Learning a foreign language. Put bluntly, it’s flippin’ tough. If you’re not one of the lucky ones who grew up speaking a second language at home, it’s especially difficult to do as an adult. When traveling abroad, many feel as Lost in Translation as Bill Murray. However, Koipun, a new Atlanta based startup launching today, is looking to make the process easier by adding a little innovation to the equation.
Even with the many resources available to students today, Japanese is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. Koipun’s founder and CEO, Gabriel J. Pérez, agrees and says it, “is extremely hard unless you are exceptionally disciplined and motivated. Resources such as Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are good complements to language learning, but they alone are not enough to take a student to fluency.”
According to Pérez, the main roadblock to learning any language is motivation. To overcome this barrier, he finds that, “one of the biggest and most frequent motivators for students is socializing and forming meaningful relationships with other people in their target language.” The name of this method is known as Communicative Language Teaching and it centers around interaction. While the method itself is not new, “surprisingly, few people have brought this approach online, and the few that have haven’t made it affordable and accessible to a wider audience,” explains Pérez.
For Gabriel, Japanese culture has always been a passion of his. “I tried to learn Japanese many times, but always failed, until I started taking Japanese at Georgia Tech,” recalls Pérez. After taking Professor Masato Kikuchi’s online class, he had the idea of making this kind of online classroom available to the masses.
Fast forward to today, he decided to base his company in Atlanta not only for its affordability, but also because, as he puts it, “People (here) are generally very approachable and welcoming, so (they) are quick to offer help and advice.” His support network also includes Professor Kikuchi, who serves as an advisor.
With 75% of Americans having no second language, the opportunity for Koipun is ripe. If you like the sound of Koipun’s teaching style, but Japanese isn’t your language of choice, stay tuned. “While our initial focus is Japanese, we expect to replicate the model with other languages,” says Pérez. Remember the name and look out for them to make some big moves in 2015!