as time goes on, many of us find that different apps have begun to replace traditional language courses. In fact, just this week I attended a free online course for A1 level Dutch and I regularly take a self-paced online course for German and Norwegian. These courses are helpful and sometimes fun, but learning is a lot more difficult once you are older.
In fact one of Lingokids's goals was to target child learners because of the critical, but small window of enhanced conative development that occurs for young children. The sooner they are exposed to a second language, the easier learning becomes. About half of our ability to learn a language is developed during our first years of life so many programs have begun to target this group.
Together with the Oxford University Press, Lingokids offers a substitute or alternative to traditional language courses. Children can be enrolled on their site, which starts them off with a free week of language courses. From there, parents or guardians receive weekly progress reports, additional materials and can enroll all the children in their household. Once content is loaded from a device connected to internet, the programs can be used without an internet connection. There are two packages, Basic and Premium. The Basic package includes no adverts, a kid-safe environment, and offers 5 lessons for free. The Premium package also includes no adverts and a kid-safe environment, as well as unlimited access, weekly progress reports, multi-account access and offline content availability.
The teaching tools include videos, worksheets, audio books, games and songs to get youngsters engaged and alphabet, colors, numbers and seasons are just some of the subjects covered.
What really makes this startup unique and different than many free apps that have flooded the market recently is their commitment to and engagement with a very specific group. By offering tailored educational plans and experienced teachers who conform to the schedule of children and families, Lingokids accomplishes goals where similar companies often fail.