Manchester start-up scales modern foreign languages app to meet demand for immersive speaking practice




Manchester, UK: The founders of the edtech start-up Golingo are scaling their immersive modern foreign languages app, introducing a range of tailored packs for users who want to improve their speaking skills.


Chris Tiernan and Sarah Manson, co-founders of Golingo, say the move into more personalised learning will allow language teachers to create their own content and speaking lessons within the platform, allowing the app to offer a wide range of languages.  


The free version of the app, which is available for both Android and iPhone users, currently offers six languages  – English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Welsh – and has been downloaded by almost 600,000 users around the world in just six months.


Chris Tiernan said: “We are providing the technology and the platform so that language teachers have the chance to deliver in context conversations and lessons. Using our new Creative Suite, all they will need to do is type in their conversations which will then automatically appear in the app. This will allow Golingo to expand into other languages, introducing paid for packs for those who want to speak with confidence.”

What started as an experiment in April 2021 has quickly grown into an accessible platform which delivers speaking practice in context. More than 500 curated real world conversations are served around a virtual town called Pollywood, using an immersive “mission syllabus” developed by highly skilled linguists. These simulated conversations are presented in bite-sized modules.

Jonathan Jones, co-founder and chief technology officer, explained: “Golingo’s platform is a fusion of emerging technologies like AI and voice recognition delivered across multiple cloud solutions. This unique blend offers our users a truly immersive language learning experience”

The free app was developed principally for those who want to speak another language confidently without resorting to either a translation app or a phrase book, recreational learners going on a weekend away and business people travelling or moving abroad.

Once users have selected their chosen language, they can, for example, introduce themselves, buy a coffee, go shopping, gossip with the locals, find out about the city and even purchase a house, visiting a range of different environments including cafes and restaurants, hotels, tourist information centres, markets and taxi ranks within the virtual town, all the while adapting to the local customs or traditions relevant to that particular culture.

One of the noteworthy features of Golingo is that students can work through the modules in their native language; it’s not only designed for English speakers.


To monetise the app, which has been self-funded until now, the partners have developed coaching packs aimed at multiple industries and communities including job seekers who want to improve their career prospects by speaking a second language fluently, hospitality workers, call centre workers, the airline industry, the NHS and schools.


Chris Tiernan said: “In its first year, the free Golingo app has proved particularly popular in countries where people want to learn English, often because they want a better job. A lot of our packs are tailored to those markets – India, Latin America and the Arabic speaking countries in particular. We have a job interview pack, a grammar pack, an idioms pack and another which is one more focused on pronunciation and English language assessment tests.”


In the UK, a different market has emerged. To help address the falling take up of modern foreign languages in British schools, Golingo has developed a bespoke GCSE syllabus learning pack for parents and schools ready for the GCSE change in curriculum which is coming about next year.


The packs are competitively priced when compared to the cost of one to one tutoring. GCSE learners can access each module, starting from £4.99, and there are five modules designed for foundation and higher learners which cover the entire GCSE syllabus.


Going forward, Golingo’s ambition is to offer schools support with lesson plans and assessment, allowing teachers to add their own content using the Creative Suite to manage their students. The founders also want to support speech and language therapists to modernise their offer available to the NHS, using the platform as a tool to support children and adults with autism navigate the neuro typical world we live in.


Sarah Manson said: “Golingo’s free offer is very generous compared to our competitors who charge a subscription for the same level of content. Our new GCSE packs are a little more expensive than our other packs, but in comparison to the cost of a tutor they are still excellent value for money.

“Golingo isn’t just about language learning, it’s a communication tool. How cool would it be, even if you were a native English speaker, to practice how to confidently handle complaints for example, through an app like this. By opening up our platform to other professionals we can offer students truly personalised learning. This is where we want our business to go.”

Find out more about the learning packs here.