Berlin-based Lingoda enters the crowded ESL Market with Online Language School Concept

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Berlin-based Lingoda is a new player in the online English learning space. The platform offers a mix of self-paced video based learning material, group classes and individual classes with a tutor. The premise is that the learner will be speaking English fluently within twelve months.

Lingoda has been founded by Fabian and Felix Wunderlich and seems to be an iteration of their other startup Easy Languages which offeres German and English classes with tutors via the Internet. According to Deutsche Startups, Lingoda has recently raised some funding from Global Founders Capital, the new investment fund of the Samwer brothers. It’s little of a surprise that the mentioned above Easy Languages received angel funding from people in the Samwer network, former staff and founders.

I have definitely noticed a lot of Google Adwords ads for Lingoda and Easy Languages recently, so the marketing machine seems to run already. Inevitably, being a former online language coach myself, I had to take a closer look at the new platform and compare it to earlier players in the space like Myngle out of the Netherlands, Learnissimo and Lingueo out of France or Shanghai based italki.

First of all, Lingoda only offers one language to learn, English. The other language learning platforms expanded very quickly in as many languages as possible. I guess focus on (one of) the most popular language to learn is a good decision though the market is of course pretty saturated.

Another difference to the earlier players mentioned above is that Lingoda is defining itself as an online language school whereas Myngle, Learnissimo and Lingueo took the approach of a marketplace for language tutors (they have since pivoted). This often led to discussions about the quality of the offered lessons and how much the platform was able to intervene in the different teaching styles.

To further distinguish the service from other players in the space, Lingoda offers a mix of three learning types combined with the promise to teach fluent English in twelve months. Interestingly the video lessons are provided by a startup we covered a couple of years ago on our mother site EDUKWEST, namely English Central.

English Central is offering a vast catalog of video content and a pretty nifty set of features that includes voice recognition and automatic correction for pronunciation. The aim is to offer content based on the interests of different learners and their level of English. Partnering with a startup that takes care of such a complex technology instead of creating it on its own is another clever step.

Learners also get a personal adviser that helps them to stay focused, organize the best learning schedule and motivate them along the way. This is something that is often missing in the mix, so again a plus for Lingoda.

The last ingredient are of course the English tutors on the site. Lingoda, like everyone else in the space, is touting that those tutors are well trained, certified and love teaching English. Back in the days I tend to get myself into the role of a unionist for online language teachers, decrying the dumping prices that got out of hand and left the tutor with pocket money for their work. As I get older (and maybe wiser) I promised myself that I won’t drive up my blood pressure about things like this, so I just state that if you want to teach for Lingoda, the hourly rate is €8.50.

Now, I would really like to let you know what a student has to pay per month to get access to the video library, unlimited 24/7 group lessons and private 1:1 tutoring. The thing is that in order to get the pricing users need to leave their name, email address, telephone number, age range and where they heard of Lingoda. Quite frankly, just to get a price chart that is too much data for my taste in order to get cold calls and emails from the marketing department. If anyone knows the pricing, please leave it in the comments below.

All in all, I think Lingoda get some important points right, but I really truly don’t like the compensation model for tutors and the data scraping in order to get detailed information about the product. Whether the startup is going to get significant market share in the online ESL space is hard to predict though the neutral company name would not prevent Lingoda from adding more languages later on.

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Kirsten Winkler

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at EDUKWEST
Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST.

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  • Dont_be_paranoid

    Jeez live with it. In the real world there is no free *lunch*. This is a saying common in Anglo-Saxon world. You can’t have cheap prices and no advertising. Infact majority of the people in the world wouldn’t mind low prices. And that data is pretty much nothing. If this is the kind of data that gives people chills, they should frankly not even be on the Internet, because every website/emaill account/social networking website requires atleast that data. Why are Europeans so damn paranoid about data privacy? The other day I read about legislation being passed that Google must delete users data on the Internet (in other words not serve search results). Maybe it would be better if guys like Google, Facebook just simply stopped serving Europe. It’s more trouble than profit.

  • LiAndasan

    The data could be used to find more relevant groups for students to practice language I suppose, but I think your comment is pretty extreme. It is a lot of information to give just for a price enquire, which really should be freely displayed.

  • YorickJenkins

    An interesting review, thank you. The 8,50 euro hourly rate (presumably a real hour of 60 minutes? or a teaching hour of 45? Probably 60 minutes) speaks volumes. Language trainers are expected to behave like professional consultants but accept being paid like cleaning staff (if what you say is correct rather WORSE than cleaning staff in this case!). There are many reasons for this, but IMO the low regard for the independent language trainer in Europe and the USA has more negative consequences than is generally realised. Trainers themselves are in large part to blame, being far too ready to accept any contract offered to them, but the state too makes little effort to check on pseudo “staff” in language schools, in whcih the trainer may be expected to work regular hours but is paid as a freelancer, thereby getting the worst of both worlds: he/she has to obey directives and time schedules as though he/she were a company employee but enjoys no social benefits whatsoever, as though he/she were self-employed.