Interview with Live Lingua
Interview with Live Lingua
There are a ton of websites and services out there when it comes to learning a language and hiring a language tutor or coach. Have you ever wondered which one to pick? In our last article How To Learn Spanish Online with a Spanish Language Tutor, we went a bunch of these services. Today, we will dig even deeper into one of these services, Live Lingua. If you’re looking for Live Lingua reviews, this is a good read to get to know the company a bit more.
Live Lingua is a language learning platform, most famous for their Skype language lessons in Spanish, German, French, English, Korean, Arabic and a ton of other languages. In this interview, we will learn more about how Live Lingua came to be, how they are making the process of learning a language easier and what the Live Lingua Project is all about.
Let’s get to the interview!
Can you tell us how and when Live Lingua came to be?
Simple answer. Live Lingua started thanks to Mexican Swine Flu.
Longer answer. In 2006, I was sitting in my cube in a Fortune 500 company… bored. I was working as a systems engineer at the time. I thought that there had to be more to life than this. I wanted to help more people. Luckily I had a decent idea of how to do that. I was born in 1979 in the Philippines. My father was a US Peace Corps volunteer, and my mother was a Filipino national who was working for the Peace Corps. You could say, I was born a volunteer. So within 24 hours I had filled out my Peace Corps application, and 3 months later I was on the ground in Mexico for my 2-year service.
There I meet my wife, who was (drum roll please) also Peace Corps staff, like my mom. After finishing my 2 years, we got married and started a brick and mortar language school in Mexico. We had some success and grew to 3 locations. But then in 2008, the Swine Flu hit Mexico. During the time there was panic, and talk that the US was going to block all travel to Mexico. Our teachers counted on us to bring in students so that they could make money and support their families.
So, at that time it occurred to us to try to offer classes via Skype, just so they could have some work. At that time almost nobody was doing this. To our surprise, within 6 months, our online classes were making more money, and taking less time than our brick and mortar schools. So we decided to sell our brick and mortar schools.
That took 2 years. In the time it took us to sell the brick and mortar schools the business grew to what we now call LiveLingua.com. We also expanded to offer classes in 11 languages in that time. Since then we have grown a lot. In 2015 we were selected by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the best SMB’s in the US. We have also been featured on a number of other publications such as Forbes, Boston Globe, etc.
What is the core problem that you are trying to solve with Live Lingua?
In the world of online language education, there had traditionally only been two models. The pure software model like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo (a one size fits all model of teaching), or the massive tutor directory models (where finding quality teaching can be very difficult). Live Lingua was created to address what both of those models cannot, which is providing customized curriculum with a guarantee of high-quality teachers. When a student signs up with Live Lingua, they get assigned a personal class coordinator who spends the time to get to know the student and their needs. Once this is done, they are able to use their knowledge of the teachers, who they work with daily and some who have been with us for over 8 years, to pair you up for the best fit for the classes. It does not end there. The class coordinator remains in contact with the students throughout the course to make sure that things are going well. If necessary, the class coordinator can help the student change teachers to make more progress or even assign multiple teachers if necessary.
We realize that we are in a privileged position to be able to do this. Since we are a family owned company, not on the stock market like Rosetta Stone and don’t have any external investors to please, we are able to be more focused in quality and do not have to worry about explosive growth to please stockholders and investors.
You have a lot of free learning material at Live Lingua – tell us more about the Live Lingua Project
The Live Lingua Project was born when the old website that hosted the public domain Foreign Service Institute material went down in 2011 or so. I had a copy of the material, so I decided to share it so that it would not get lost. Then, my mother who was also Peace Corps staff in the Philippines, mentioned that she had helped create the Tagalog training course for them years ago, but was not sure where it was. I looked online and could not find it. So, I used my contacts at the Peace Corps to find out if they still existed and luckily some of them did. They sent them to me and I put them online. It has grown from there. Since that time I have gotten hundreds of donations of other “missing” FSI and Peace Corps courses as well as the donation of the old Defense Language Institute courses. It is still growing today and we do get new additions every few months.
I saw that you recently started a YouTube channel, what’s your goal with that?
The goal with the YouTube channel is two-fold. The first is to get students – and potential -students get to know our teachers a bit better before signing up and also to give the student who is not able to afford paid lessons to have access to some of the great teachers we have at Live Lingua.
You have two other sites, Teacher Indie and Twiducate – what are those projects about?
Twiducate.com. I took over this site in about 2012 from its original creator in Canada. It is a free social network for schools that teachers can setup and kids can use (anonymously, as no children’s emails are required) to emulate a social media environment in the classroom. This allows teachers to integrate Web 2.0 into their classroom, but to have full control of the environment (unlike in Facebook and Twitter). This can teach the schools the tools they need in the modern world with no risk of their privacy being compromised.
TeacherIndie.com. Teachers are sadly some of the most under-appreciated and underpaid people in the world. I come from a family of teachers and professors so I know only too well. My experience is not in teaching, but in helping teachers make a living online. That is how Teacher Indie was born. It is a blog where I try to help teachers use their skills to not only make the world a better place, but also make a good living doing so.