Under the partnership, busuu users can access daily world news updates provided by a feed from guardian.co.uk. However, if they don’t understand a particular word, powered by Macmillan Education’s online dictionary, a simple double-click on a word will reveal a definition – a bit like Amazon Kindle’s word look up feature. Additionally – and this is where the “community” element of busuu kicks in – users are then asked to take part in a ‘writing exercise’ in which they are required to comment on the article in question, earning “busuu berries” in return (yes, such a thing does exist). Those writing exercises are then shown to the English native community on busuu who are asked to correct any errors.
Now obviously skeptics might think this would be too much of a chore to expect volunteers to do, however, busuu says that on a daily basis more than 25,000 texts are already corrected in seven languages by users. So, as an example, says the Spanish startup, a user from Egypt learning English might comment on an article about the recent protests in the country and send their opinion for “correction” to a user in the UK. “We believe that’s language learning in a real context as best as it gets”, says Bernhard Niesner CEO and co-Founder of busuu.
In terms of what’s in it for The Guardian, they get brand exposure to busuu’s users learning English and the potential to pick up regular new readers along the way. Macmillan on the other hand is a traditional language learning publisher and like competitors Pearson and Collins presumably wants to tap into the social learning space.
Further to today’s announcement, it would seem that busuu is on a healthy growth trajectory too. Citing analytics from Compare, Niesner points out that the language learning community is hot on the heels of its much better funded U.S.-based rival Livemocha ($14m vs approx. $1.4m) in terms of traffic if not actual user sign-ups. This suggests that more users are sticking around, and that busuu’s recent publicity campaign – to “save” Busuu, a Cameroonian language with only 8 remaining speakers – and an aggressive roll out of partnerships, new features and mobile apps is paying off.