Featured Startup Pitch: Language learning app Lingua.ly is built to create digital immersion through users’ mobile devices

By Editor March 9, 2015

Lingua.ly mobile

Jan_Ihmels, Lingua.lyBy Dr. Jan Ihmels, Lingua.ly co-founder and CEO


Lingua.ly is a free tool that helps everyone learn a language online. With a feed of newspaper articles and a smart dictionary for web and mobile, users can bring a foreign language to life and experience digital immersion, no matter where they live.


Lingua.ly is a new take on learning a language online. We help people browse the web to find the language they want to learn, taking a new approach and teaching them more than just the everyday vocabulary words.

The Lingua.ly app, which applies a Facebook-like news feed instead of set lessons, encourages students to search out news and apply their language learning experience to current events.

This ‘digital immersion’ style of learning includes easily changeable difficulty levels, giving Lingua.ly’s users the option to select a beginner, intermediate, or advanced experience to match their existing language skills. This option, available at the time a user signs up, can be adjusted as they improve their language abilities with the app

Applied linguistics research says you need to know 90 percent of the words in a sentence to guess the unknown words and learn from context. Our algorithm selects the sentences with this in mind. The thing about languages is that they are constantly changing, constantly evolving, and that’s why Lingua.ly applies real-life texts to teach users how language is being used right now.

We believe that words mean more if you have an interest in them, so we use a feed of newspaper articles to keep things authentic.

We support ten languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, Dutch, and Russian, and offer the free Lingua.ly feed for web, Chrome browsers, Android, and iOS mobile devices.


Both of us are language lovers who speak four-plus languages each. I was born in Germany but developed my love of languages early on through an English education at Cambridge University, where I was also the editor of the Russian language newspaper. Orly spent her undergrad days immersed in French language and literature, and went on to study the cognitive science behind language learning.

When we first met, we shared our passion for languages, but we also saw a massive opportunity for a new kind of product that could take advantage of the Internet as an unlimited and self-renewing source of language.

Lingua.ly iphone6_spanishapp1_HighRes


We see ourselves as an extremely flexible product, so we market ourselves to language learners of all ages and ability levels. Lingua.ly’s browser extension is a great add-on for working adults who are in contact with a foreign language during the day, as well as university students studying abroad. However, the tool can be just as helpful for a self-learner operating only on mobile.

As our entire team is made up of polyglots and linguists, we write a popular blog on language learning research and strategies. This means our content is commonly shared amongst language learners and teachers worldwide, which is great for SEO. We’re also one of the only good resources out there for intermediate learners (plus we’re free which makes it a pretty easy sell).


There are over a billion people learning a language around the world today, and more than half of the world’s population is bilingual. That means the need for a tool to help maintain and enhance language skills is undeniable. There are a handful of other online language learning startups out there, the most famous including Memrise, Duolingo, and busuu, but Lingua.ly is a complimentary solution to all of them.


We are the only service that is entirely personalized for the individual. If you are a businessman who needs to learn Arabic for travel, you can use Lingua.ly to navigate Middle Eastern websites and look up words while you’re on the ground. If you are a Spanish student trying for intermediate proficiency, you can use the tool to catch up on the news in Madrid and expand your vocabulary. If you’re a scientist doing research in the States, you can use our news feed algorithm to develop your physics vocabulary in English. The language you learn is up to you and the system will never run out of content like a typical level dependent language course would.


Our products are free, but they are also complementary to other services and language schools out there. We see this as a huge advantage both in terms of growth and the ability to eventually suggest product referrals. We’re also working on some premium features for release this Spring.


We’re at a stage now where we’re growing and preparing to talk to VCs.

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Lingualy logoHEADQUARTERS: Tel Aviv

WEBSITE: www.lingua.ly

FOUNDERS: Dr. Jan Ihmels, Dr. Orly Fuhrman

INVESTORS: Udi Netzer, Shai Raphaeli, 1776


TWITTER: @lingualy

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/Lingua.ly

ANGELLIST: angel.co/lingua-ly

CRUNCHBASE: crunchbase.com/organization/lingua-ly