One of the hardest parts of learning a new language is becoming conversationally fluent. Students can easily access vocabulary workbooks or listen to an audiotape to help their pronunciation, but putting those skills into practice can be difficult, especially if you don’t know anyone who speaks the language you’re learning. Time2Talk, a startup out of Cleveland, is bridging that divide by connecting students and native Spanish-speaking coaches.
“The first step to language learning is the basic structure of grammar and vocabulary, but there is no way to achieve fluency unless you practice speaking with people,” said CEO and Co-Founder Marina Jackman. “That is the disconnect in general for everyone who studies languages — you spend a lot of time in the beginning stage of the learning process. Time2Talk exists to solve that specific problem. It’s the missing link between studying a language and reaching the ultimate objective of speaking it in real life.”
Since TechOhio last spoke with Jackman, the startup expanded its initial focus from learning at the individual level to the institutional level. Time2Talk began working with one high school and one university in Ohio and has since grown to work with schools and universities in 15 states. Jackman says the evolution has allowed the startup to improve its product for students of all levels.
“With changing our focus to educational institutions, we’ve made a lot of changes to the product and technology,” she said. “Anyone can use the app, but we are focused on students who are taking Spanish in high school or college. Each student gets a personalized experience, and the coach can adapt to their specific level and needs. We are developing key features to continue growing and expanding into more educational institutions in the U.S., but we also have interest from other countries around the world.”
Currently, the app’s focus is on Spanish-language learning and for good reason. It’s the most studied language in the U.S. and the second most studied in the world. But the startup’s mission goes beyond language fluency. Its goal is to foster and empower cultural fluency for Spanish students as well.
“Our focus on Spanish is intentional,” Jackman said. “Spanish is important in the U.S. not only for the obvious reasons, but because people learn languages for their relationships, and there is actual economic and cultural impact. With one tap, you’re talking to people from all over the world in different cultures, which creates a more engaging experience, leading to better retention and the long-term ability to use this skill and benefit from it.”
The startup is proud to represent its Ohio roots as it makes the pivot into more educational institutions and expands its global impact. Jackman has always spoken highly of Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurship community and the support Time2Talk has received from the local Hispanic and Latino communities in the city. And she’s still passionate about raising awareness for both.
“We’ve collaborated with different organizations in Ohio that have been very supportive of the journey. That’s one of the reasons why I’m excited to keep building Time2Talk in Ohio. I’ve learned over the past couple of years that Ohio is a serious innovation hub. Cleveland is particularly special to me. I’ve been able to meet the most talented, forward-thinking, motivated people here, so I’m very happy to continue to build from Cleveland.”