Want to master Mandarin? Or declare your love in French? Lingua.ly may be the startup for you, with its cross-platform program for language learning.
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Provided you have certain basics – knowing about 100 words and rudiments of sentence structure is enough, the company says – all you do to start is download the app, mark the language you want to learn and start to read online.
The company's free app enables you to mark words you don't understand while surfing. It then translates them and builds a personalized dictionary for you. You can practice them with a flash-card memory game based on your dictionary – and the app will even assess your skill level and find other Web pages with the same words, for you to see more applications of the words you're learning.
Confounded as to pronunciation? You can click on words and hear them said aloud.
Lingua.ly exists as a website and smartphone app, so it can accompany you along your digital day.
Founder Orly Fuhrman had studied how people learn language in university. Frontal lessons may have been the norm for centuries, but the world has changed, she says. Now, in the digital world, the study of language can be personalized through the creation of a personal "smart dictionary" through Ligua.ly.
This is a mechanism to expand vocabulary, not teach grammar, but one can learn syntax and the like on the go, just like children learning to speak do. "We keep track of what you need to learn at any given moment (say, the verb ‘to like’) and expose you to as many natural examples of it, until you understand!" the company explains on its website.
Lingua.ly supports more than 18 dictionary languages and can suggest reading material in six: English, French, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic, says Fuhrman. Right now all features are free, but in the future it plans to introduce premium features as well.
Fuhrman, who holds a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Stanford University, founded the company with Germany-born Jan Ihmels, who holds a Masters in theoretical physics from Cambridge and a doctorate cum laude in computational biology from the Weizmann Institute.
Their company won the Challenge Cup competition in Washington this May, in the category of education (international companies). It has nine employees and has raised $800,000 so far from private investors.