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Verbling adds native apps to expand access to its marketplace of language tutors

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YC-backed Verbling, a language learning business that’s been active for around five years, has finally launched native Android and iOS apps, along with a refreshed brand and look for its web platform.

The startup, which was founded back in 2011, is hoping a push into mobile app learning can spark some additional growth — by making it easier for more language learners to tap into its tutor marketplace. It’s also hoping to stand out against competitors that don’t (yet) have a pool of qualified language teachers on tap.

“We’re proud to be launching the Verbling native mobile app,” it says in a blog announcing the launch. “Bringing our global network of teachers to a mobile platform truly makes language learning with teachers accessible to everyone.”

Verbling’s focus so far has been on building a platform for language teachers to reach students remotely, via video chat, including now having its own embedded video chat software — and on building up its marketplace of tutors. It has some 2,000 teachers on its platform at this point (along with “1,000,000 users”).

It’s fair to say there’s increasing competition in the language learning space, these days, along with a variety of different approaches. Rivals here include the likes of mobile-first Duolingo, and long time subscription service Babbel — both of which are popular app-based interactive approaches for language learners that arguably replace some human-based language instruction by creating a structured learning environment for users.

Another relatively recent addition to the category, Tandem, pairs language learners with their peers for free practice (and does also offer paid video lessons with qualified tutors).

Verbling’s bet is that while much of this touch-friendly tech may be helpful for people trying to master another language, none of it can entirely replace having a great (human) language tutor on tap. And its website therefore makes much of its selective approach to recruiting (only) native speakers to its marketplace.

It currently offers tutors in 43 languages, with the most popular languages for its users to learn via the platform including English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic and German.

The startup has raised $4.4M in funding to date from investors including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, SV Angel, Sam Altman, and Joshua Schachter.