Bytedance tests online learning app ‘Tangyuan English’

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Bytedance offices in Shanghai. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

Bytedance is internally testing a short video-based English-learning app named “Tangyuan English,” according to tech blog Tech Planet (in Chinese), leveraging its advantages in the short video vertical to push into the Chinese education landscape.

Why it’s important: Bytedance’s seventh self-launched education product and third English-learning product, Tangyuan English highlights the company’s determination to gain a foothold in China’s lucrative education market.

  • Tangyuan English uses relevant videos pulled from Douyin which include everyday conversations in English, and grades pronunciation with AI. Teachers then give feedback based on the scores.

“Education and AI are the two industries that [Bytedance founder] Zhang Yiming values most at the moment.”

— A Bytedance employee to Tech Planet

Details: While Tangyuan English was launched by a company that appears unrelated to Bytedance, people with knowledge of the matter told Tech Planet that both the CEO and a member of the board are Bytedance employees.

  • Videos in Tangyuan English are pulled from Douyin, but they don’t have the same number of likes as they do on the short video app, suggesting that view counts for content on the education platform are calculated separately.

Context: Bytedance launched English-tutoring platform Gogokid and foreign teacher live-streaming platform aiKID in 2018, but both platforms are struggling. aiKID, for instance, has reportedly suspended its business for several months. Gogokid was said to have laid off hundreds of employees in April to cut costs, though the company declined to confirm the headcount.

  • The education landscape in China is highly competitive, pushing up user acquisition costs. According to a report from National Business Daily, the average cost per customer for some online education companies exceeds RMB 1,000 (around $145).
  • Gogokid’s competitor, Tencent- and Sequoia Capital-backed VIPKid, reportedly recorded a net loss of RMB 1.5 billion in 2018.