Y Combinator-backed Verbling, a site that aims to connect language leaners with native speakers via live video chat, has raised $1 million from DFJ, Learn Capital, Start Fund, Inspovation Ventures, SV Angel, Meck Investments, Ace & Company and others. The new funding will be used towards hiring.
Here’s how Verbling works. The site allows you to sign up and choose the language you want to learn. Once you join the site, you are automatically paired with a language speaker who is fluent in the language you wish to learn. The site encourages users to talk to a number of different speakers within each session.
So if you speak French and want to learn English, you’ll be paired up with a native English speaker who wants to learn French. You start in one language and halfway through the video session, a timer tells you when to switch to the other. Speakers are also matched by their language levels, and to aid in the conversation, Verbling will suggest topics according to the ability of the participants, such as “What chores are you responsible for in your home” or “what kind of music do you listen to?”
The chats are conducted via video chat, but the startup doesn’t seem to be too worried about any Chatroulette-like issues because everyone has to register with their name and other personal info to use the service. Currently, Verbling is using Flash for the video streaming itself, but the startup has built significant infrastructure around the player to ensure that the audio video quality is as good as possible, even when faced with varying internet connection quality.
Currently, Verbling only offers English-Spanish learning but is seeing a large demand for other language combinations. And the startup adds that the majority of Verbling users say they are learning a foreign language because it will give them an advantage in the job market
Today, Verbling is also debuting Verbling Flashcards to provide content for beginners. Users can easily memorize words from different categories (Travel, Eating Out and more) and then test themselves. Since launched a few days ago, 74% of Verbling’s visitors have used the Flashcards feature.