A New Approach To Language Fluidity

By Devin Garcia 6 Min Read

One of the biggest new advances in technology is translation apps. From Rosetta Stone to Duolingo to headphones that translate for you, the possibility of learning languages has greatly increased over the years. And now, there’s Chatterbug.

Chatterbug is the newest language teaching application to come to those who want to take the time and actually learn the ins and outs of different languages. While there are already multiple language teaching apps that claim to be fast and easy, Chatterbug aims to set itself apart.

The founders of Chatterbug looked into the semantics of language learning and noticed that a lot of apps lacked one-on-one teaching. Co-founders Scott Chacon and former GitHub founder Tom Preston-Warner wanted to take a different approach and allow users to do more when it comes to learning a new language.

Translation earbuds eliminate the actual need to understand a language. Translating helps get the words across but not the actual meanings. It’s easy to understand what the other person is trying to say but it takes away the emotions from words like when telling a joke or listening to a song. Some words even get misconstrued and the entire meaning of the conversation is lost. Chatterbug aims to eliminate that.

The need to actually learn a language is the main theme to Chatterbug. It’s a lot like Skype but for learning languages. It’s an online based, face-to-face application that will help the users talk, read, and write/type in a foreign language. The video chat services offer screen-sharing capabilities with the promise of online tutors.

The idea for Chatterbug came when Scott Chacon tried learning French and Japanese through different apps and Skye chats. He came to the realization that while language learning apps are easy to use and flexible when it comes to time constraint, they were still lacking. The founders of Chatterbug belieber there is more to learning a language than just memorizing vocabulary and simple grammar rules. Chacon spent time in both France and Japan and used his experiences with talking to real people as inspiration for Chatterbug.

Chacon and Preston-Warner recruited GitHub’s Liz Clinkenbeard, a linguistics major from Harvard, GitHub’s engineering director Russell Belfer, and set about getting into the nitty gritty challenges of teaching and learning a new language. Chatterbug raised over $1.8 million for their idea from Berlin’s Fly Ventures and SV Angel to develop the current early stages of the application.

Like most learning applications, Chatterbug lets the user set different expectations depending on how fast they want to learn the language. Chatterbug gives a detailed guide on how often the user needs to study and how many tutoring sessions needed. The app gives each user vocabulary lessons to test out the foundations through repetition. The questions the user gets wrong are entered more frequently into the lessons so that the user gets a better grip on what is needed to be worked on and what they already know.

Skype-like tutoring sessions are then employed, where the user is assigned a tutor. The tutors are chosen based on who is available at that point in time instead of having to set weekly appointments. This flexibility helps users not miss sessions and get the most of the language learning process. The tutor is able to see the user’s progress and personalized curriculum so that they can work on appropriate exercises with the user based on what needs to be learned. Chatterbug also gives the option of letting user’s store recordings of these video sessions for later use.

Speaking of tutors, founders of the app would like to give working opportunities to native speakers of particular languages to help teach. This will further Chatterbug’s hope of teaching with real people and offer jobs in return.

In March, Chatterbug had private beta trails to test the language learning capabilities and see if it was something that would actually work for users. The trails were in German, which is the only language offered so far. Founders hope to add other languages like Spanish and French as development continues. Chatterbug is available for a 30-day free trail, then subscription options from $18 to $230 depending on how many tutoring sessions the user would like. Chatterbug also offers a “teaching your business” options for bosses that would like their employees to learn require languages.

Chatterbug currently has an email notification system for when they add new languages to their curriculum. Check it out here! chatterbug.com

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