Ten years ago, a report into the state of languages chaired by Sir Trevor McDonald found that young people in the UK were at a disadvantage in the recruitment market because of their foreign language shortcomings. Sadly this finding still holds true today according to Kathryn Board, Chief Executive of CILT, the National Centre for Languages (UK); with the number one killer of learning a new language being motivation.
An Aussie company called Native Tongue believes it can solve the problem of motivation and in the process alleviate some of the difficulties of learning a language by making language learning fun, fast and effective. Created from co- founder Matthew Ho’s frustration with learning Mandarin Chinese, Native Tongue combines language learning with gaming to create addictive learning experiences.
Ho explains, “We know that gaming has a high level of engagement so we take the best elements of gaming and apply it to education. The statistics coming back to us are compelling; with 40.9% of our users playing the game for over three minutes, and 13.1% of our users playing the game for over 10 minutes. What is even more interesting is that our user base is spread globally from Korea to the Dominican Republic.”
Native Tongue’s first product, Mandarin Madness challenges users to match Chinese characters with visual representations, with each progressive level increasing in speed and difficulty. Language learners can download Mandarin Madness for their iPhones, iPads, Android and Kindle devices and start learning Mandarin Chinese instantly, even if they haven’t learned Mandarin Chinese before.
Native Tongue currently offers a Mandarin version with English and Spanish versions on the way. They are based in Melbourne and were the winners of the first Australian startup weekend in May 2011.