In October, Education focused startup Smartoos launched its language learning service “Be Native English” to help Korean learners of English gain a more authentic experience. Following this, the company partnered with business incubating service Chinada to launch “Be Native Chinese” at the end of last month.
The service aims at helping learners gain a more organic and effective language learning experience by providing learners with content which imitates real-life situations with native speakers. Be Native China was founded after the CEO of education focused startup Smatoos, Moonsoo Kim and the CEO of Business Incubating Service Chinada, John Sunwoo Kim, found that learners were curious about how they could get better at Chinese.
“After studying at Fudan University in China and coming back to Korea to start my business, the question that people asked me the most was, ‘How should I study Chinese? How can I get good at it?’. I wasn’t really sure what to tell them since Chinese can be learnt naturally when you are immersed in the culture. Nevertheless I just couldn’t tell them to go to an academy or read a lot of books. Instead, I recommended that they make Chinese friends or go to China to study.
Although I had been asked the same question so many times, it never occurred to me to offer the chance to study Chinese myself. After listening to Moonsoo’s proposal we decided to develop create an opportunity for others to be able to learn as if they were talking with native speakers.”
There are one million learners of Chinese nationwide and 40 million worldwide. While there is a huge variety of English curriculums available, this is not the same for Chinese — and textbooks that were used ten years ago are still being used today. One reason is the lack of new alternatives from those who have experienced learning Chinese. Also, while English basics are taught in schools, learning to read Chinese characters in itself is a difficult task. Be Native Chinese doesn’t force learners to memorize words or study, but is more focused on providing video content.
While existing services offer online classes with Korean teachers, Be Native Chinese provides video content in the form of interviews with China-based native speakers in various situations. Following the interview, a native speaker helps learners by pointing out different language points from the video and relevant vocabulary is reviewed. Through this, learners get the chance to experience language that is used in everyday life.
“Since launching the site we were surprised at finding two main types of users. One type of user were those who wondered how the content was made, including how the videos were edited and launched. These users said that they had never thought about studying Chinese this way before. Other users were those starting out studying Chinese and were apprehensive about the difficulty, but felt better about studying the language because of Be Native.”
Be Native is currently listening to the feedback of its users carefully and has plans to launch a mobile version for both the English and Chinese sites in January next year. CEO John Sunwoo Kim says that Be Native is considering global expansion to bring effective language learning to the Asia region.
The piece which originally appears here was contributed by Andy Tebay of VentureSquare.