illustration of language learning
Communication is the key to learning a new language. Image: Julia Bushueva
Five from Finland

FIVE FROM FINLAND: Language services

Developed in Finland, this range of language solutions provides ways to be understood and keep ourselves busy in these turbulent times.

Zhanna Koiviola

15.02.2021

The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the importance of communication and keeping our minds active by acquiring new skills or picking up new hobbies. So, looking for a way to speed up your language learning? Finding it hard to be understood when speaking a foreign language? This quintet has a range of innovative solutions.

Sanako

man standing in front of blackboard filled with words

Sanako is helping language learners and their teachers to find new ways to express themselves. Image: Adobe

Teaching a language by the book is good for reading and writing, but so often interaction is all about spoken words. This edtech company’s learning software, language labs, and next-generation virtual language learning solutions seek to help language learners and their teachers to find new ways to express themselves.

“Learning a language is like learning a new life skill,” said Mark Barratt, senior vice president at the time. “One can move country, apply for a job and make friends because of it.”

WordDive

hand holding a smartphone

WordDive activates several senses simultaneously and adapts to the needs of individual learners. Image: Word Dive

This language learning service activates several senses simultaneously and adapts to the needs of individual learners: for example, after a while the programme starts to change the pace to match that of the user. Additionally, WordDive aims to encourage speaking and interacting in the foreign language.

“When one gains confidence with the basics, it’s possible to just focus on speaking the language. That’s where our strength lies,” explained CEO Timo-Pekka Leinonen.

A recent feather in the cap for the AI-based language learning app was the main prize in the education sector innovations category at the Quality International Awards, organised by Excellence Finland.

Playvation

kids holfing tablets over their heads

Moomins and language education are putting smiles on faces around the world. Image: Playvation

This Espoo-based education technology company believes foreign language skills can ensure children grow into happy and creative global citizens. The Moomins are there to help with the mission. Playvation’s Moomin Language School is a playful and effective digital language learning method targeted specifically at children aged three to seven.

“The Moomins have a supporting role in the service: the characters promote learning and join children on their journeys,” explained CEO Anu Guttorm. “The Moomins’ values include courageousness, equality and appreciation of nature. These are the kinds of values that are needed today around the globe.”

Well received by teachers and kids in Finland, Moomin Language School has also found its way into kindergartens in other parts of the world, including Morocco, China, Poland and the Gulf countries.

“We’re committed to building this into a successful business in the long term,” Guttorm concluded.

Transfluent

Transfluent team sitting together

Transfluent offers fully automated professional-quality translations. Image: Jussi Ratilainen

Companies communicate with their customers through a wide variety of channels. This Finnish company specialises in making those messages heard across languages. Online translators offer ease and speed, while good human translators provide quality. Transfluent tries to give the best of both worlds.

“We stand in the middle of the so-called online translation services and traditional language service providers, as we produce agency quality but delivered with speed and convenience,” stated Lauri Kovanen, co-CEO at the time.

Chabla

Sign language rapper Signmark

Marko Vuoriheimo is the CEO of Signmark Productions, the company behind the mobile video calling app Chabla. Image: Signmark Productions

Calling a friend or a doctor’s office can be a challenge when you rely on the availability of sign language interpreters. Mobile app Chabla has set out to change this. The app connects anyone using sign language directly with an international network of interpreters and enables users to make and receive interpreted calls whenever they want.

“Without Chabla it is almost impossible for someone who does not know sign language to call a deaf person,” noted Marko Vuoriheimo, CEO of Signmark Productions. “I have heard this explanation many times from people who say they cannot communicate with me. This app not only empowers the sign language community but enables everyday communication.”

The service is now available also for spoken language interpretation and covers over 80 languages.

Originally published in August 2018, updated February 2020

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