Based in Spain, uSpeak is an innovative language learning app that recently raised €500,000 to help it carve out a niche in the online language learning sector. Investors were impressed by its use of “gamification”, real life content and psychological techniques. However, marketing manager Álvaro Dexeus told The PIE News that the firm’s success was not an isolated case.
“The relationship between traditional and modern ways of learning will interact in the near future. It’s already happening”
“The online language learning sector, and especially the app sector, is booming. I have more than 10 companies in mind that have appeared over the past four months alone.”
He added that there was an increase in investor activity in the space, as seen by the sale of the online language learning community Livemocha to Rosetta Stone for €6.5 million. Others making waves include Britain’s busuu which has raised €3.5m to date; Germany’s Babbel which has raised €7.6 million; duolingo from the USA (€11.5 million); and voxy from the USA (€6.1 million).
Driving demand is a combination of widespread internet use, access to tablets and mobiles, and a desire for more affordable and flexible modes of learning. Given the sector’s growing appeal (and reported declines in student weeks at language schools), language schools will wonder how their businesses could be affected. However, Dexeus says that e-learning will complement bricks and mortar learning, not diminish it.
“Language schools will be clients of apps like uSpeak,” he said. “So the relationship between traditional and modern ways of learning will interact in the near future. It’s already happening – uSpeak will start to be used in language schools this fall thanks to an adapted version of the app.”
According to Ambient Insight, the global language learning market was worth $58.2bn in 2011 with English learning accounting for 61.7%. By 2016, expenditure on digital English language learning will account for 7.3% (or US $2.5 billion) of the ELT segment alone.