How a first-time Argentine entrepreneur is teaching Spanish by connecting people
If you want to learn a new language, there are countless apps, programs, books and videos that claim to be able to help. But how many of those options actually involve speaking to another person? In that lack of actual interpersonal communication, Marina Jackman saw an opportunity. The Argentina-born entrepreneur knows the importance of immersive language learning, and developed Time2Talk as a way to enhance language learning.
“Time2Talk is an app that connects people learning Spanish in the U.S. and Canada with native speakers in Latin America on demand,” said Jackman. “There’s no subscription, no pre-scheduling, no pre-paying; it’s just a simple, straightforward solution for people who want to practice their real-life speaking skills. That’s the purpose of learning a language: connecting and speaking with people.”
Jackman moved from Argentina to Barcelona to get her master’s degree in international politics and journalism. There, she met her husband Chris and the two planned to move to France. To immerse themselves in French, they took an intensive five-week course in the country that helped them both become fluent. But when plans changed and the couple moved to Cleveland for his job, they needed a way to keep their French polished.
“When we moved to Cleveland, it was a hard stop on speaking French,” she said. “We couldn’t find a tool to keep speaking the language that was easy and convenient and that would adapt to our life. That’s how we got the idea for Time2Talk. We wanted to find a solution and a service that would adapt to our life. We believe there’s a disconnect in that part of the language-learning process. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we try to do it?’”
Jackman left her full-time job in marketing and public relations to follow her dream of connecting language learners from all over the world. While the app currently focuses on Spanish, pairing English speakers with Spanish-speaking coaches in Latin America, her vision is “a global solution for all languages.” To Jackman, keeping the business’s goal rooted in that purpose is what will make it successful.
“The best ideas come from a problem or challenge that you’ve experienced,” she said. “If you look for the solution and no one has done it before, that’s the way the best things happen. This is the first time in my life when I feel like there’s something important that I’m building, and it’s more than just an economic or financial incentive. There’s a different energy with companies that have a purpose that’s meant to help and improve people’s lives. Our goal is to create jobs on the coaches side and to help people improve their language skills. It’s a win-win situation.”
So far, the project is going well. Time2Talk is just three months old, but already has hundreds of coaches and users interested. Jackman knows that she can’t achieve all her goals overnight, but has been pleasantly surprised by the way her first entrepreneurial venture has started. She said she hopes others can see her as an example of what a new founder can do with the right support and mission.
“Being a new entrepreneur has been very interesting and very challenging at times,” said Jackman. “I’m still in the middle of the journey, which is great. Usually, you hear from entrepreneurs who are already five or six years in, and I think it’s important for people to follow their dreams and passions and hear stories of people who are still on that journey. It’s been hard, but I do feel very empowered by this process. There’s so much work when you’re starting out, but it’s very exciting. The best way to power through it is to remind yourself why you’re doing it.”
Contributing to Jackman’s fast success has been the entrepreneurial environment around her in Cleveland. She said she’s been able to connect with a great LatinX community in northeast Ohio, empowering her and other LatinX entrepreneurs to launch businesses. She’s worked with Cleveland’s JumpStart to help her build the business, and has been amazed at the startup community she’s become part of.
“Over the last year, I’ve met so many amazing, talented, innovative people in Cleveland who are trying to make this city even more amazing,” she said. “Cleveland is already great, but there’s so much potential and so many people working on great projects and great companies. I see the energy, and that’s been very special and unique. I’m very happy that I started this here, and I think Cleveland has a huge opportunity as a city that welcomes immigrants and opens its doors, which leads to a stronger city, more diversity and more prosperity. I’m very excited to be part of this moment in Cleveland’s history.”