Breaking the Kickstarter record of most funded apps of all time on Tuesday, Gabe Wyner ’01 raised over $340,000 to fund his new language learning app “Fluent Forever.”
The app, based on a book that he wrote in 2014, approaches language learning differently from other apps in terms of what and how the user learns, Wyner said.
After struggling to master languages in high school and the beginning of college, Wyner attended a German language immersion program at Middlebury, where he proved to himself that he could learn a language in just seven weeks.
Later when studying French, Wyner established the learning approach that the app is based on when he placed into an intermediate level despite only knowing the basics of the language and had to teach himself enough French to hold a 15 minute interview.
“I came up with the method out of panic and reached total fluency in five months,” Wyner said.
His method targets understanding the pronunciation of each language, and uses ear training as the first step to fluency.
“If you can’t hear a word, you can’t remember it,” Wyner said. “The words need to not sound like gibberish.”
After pronunciation, the app teaches users to make essential associations to foreign words by omitting translations from sentences and using pictures.
It offers options of words and pictures to use in flash cards, allowing users to make decisions about what they’re learning, which Wyner says is an important for success, but eliminating busy work. With it’s “spaced repetition system,” the app reminds users of words they would forget just before they forget them, Wyner said.
Although the kickstarter campaign reached it’s initial goal in a matter of hours, Wyner said he has a long way to go.
Now, he is focused on expanding the app to include more languages and a forum for users learning uncommon languages, such as Gallic and some Native American languages, to share resources and learn together.