Amsterdam Interviews Netherlands

Duolir: Language Learning Through Short Stories

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What is Duolir?

Duolir helps you read stories in a foreign language. Reading stories can be fun, engaging and educational. By doing so in a language you’re still mastering you improve vocabulary and grammar without thinking about it.

Simply tap the sentence, when it becomes too complicated to follow. The app switches the one or two sentences to the other language. With all that clarified you can continue with your story.

It’s super easy and best of all it’s not a machine translation. Nothing is lost in translation since a human has quality checked everything.

Who is your target user?

Language learners who’ve acquired the basics of a language and are looking to take it to the next level.

Not everyone has time to take a class, do a program or go to events where they’re forced to speak. Plus many of those are, shall we say, less than exciting?

With Duolir one simply picks up the story whenever there’re a few minutes to spare. The story provides the entertainment and keeps users coming back. At the same time they’re improving their language skills.

Why did you build Duolir? What problem are you taking on?

I was / am learning French. I wanted a way to keep interacting with the language. But most language programs are boring. Why couldn’t I read those wonderful classic books already written in French? Most of them already had translations to go with them as well. Not only would I improve my language skills but I’d also be learning something from the classic books as well.

The reason why the previous texts don’t emphasise classic books is this. They aren’t for everyone. Early customers are preferring current stories, even if it’s by an unknown author. I’m not complaining. A customer is a customer.

How is your product different from what is currently available?

Most language apps focus only on teaching you a language. Yes there are also some games but these are also all about the language. But to me learning a language is much more than that.

The reason why many learn the language better while in the country, is not only are they forced to speak, which does help, but they also experience the culture. They get to see the quirky differences. Sometimes entertaining and other times aggravating.

Duolir is the next best thing to that. You get to interact with the language on your terms. And anyone who’s read a book will tell you that reading a story is probably a bit more fun than sliding a word to match a picture…

Of course the inherent weakness is audio. Listening to pronunciation is important while learning. This is why Duolir is geared towards those intermediate learners. Those who already have the basics but are not quite there yet. Also this provides a way to regularly interact with the language keeping the knowledge fresh and always evolving.

And while audio might be the next step, right now the focus is on reading. Get that right and the doors open for other innovations.

Tell us your founding story. Was there an “ah ha” moment?

Nah. I knew this was the way to go all a long.
Ok. Just kidding. These forms are long. I need to keep myself entertained.

There wasn’t so much of an “ah ha” moment or a “Hmm…what if…?”. With that I set out to test various ways reading would help me improve my language skills. Test how it could be done technically. As you might be aware the publishing market is somewhat locked down with copyright. How would the translations be done. How would it scale…

The full story is a bit longer. If you really keen, I suggest grabbing a cup of something and load this:

Tell us about your founding team and their backgrounds.

I am the founding team. Yes. I know one founder is a big no-no. I’ve worked with partners in the past and a few are sort of on the fence. The issue is financing. I can’t promise mountains of money. They have mouths to feed.

I’m actively looking around, and though and by the time you read this, I might already have someone lined up.

Honestly, don’t rule me out because of this. It’s a solvable issue. I’m pretty good at working with people. As long as they bow to my will, it all good. Ok so no dice then eh?

Where can people find out more?

iPhone 5 preview video. (Just remember I’m bootstrapping):