Spoken English gets boost from Finland’s Tutor Tigers
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. A Finnish startup believes it has found a way to help millions of non-native English speakers with their pronunciation.
Tutor Tigers is an online service designed to help second-language English speakers learn and sharpen their skills.
“Schools often only have time to teach the basics of grammar and vocabulary,” says CEO Kai Lemmetty.
“The coaching of pronunciation skills requires a level of personal attention from teachers that is rarely possible. This gap creates a huge demand for language learning from students and graduates. “
Prospective students log in to the website and take the starting test before registering for a tutorial, an hour-long Skype call, with professionally accredited native English speakers. The company analyses the recordings so each tutorial has a small group of learners who have similar test results.
The students read out loud an online article, taking turns to read one sentence at a time with the tutors correcting mistakes.
After five tutorials, they can take the starting test again and see how they have improved.
“The idea came to me when I was travelling in Vietnam,” says Lemmetty. “I noticed people knew a lot of complex words, and they had really good grammar and understood how to build sentences but they couldn’t pronounce stuff. “
Remembering how he had learned English at school, reading through a text with the teacher, Lemmetty reasoned that tutor and pupil did not need to be face to face and that he could bring the practice online.
The company charges five dollars for each tutorial, paying the teachers for their hours and taking a cut.
The service is currently operating in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam where more than 1 000 students have signed up. From Vietnam, Tutor Tigers hopes to expand to other key markets in China and Southeast Asia.
“The demand for English language learning is huge in Vietnam,” says Lemmetty. “Also, due to their own language being very different from English, they have a lot of work to do in learning to pronounce correctly.”
“We hope that in two or three years we have started operating globally, helping people improve pronunciation in different countries. Asia is the biggest market for us but we think this is a global issue.”
Lemmetty says that although the company is focusing entirely on English for now, other languages are definitely an option in the future.
Text: Vincent Landon
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