When Ryan Meinzer demoed PlaySay at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011, the language acquisition application used the world’s largest social network as the vehicle behind their platform. Because other language learning tools lacked user engagement, the San Francisco-startup turned to the de facto tool of engagement: Facebook. In their own words, “Facebook became the new classroom, your friends became the new classmates, and your checkins, status updates, comments and pictures became the new daily course material.”
Turns out, Facebook wasn’t the answer, at least not their answer. ”Essentially we found that users were seeking a passive entertainment experience on Facebook as opposed to an educational experience,” says Meinzer, PlaySay’s founder and CEO.
Yesterday PlaySay released a new app, a game that connects language learners from across the world. By completing missions (e.g. introducing yourself to a speaker of non-native language), users unlock new locations and opportunities to interact with other non-native language speakers. A core element to PlaySay’s newest addition includes voice conversations with feedback on the user’s pronunciation.
Meinzer gave the following explanation as to why voice communication is so important in language acquisition:
Being a functional illiterate isn’t so bad, as I’ve learned first-hand. No one can argue that the best method to learn a foreign language is to be immersed in the foreign language in the foreign country (what I was blessed to have in Japanese/Tokyo). Accomplishing such is merely a dream for most. The next-best method is conversing in-person in the foreign language with a native of the language. It’s a shame that finding and meeting tutors is difficult, inconvenient and expensive. We’re confident that you’ll be surprised how PlaySay craftily breaks the barriers of these two methods whilst giving you the best of both worlds. Pun intended.
The Future of Language Learning and Technology
It should come as no surprise that Meinzer is bullish of the future of language acquisition and mobile technologies. He cites speech recognition and cloud technologies as being the catalyst for PlaySay’s emerging opportunities. ”It truly will change the way people learn and communicate in foreign languages worldwide. I’m mainly excited for (mobile) technology spearheading the disruption of/in language learning.”
Wanting to learn Spanish? Check out the new PlaySay app for iPhone.