In this article, journalist Roland Sebestyén speaks to Jonathan Bennett and Tamás Vámosi, the two founders of Engola World, a new company and English app. Read on to find out why they made the app, why it could be a game changer and what they think about sushi.
Jonathan and Tamás are the proud owners of a brand new company, Engola World, and a new English app of the same name. The app is currently under testing before the launch. We sat down with them to discuss their project and their hopes for the future.
First, can you just tell us a little bit about your background and your interest in language learning?
Jonathan Bennett: I’m from England, but I’ve lived abroad now for ten years, in Italy and Hungary. I have been teaching English for about ten years, while I also do a lot of writing and translation. When was 21 I didn’t speak any languages other than English. By the time I was 31, I spoke quite good Hungarian, decent Italian and bad French. So even though I wasn’t a natural, I have managed to learn two-and-half languages! It’s possible to learn a language at any age, but it is hard work!
Tamás Vámosi: I’ve been working as a software designer and developer for 20 years. I’m Hungarian and live just outside of Budapest. I speak English, Hungarian and a little bit of German. I think learning a language is a life-long challenge.
There are dozens of English grammar apps out there. Why anybody should choose Engola World? What does Engola have to offer?
JB: That’s a surprisingly tricky question. There are a lot of grammar apps, but most of them are either incomplete, very expensive or have a lot of adverts. We have no ads, 65% of our content is free and I think we have good, well-organised content written by native English teachers. Engola also has a very simple but useful feature: anytime you make a mistake, or there’s anything you can’t understand, you can check it and get a detailed explanation straight away.
TV: I think the most unique part of Engola World is the study centre. A teacher can use the app to set homework or tasks for the students, and anyone can join their group (with the right password). Most apps just focus on giving English learners a bit of extra practice, which is great, but we want to able to bring teachers and students closer together and help them communicate in the app.
So you think it could make a real difference to the teaching/learning process?
JB: Looking at it from a teacher‘s perspective, it should make our lives a bit easier. Instead of having to make loads of photocopies, we can set the tasks with a single tap of the screen and then follow our students’ progress via the app.
TV: Yes, but it comes with a warning: Engola World can definitely simplify the learning process, but we strongly believe you can’t learn a language simply by downloading an app. Learning on your own isn’t impossible exactly, but it’s very difficult. You need real people to speak to, real teachers to help you. That’s why we want to create a new community around Engola. With Engola we are focused on people who attend English classes and are active learners, but we also want to help those people who can’t afford a personal teacher.
So it could be a game changer?
JB: A game changer? Honestly, we haven’t though about this, but yes, it could be a new, exciting way of teaching and learning English. We believe this kind of collaboration should be the future. Right now, Engola World is only a small app, but this is just the beginning. We’re only at first base.
Tell me about your future plans. What about other languages?
TV: This is an English app. We don’t really want to make a family of apps. We want to focus on English and English only. In the world there is thought to be more than 1 billion people learning English. That’s a pretty big number.
What about the app itself?
JB: Right now, Engola has two modules, Irregular Verbs and Grammar. Of course, we want to improve the content we have, but we would also like to add two more modules in the next 12 months, Phrases and Phrasal Verbs. Later, we would also like to add some reading and listening content too.
Say I’m a beginner. Am I at the right place?
JB: Yes, you are, look no further! At the moment, we are focused on the fundamental grammar stuff, so if you’re an advanced student, you might find a lot of the content a little bit easy. But if you’re a beginner, you can definitely take some of your first steps with Engola World. Of course, you have to know a few English words, because the app is entirely in English, but we especially recommend Engola to people who are between A1 and B1 level. Later, once we have added the Phrases and Phrasal Verbs modules, it should be an even better fit for upper-intermediate and advanced students as well.
Do you have a marketing strategy in place? A schedule, a plan?
TV: We are planning to speak with schools and individual teachers. The whole point of this making an English app was that we want to be able to connect to teachers, and of course we want teachers to recommend Engola.
JB: We did a kind of test app, Engola Irregular Verbs, to see if our idea worked. Often we see that, for example, there are 25 downloads on a single day from a small town in Italy. Obviously in this case a teacher liked the app and recommended it to their students. A lot of teachers are still looking for a good app to work with. We think we are on the right track because so far around 13,000 people from more than 100 countries have downloaded the test app, and that’s without any real marketing. We know that people find it useful, and we want to build on that.
Engola World has a lot of free content, but also some premium stuff. What’s the difference? Why should I pay for it?
JB: In Engola World, a teacher is able to have private and public classes, but teachers can only have two private classes if they haven’t paid for the premium content. Both learners and teachers only get 60% of the grammar content for free. If they want to check the other topics, they have to pay for it, though it’s only USD 5 per year for learners, USD 8 for teachers.
TV: We wanted to create an English app with really valuable free content. Of course, we need a bit of money to keep the company going and create new content, but we also want it to be affordable to everybody.
Can you talk about Engola World’s development and the team around you?
TV: We have a group of experienced and hard-working developers – as well as myself, there is Zsolt, Károly and Andor. They have been working on this project for one and a half years now. We are writing native codes for Android and iOS devices, so each system’s users will be able to get the full experience without lots of bugs or other adaptation issues. We also have a designer, Zizi, who has helped us with the look of the app and the logo. We should also mention our friend Péter, who came up with the idea in the first place!
What about outside of Engola World? Food, life, etc.?
JB: I love living abroad – every day is interesting. My favourite food is Italian: pizza and pasta. I also enjoy reading books, watching films when I get the chance and also spending time with my family. I have a son, Oliver, who is bilingual – it’s really interesting watching him switching between English and Hungarian all day long.
TV: I have two children, two boys. They are both learning English, of course! My favourite author is Philipp K. Dick. I love snowboarding. When it comes to food, I’m more of a hummus and sushi guy.
JB: Okay, sushi is definitely awesome too. But pizza is the best!
And finally, when will the app be ready?
TV: We’ve just started the Beta testing, so we are hoping that we will be ready in two months or so. With a bit of luck, anyway!
NB: if you are interested in testing the app, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org