Last year, everyone was talking about smart watches and a slew of other futuristic gadgets – and the place to make those dreams happen was Kickstarter. This year, I’m happy to say that foreign languages got a lot of attention (and funding!) there as well. How does this work – and what are the crowd-funded wonders that language learners can look forward to?
1. The one that was on TED: Chineasy
This is possibly the cutest way to learn a super-hard language. There just had to be poetry and meaning behind the Chinese characters, and ShaoLan Hsueh found it all. By producing a set of memorable, colourful learning aids, she made Chinese into a beautiful language again. She dealt a deadly blow to the “hard, cold and mysterious” stereotype that was hurting all the learners’ efforts and transformed learning into something worth doing, exploring and keeping on your coffee table.
The project is fully funded and development is under way. I watched this one with true delight and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished work!
2. The one that got funded in, like, no time: Fluent Forever
Okay, so I’m going to ignore a few irksome details here. The first one is the title of this project – Fluent in 3 Months, as I’m reliably informed, was not amused at the title 🙂 The second detail is that it takes a lot of careful work, attention and detailed analysis to become really good at pronunciation in any foreign language. More work and attention than Gabriel’s product can probably deliver.
So I’m ignoring those to say: Holy Jerome look at how fast this thing got funded. Kickstarter is famously good at this, but to see this amount of sweet love and dough thrown at a language learning product is…heartwarming and inspiring.
And it’s a good idea too. I still think it takes a lot of sweat to become really good at pronunciation – but it takes a series of small nudges to stop being horrible at it, and some awareness to recognize there is a problem with pronunciation. Fluent Forever should deliver this in droves.
3. The one for geeks and linguists: Schwa Fire
It’s a programme for stories about language. It’s an idea to explore things that usually are given 90 seconds just before we go to the weather. It’s a collective effort to talk about, among, and to the language-driven geeks around the world.
And it’s got schwa in the title.
I’ve been a big fan of Freakonomics and 99% Invisible (I’ve supported the latter during its Kickstarting drive). I’m looking forward to this kind of movement from Schwa Fire. High hopes? Let’s wait and see.
4. The one I’m missing: let me know about it!
Am I missing a good language learning Kickstarter project? Let me know. I’m always happy to talk about them, write and support them. Not to mention – celebrate when they’re funded. This is a great time for language learning, and it feels great to see all these amazing things happening!
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