Verbling is a web-based platform where individuals can pair up with native speakers to practice speaking new languages on live video, reports Mashable.
Verbling was launched in 2011 when co-founders Jacob Jolis and Mikael Bernstein met while attending Stanford University. The two dropped out of the prestigious school and teamed up with then-Google software engineer Fred Wulff to build the language-learning startup of their dreams.
Verbling.com is a website that people can access globally to speak with native language speakers living in different countries. For now, only Spanish and English speakers can access video chat, but the founders hope to add Arabic, French, Chinese and German — among 10 languages in total — by the end of the year.
The idea of Verbling is to solve one of the biggest problems for language learners — not being able to practice speaking with natives. People devote time and money to learning language basics, but slowly lose linguistic skills without practice.
Bernstein, who speaks English, Swedish, German and Russian, says,
It’s very difficult to find native speakers without going abroad. With Verbling, you can do that instantaneously. You don’t have to schedule or waste any time trying to find someone. It’s very exciting to talk to people from all around the world, it’s a real cultural experience.”
Users are automatically matched up with a native speaker. If you speak English and are looking to practice Spanish, you’ll be connected with someone from Spain or South America. Prompts with the in-browser video chats lets users know when to speak in one language and when to switch to another language. Each language is spoken for five minutes at a time, making sure both participants get the practice they are looking for.
During the chat, there are buttons users can use to display conversation topics for beginners, intermediate learners and advanced speakers. Then you can “super-like,” “like,” or “dislike” the conversation when it ends. This will determine who you will be matched up with next time. Mutual good reviews will prompt users to be linked up for a second or third conversation.
Verbling hopes to continue to increase user numbers over the next few months, but already see a huge response from current users, and Verbling has even been assigned as homework by high schools and university language professors.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.