Launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt, PlaySay is a Facebook app that takes advantage of the social graph and the fact that most of us spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook in order to help people learn a language.
PlaySay uses images to represent the fundamental components of language learning, allowing basic language learners to build or deconstruct Facebook status updates word by word and image by image. The theory is that users will be more enthusiastic about learning languages with their friends in an environment they are already comfortable with.
“Your Facebook friends are your new classmates. Check ins, status updates and pictures are your course materials,” founder Ryan Meinzer tells me about the app. Indeed, seeing an update in Spanish on your friend’s profile page does pique your curiosity as to what that status update says. One click on the status and you are transported to PlaySay, which offers you the option to decode that status through images, even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish.
PlaySay plans on monetizing by offering the users ability to cash in Facebook Credits to in order unlock premium PlaySay features like private messaging and levels and offering a subscription option for those that want to delve deeper into the content. Product placement within the language learning flow is also an avenue the company is exploring.
While currently only available in Spanish, Meinzer plans on making it available in every language through content partnerships like the one it recently closed with publisher McGraw Hill.
Meinzer tells me that he came up with the idea for PlaySay when he was living in Japan and was inspired to learn Japanese after the first time he was exposed to it. “We hope to convert people to learning foreign languages,” he says “If you’re using Google Translate, you’re not learning anything.”
PlaySay has over $570K in funding.
Q&A with judges Yossi Vardi, Mark Suster, Google’s Wesley Chan, Quora’s Rebecca Cox, Causes’ Joe Green
WC: How do you attract users?
A: Partnership deals, Facebook is the best place to launch this platform.
MS: It’s too complicated. When you take it to the normals I don’t think they’ll be convinced.
A: There’s a huge play in UI, by making it super simple we’re able to get it to the people. With A/B testing we’ll get to a perfect UI.
YV: How long have you worked on this product?
A: Three years.
YV: Suster, they spent years on this and you don’t encourage them.
RC: Mark’s right it needs to be simplified dramtically. Why did you take this problem on?
A: My friends couldn’t sustain learning a language because they didn’t have a need. The idea here is to break down language in a visual sense.
RG: I think this could be well used as an augmentation to an existing language course. It doesn’t have enough structure to take me through learning a language.
A: We’re a supplement not a course.