Learning a language can be easier and more fun if you’re using an application. The problem with many of the available apps is that they’re not down to earth. The application we were developing solved this problem giving the users an opportunity to learn using real-world situations.
The application’s main goal was to make language learning easy and accessible to everyone. Special learning plans prepared by linguists are based on real-life, everyday situations that help learners immerse themselves in real language and make sure that they learn effectively, being encouraged to start speaking on day 1.
The application consisted of two parts: for the teacher (admin panel) and for the learner. The learners could take the lessons previously designed by the admins and complete them gaining experience points.
We knew that nothing detracts users more than a bad user experience! In order to keep the users engaged, the app needed to work fast and smooth, and also to be visually compelling and intuitive.
The whole application was in fact built of two separate applications with different features, different goals, created for different user personas. One was for the teachers who wanted to design their own lessons and find students online, and the other one was for the students who wanted to learn a new language with an app. The key was to combine these two apps into one consistent platform that would be available for teachers and learners.
When learning new languages, we learn to read, write, we try to listen and understand as much as possible. But how to learn to speak in a foreign language without an actual human interaction? In order to let the app understand what the user says and analyze it, we needed to use speech recognition that would translate spoken language into text which can be later analyzed by the app.
People quit learning foreign languages for different reasons: they are bored, they find it difficult, they don’t get instant gratification (the progress is too slow). The challenge was to keep them engaged and motivated to they don’t quit after a few lessons.
The drag’n’drop interface in the admin panel helped the teachers without advanced computer skills design lessons in an easy, intuitive way and share them with those who want to learn new languages.
When we joined the project, the speech recognition code was already written but it was inefficient and didn’t work properly. In order to make sure that the app provides its user with the best possible experience, we decided to rewrite the speech recognition feature in a simpler way.
In order to keep the learners engaged and motivated, we used a trick that would help them monitor the progress and give them a sense of gratification faster than with a regular learning curve. Completing lessons let the users gain XP points which indicated the progress they made but also let them compete with their friends.
As there was a tight deadline from the investors, we needed to squeeze the development cycle to make sure we are ready on time. High involvement on the Client’s side helped us test new features with users and iterate on them at a high pace, following the design-develop-test loop.
Even though the MVP was designed to help people teach and learn English, the whole application was written in a way that would make it possible to add new languages and soon as there are some teaching materials. Special learning plans were planned to be added by linguists who would base on everyday situations that help learners immerse themselves in real language and make sure that they learn effectively