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Most likely you stumbled a little bit there… and you would not be alone!
Britons are infamously bad at speaking foreign languages, but in our hyperglobalised day and age that is not an option anymore. The founders of PolyglotMe came to the same conclusion and decided to do something about it!
PolyglotMe was founded by a duo of Exeter alumni believing in the importance of affordable education. To Constance and Rhys, the ability to understand languages, cultures, histories, and people, goes beyond the limits of borders, and should be accessible to all, not reserved to the lucky few who can afford to travel.
For Constance Girard (BSc Politics and International Relations, 2022) and Rhys Hamilton-Davies (BSc Economics, 2021) this was a challenge worth taking on. In 2019, they launched the language learning platform PolyglotMe; an online solution which would bridge the gap between traditional language learning and full immersion experience.
They both at different times and for different reasons experienced how much a platform like PolyglotMe was needed.
Constance, a keen linguist (and speaker of French, English, German and Spanish) knew how difficult it was to find opportunities to practice and maintain her language skills throughout the years when full immersion was impossible.
For Rhys, it was when he had to move to Paris for further study after graduating from Exeter, and had to get from beginners’ level French to fluent in the space of one summer.
PolyglotMe was the answer. It did not yet exist, so they created it.
A subscription to the platform gives you unlimited access to 1:1 classes for all levels, with certified native speaking tutors and in all seven different languages available on the platform. To date, PolyglotMe has over 500 users and has taught over 1,500 sessions to its learners.
Constance said: “We wanted to create a one-stop shop for language learning, and we wanted it to be an authentic and enjoyable experience and of course, at an affordable price for learners. And that’s what we did”.
Launching the platform in the midst of the Covid crisis, Constance and Rhys decided to support universities whose students had missed out on planned Erasmus years abroad by allowing them to connect with native speakers over videocall.
“Of course, we will never be able to replace the real experience of a full immersion, but this is definitely the next best thing,” she explained. “Our tutors - university students or young graduates passionate about their language - want to share their culture and are dedicated to helping their students reach their language learning goals, whatever they may be.”
Using a Santander Universities UK market validation grant as well as advice and contacts provided by the SETsquared Exeter Student Startups team, they contacted a large number of Russell Group and SETsquared partnership universities to gauge interest in their product. They developed an MVP and gathered a small team of French tutors from Constance’s own network to provide a demonstration to heads of language departments of what they could offer. The positive feedback from both the universities and students, gave Rhys and Constance the validation they needed to launch the first version of the platform.
Constance also completed the Student Startups Incubator programme, where she accessed startup support, masterclasses and 1:1 mentoring from SETsquared Entrepreneur in Residence, David Solomides. Constance said: “We didn’t ever plan on actually starting a business, but we had a good idea. The startup programme was the real game changer. It allowed us to believe in ourselves, it gave us the tools, and the right structure to turn our idea into a successful business.”
Constance and Rhys also successfully pitched for a startup grant of £1500, which was used for developing the website and for the legal work needed to finalise deals with universities.
Emerging from the pandemic, PolyglotMe continues to support universities, but also expands to international corporations as well as individual language learners whilst making a strong commitment to supporting education equality for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, by partnering with The Access Project.