According to Poliglota, the Chilean language learning startup, only 2% of people in Latin America can speak a second language.
To make a difference to this statistic, 3 Chileans, Nicolás Fuenzalida, Carlos Aravena and José Manuel Sánchez formed a startup in 2012 that takes language learning out of the classroom and into cafes. They realised that “although everyone learns English at school, very few are capable of maintaining a conversation” as they told Portal Pyme.
The big difference between Poliglota and other language learning companies is that it moves beyond mere grammar knowledge into social interaction. “For this we use a social and effective method which moves away from the classroom and considers mistakes as part of the learning process” Fuenzalida told La Republica.
The majority of language learning platforms, including classroom learning, is based on receptive knowledge. These skills are reading, listening, and learning grammar. Although an important part of the language learning process, it covers only half of the skills needed to master a language. The productive skills (speaking and writing) are those that allow effective communication, but one cannot exist without the other, as knowledge that is acquired receptively is consolidated in the brain by being used productively, in conversation or writing. For most language learners, practising these productive skills provide much more of a challenge, as they require other people to speak with, or to read their written work.
Poliglota are bridging this gap between receptive and productive skills, by creating conversation groups, called ‘Open Groups’ in cafes, where anyone could join. They are organised by location, and the number in the groups range from 3 to 6, which allows everyone to speak. These groups are completely free, and are a great way to meet friends and practice communication skills in a ‘natural’ environment. There are no limits to the Open Groups, and through the website, anyone, anywhere, can start an Open Group, in any language they want.
However, sometimes just practising isn’t enough. Poliglota decided to create ‘Learning Groups’ which are led by a teacher who directs the conversation, and creates a more comprehensive learning experience by giving additional support with errors and grammar. They work on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), which can be a level verified with a telephone call. These are paid, and are currently only available in Peru, Mexico and Chile, but the company has plans to extend across Latin America.
As well as the social side of language learning, another important aspect that differentiates Poliglota from other language learning platforms is the data analysis that is constantly working to improve the methodology used in the Learning Groups. Students can also measure their progress online, as well as organise their sessions and talk directly with their teacher outside of classtimes.
This pioneering language startup has received various recognitions and awards since it began. The BID (Interamerican Bank of Development) highlighted it as one of the breakthrough language initiatives in education, and Barack Obama named it as one of the best startups in Latin America in 2016 in the YLAI (Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative). As well as this, Poliglota won the AVONNI innovation prize in 2015, and is backed by the British Council.
Currently Poliglota are offering a 20% discount on their Learning Groups services, and are also available for companies, to improve language knowledge in their staff. In a world where over a billion people speak English, now is as good a time to learn as any.