As increasing numbers of people started to take courses online rather than offline, language learning, an important part of online learning witnessed exponential growth. Live It China is focused on this arena, but it give priorities to Chinese learning for foreigners live in China rather than the more popular English learning. It is a social network and marketplace for language learners and providers to connect by leveraging smart technologies and filters to find perfect match for the users. Julian Gaertner, CEO and co-founder of Live It China, spoke to TechNode about the Hong Kong-based startup.
When the site was established for what initiatives?
The first versions of LiveitChina.com, were established in 2011 because we realized that learning Chinese can, against all prejudices, be easy and greatly rewarding. From our respective experiences in learning Chinese and knowledge-sharing with other learners, Dan (Daniel Ropski, COO, Co-founder) and I saw a future for Chinese learning by running a free and open social media platform for Chinese language learners; one that enabled users to share their learning experiences with each other and highlight the best opportunities. The aim was (and continues to be) to empower language learners and help them make the most effective decisions regarding their choice of local language schools, tutors, and language partners. With this we can guide our users through the learning process from start to finish. Gaining motivation and opportunities to practice — or “live the language” as we like to call it! – is a very important first step to learning a new language. Currently, we are focusing on making this feature really slick for our users: bringing together the best and like-minded language partners to facilitate each other’s learning.
Just as Confucius says: “三人行，必有我师焉” (where there are three people, one of them can be my teacher), Live It China helps you to find out the best Language Partner.
Live It China aims to help language learners to find the ideal language partners, like schools, tutors and language exchange partners. Currently users only can seek language partners on the site, what’s your future plan in exploring the other two sectors for schools and tutors?
We see ourselves as an all-in-one platform for language learners to make the most informed and appropriate choices to learn Chinese. As such schools and tutors are a very important part of the Live It China experience and those features will be launched very soon. We believe that schools are a great way to learn the basics and theory in Chinese, and a good way to start learning a language. Tutors offer a more flexible and personalized solution to language learning based on your interests. Both options complement very well our language partners that are a genuine immersion and real life experience as well as a good source of mutual motivation. We will be looking to partner with the best language schools and tutors, so naturally we want to highlight these services and deals to our users.
Does language learners have to pay for their partners? or the benefit is mutual for both of the parties who can teach each other the language they are good at?
Our site is a free and open platform for language learners to meet and start practicing a language with each other. Our aim is to facilitate this interaction and bring together the best language partners keen on learning, practicing and improving their conversation skills. We want to create a community of language learners that are motivated to help each other towards the same objective: learning a language and also the culture around it.
Please tell us a bit about the Live It China business model?
So at Live It China our focus is on a niche group of people, the Chinese Language Learners. Our job is to provide them the best opportunities to learn, whether it’s through like-minded Language Partners, Tutors and/or Schools. Students benefit because they no longer have to keep searching the web and notice boards in real life to find the right fit for them. And at the same time language service providers are given a platform to promote their skills and services to a dedicated and enthusiastic audience. Our platform provides an overview of different possibilities to start your language journey and offers interesting discounts, while service providers such as schools and tutors can use Live It China as an additional promotion channel to reach more students.
Who are your potential competitors, and what’s your difference with them?
As an online platform, we don’t compete with schools or other service providers. However, a number of online language learning platforms have sprung up in recent years. Most of them aim to create animated or gamified virtual learning environments where the learner interacts with the system. There is no clear market leader at the moment and none of these sites effectively bridge online learning with our real lives. Our concept focuses on real interactions between people, whereas the site acts as a facilitator for knowledge transfer.
Please introduce your team.
Live It China is composed of a multicultural group of young tech-savvy guys and successful language learners from different horizons and backgrounds. They have working experience in various industries such as major media groups, web development and branding, IT consulting, governments, public relations and creative agencies.
Actually, the company has offices in the Philippines and Hong Kong but we are planning to be present in Mainland China by the end of this year.
Live It China mainly focused on markets in Hongkong, Shenzhen, Zhuhai etc. what’s your plan for markets around the country and overseas market?
For us, Hong Kong is the ideal location to launch our platform. The city’s role as the bridge between China and the world, its cultural diversity and well-established ICT infrastructure, creates a form of global citizenship that is worth spreading. Most of our users are language learners, enthusiastic about learning Chinese and understand the potential for using technology to help with the learning process. At the same time we also reach Chinese users who are interested in learning different languages such as English, French, German or Spanish. We mostly help expatriates and overseas university students in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau and Zhuhai who need a companion to start their journey in learning Chinese. Essentially we are looking to bring real life learning Chinese to you anywhere in the world.
A lot of online education companies have raised funds recently, but most of them are targeted at Chinese learners who plan to learn foreign languages. Does that give a push to Chinese learning market? What’s your prospect for the online education market?
The Chinese learning market has been growing substantially since 2010. Online education cannot be a replacement for real interaction between learners and this is especially true when learning a language. Nevertheless, technology can help bring together complementary needs and exchanging what you have against what you need. We believe technology can be a tool for knowledge transfer, especially during the learning process, we are just scratches the surface on this.
Technology is also a great way to bring together the ideal language learners, we can match location, languages and even commitment to learning.
What’s your furture plan for Live It China?
One important upcoming release is an improved matching algorithm to bring together ideal language partners.
Another release will be to facilitate language exchange with a learner-optimized translator to allow language partners to communicate and express themselves in another language. The records of the conversation can be used as a digital footprint that you can always go back to, to jog your memory (or inspire new ones)!
We will continue to bring out new features that innovate on ways to facilitate interactions between language learners, to make it more meaningful and conducive for learning.
image credit: Live It China