It was a beautiful, bright, sunny Spring morning in North London when I sat down with the personable and chatty Lingopie CEO and Co-founder, David Datny.
I wanted to find out more about the Lingopie app, its features, and his thinking behind the creation of what is now one of the most popular language-learning apps on the market.
As a linguist and language learner turned tutor myself, I also wanted to know more about the effectiveness of learning a language through video. After all, I am someone who has spent more than a decade learning languages through traditional, academic means.
So, this new method of developing language skills – that is, through movies and TV shows – is interesting to me.
This article outlines the highlights of my interview with David, in which we discussed a range of topics, from language learning techniques and tools to the app’s features, cost, and plans for the future.
You can access Lingopie and sign up for a free trial via the link below. Just don’t forget to read this interview first!
Q1: What is Lingopie and how does it help you to learn Foreign Languages?
Lingopie is a language learning platform that uses real TV shows and movies to teach languages.
The idea here was to build something super engaging and super fun. People love watching TV and they love movies, so we wanted to take great content from around the world and leverage it in order to help people learn foreign languages.
We take real shows and movies, and a mix of authentic international content. We then place a layer of interactive language learning tools on top which enables someone to learn while they watch.
We turn a show into a course or lesson while they’re watching, based on their level. This could be through a quiz, a pronunciation test, or a form of listening comprehension.
We call this ‘the binge-learning method.’
"We call this the binge learning method."
Q2: Did you feel there was a gap in the language learning market for this type of product?
Yes. The concept for this came to me when I moved to Israel from New York. I wanted to learn Hebrew, but after hours of traditional language learning courses, I saw little progression.
It was super frustrating. I was immersed and living in Israel but saw pretty much no foreign language progression.
Yet, all the Israelis in my friendship circle, who were not even language lovers, spoke perfect English. It was so odd for me.
I asked them how they learned English and how they spoke it so well. They told me they loved American TV series and that they enjoyed watching videos like Marvel.
So, I started doing that myself with Hebrew as the target language, and it worked. So, I started to build a methodology around this type of learning. At the time I didn’t think about creating a product out of it.
My business partner and the Lingopie Co-Founder Roy has come from a television background. He liked my story and together we created this one-of-a-kind type of product.
"I asked them how they learned English and how they spoke it so well. They told me they loved American TV series and that they enjoyed watching videos."
Q3: Is the way that people learn languages today different?
Definitely. When I was taught to learn languages in college it was very traditional. First, we were taught grammar, then tons of new vocabulary. Then we just rinsed and repeat not so enjoyable exercises to memorize words.
The lack of immersion takes the enjoyment out of the process. Most people that learn a language have an emotional reason to learn, be it the food or the culture of the people.
Television and film is the best way to tap into this emotional connection and this is why Lingopie differs so greatly from traditional language learning methods.
Today, we’re surrounded by TV shows, music videos, and movies. Lingopie provides a way to learn new vocabulary in a stress-free environment away from traditional methods.
Q4: What kind of content can I expect to find on the Lingopie platform?
Great question. Today, we have 1500+ titles on the platform and growing. We have 9 languages and growing.
We build partnerships with global entertainment companies, broadcasters, and streaming channels worldwide. We have a team in Lingopie that are language learning specialists who are able to identify new content for people of all levels and allocate it to people of different levels.
They are tasked with finding content that provides a local flavor – like a street food show in the heart of Mexico City. We also have tons of comedies, telenovelas, and cartoons.
Parents who want their kids to learn Spanish, or any other language, can even use Lingopie TV now for their kids. Whether you want to use Lingopie Russian or Lingopie German, there’s appropriate content for children too. My son is learning French right now as he has lots of French-speaking friends in his class.
On the Lingopie app today, he can watch, read and listen to different dialects in French and get a better understanding of this different language, as well as practice comprehension from native speakers.
"We have a team in Lingopie that are language learning specialists who are able to identify new content for people of all levels and allocate it to people of different levels."
Q5: How does Lingopie differ from Netflix?
Like Netflix, we have great content. But unlike Netflix, we take this content and provide people with dual subtitles. This is one of our many great language learning features.
Each word or phrase can then be shown to the user in a relevant context, and we use a level of Natural Language Processing on the back end in order to be able to create this seamless experience for the user.
We’re not just teaching new words to people watching TV, we’re using our technology to teach phrases, slang, vocabulary, and grammar, and we allow users to review with a range of features along the way.
So, if you’re learning Spanish or any other popular languages, for example, you can use the Lingopie platform to watch a TV show uninterrupted, whilst experiencing first-hand accent training with a dedicated language learning program.
Q6: Can I choose the type of language or dialect I’d like to learn on the Lingopie platform?
Absolutely. Let’s take Spanish as an example. If you want to learn Spanish, you can choose content from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, or anywhere else in Latin America. We have an extensive library in all languages.
So, we try to find content from all over the world that gives people an insight into colloquialisms, slang, and any unique grammar.
When a user engages with content, we provide flashcards that show a user where they’ve seen certain words or phrases and enable them to go back to it.
It’s like the spaced-repetition method. But this exists naturally in dialogue – it doesn’t need to be robotic.
"Spaced-repetition exists naturally in dialogue - it doesn't need to be robotic."
Q7: You’ve just added Japanese and Korean. What other languages are available through a Lingopie subscription?
Well, now you’ve put me on the spot! Let’s see if I can remember them. We have the following languages: Spanish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. We are also launching English as a foreign language in Latin America and Europe.
In the future, we want to add Swedish, Dutch, Thai, and multiple languages from around the world. We are also adding music and podcasts – these are all different mediums through which to learn popular languages and we’ll see major developments in the near future.
This is a global solution. People love TV shows and movies everywhere.
Q8: What is it like working with a team all over the world?
The Lingopie team speaks 20+ languages. We have native Spanish speakers, Russian speakers, English speakers, and people with deep backgrounds in languages all over Europe, Latin America, and Israel.
It’s great to work with such an international team, even though many of us have never been in the same room together! You get to meet and learn about lots of different people from all over the world.
It’s great to work with such an international team, even though many of us have never been in the same room together!
"It's great to work with such an international team, even though many of us have never been in the same room together!"
Q9: Lingopie has grown a lot. What can users expect from the next 10 years and beyond?
The company has developed and grown a lot. We’ve gone from having one language available to multiple languages. We’ve built so many new features and added the use of NLP to provide additional advanced features for people learning languages.
Today, you can even use the Lingopie app to watch videos on your TV whilst using your mobile device to go through built-in flashcards or pronunciation practice. Through this feature, you can also adjust the playback speed.
We are now trying to build more structured courses around the content. This will be super interesting for those who want a structured experience, which is often the case for those who are not yet intermediate and advanced learners.
We’re also working on Lingopie music, which will be the Spotify of language! Songs and music provide another great way to learn a foreign language.
Q 10: Are you looking to implement more advanced technology, like machine learning and IoT, into the Lingopie platform?
Yes. We are looking to implement machine learning on the backend to create a better user experience for language learners. This means understanding what they’re learning and how they’re learning it in real-time.
We are doing this today, but we want to continue doing this and improve it in more languages because we see how effective it is. The dual-subtitle feature is an example of this. You can take English subtitles and blend them together with a word or phrase in Spanish, for example.
You can do this all whilst selecting the appropriate playback speed options for your level, whether you’re a beginner or one of the more intermediate and advanced learners.
We want to be able to curate the language learning experience without breaking the entertainment value that comes with watching videos and TV shows.
We want to be able to curate the language learning experience without breaking the entertainment value.
Q11: Did you ever expect Lingopie to grow to the size that it has done today?
That was always our ambition, but it was a question of how quickly we could achieve it. Our team of 50+ people is now serving hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and connecting the language learning world in one place. So, this is amazing.
This was difficult to imagine when all we had was an idea and a concept. It’s amazing for me when I hear people chatting about learning a new language with Lingopie, or when I read a positive Lingopie review.
It shows we’re really building a brand amongst the many language learning apps and creating something which you simply don’t get with other streaming services, or with most traditional language courses.
"It shows we're really building a brand amongst the many language learning apps and creating something which you simply don't get with other streaming services."
Q12: What advice would you give to someone now that wants to start a language learning company?
Just get started. Do your research. Just start doing it. Figure out what you need to do and launch it. See if anyone in the world besides you cares about this concept.
If you see people are interested in the concept then dig in, and be super focused.
When we launched Lingopie, we saw interest and demand amongst Reddit users. Since then we’ve developed and built it, and we continue to grow.
We want to be able to curate the language learning experience without breaking the entertainment value.
Q13: Is there anything you’d say to users who want to learn a new language but don’t know how to start?
My biggest advice for a language learner would be not to get stressed about it. Relax. Just watch and enjoy. The more you watch, the more you’ll learn.
Whatever your native language and your goals, don’t get overly focused on vocabulary or grammar at an early stage.
Over the days and weeks, you’re going to start to learn a lot unexpectedly. Your confidence will go up; learning a language is all about confidence. If you are confident enough to speak then you’ll enjoy it more naturally.
The better your level of comprehension, the more willing you will be to speak without feeling embarrassed. Your speaking will get better as your level of comprehension improves.
Get fully immersed in the content and use the platform casually. Just watch shows and movies that you’d watch anyway.
"Whatever your native language and your goals, don't get overly focused on vocabulary or grammar"
Q14: What is your favorite TV show or movie on the Lingopie platform?
There are tons of movies and TV shows available and a mix of different categories depending on the genre. I don’t have a specific favorite, but for Spanish, I do like the content produced by RTE España.
They produce some great comedy shows and this helps a lot not only with learning colloquialisms but also with speaking practice.
So, I would have to say comedy produced by RTE España is my favorite, but most language content on the platform is definitely worth watching.
"I don't have a specific favorite, but for Spanish, I do like the content produced by RTE España."
Q15: How much does it cost to use Lingopie? What is the pricing structure?
You can access a 7-day free trial with no obligation to commit whatsoever. This provides access to all languages, not just one, with plenty more languages to come.
If you want to use Lingopie beyond this, you can choose the subscription model that works best for you. It starts at $12 p/month, or you can purchase an annual subscription for $60.
So, take a free trial, try the platform out, and good luck!
Summing up my interview with Lingopie CEO & Co-Founder, David Datny
I really enjoyed my time with David. As I am sure you’ll agree from the answers above, our discussion was interesting. For me, it was insightful to learn about the reasoning for the platform’s creation. The discussion also provided a glimpse of the company’s plans for the future.
There’s no doubt that the way we learn languages today is changing. Traditional textbook methods are used only in schools and evening classes. It seems the rest of us in the real world are more determined than ever not only to shorten the learning process but also to do so in a way that is fun and engaging.
Movies and TV shows certainly provide a method through which to do this. I am a Lingopie user, and I like the app a lot.
Do I think it’s without flaws? No. I would like to see more popular, well-known content on the platform, but with the giant that is Netflix producing so much of it, this will be difficult to achieve.
Overall, though, I think David’s experience learning Hebrew has led to the creation of an app that is as innovative as it is needed.
Take a 7-Day free trial and see for yourself.