Language learning app Drops adds Native Hawaiian, more than doubles downloads

Drops, the game-based language learning app, has announced Native Hawaiian as the newest addition to the app’s 30-language selection.

With just under 300 Native Hawaiian speakers worldwide, according to the Endangered Language Project, this addition is the app’s second foray into digitizing niche and endangered languages for a new generation.

“Our native tongue is Hungarian,” Drops co-founder and CEO Daniel Farkas told TechCrunch. “And we’ve watched the rise and decline of many niche languages — including our own. We know how important language is in representing culture and connecting people, and understand the significance of bringing under-served languages in particular, to light.”

The company was founded in 2015 by Farkas and CTO Mark Szulyovszky and focuses on using aesthetically appealing pictographic word games to help users immerse themselves in a new language — drop by drop, if you will. For Hawaiian, the language will cover more than 2,000 words, including important cultural expressions such as the word for the native Hawaiian triggerfish and state symbol: Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

This newest addition also follows a significant amount of growth for the company, including doubling its download numbers from two million to five million in the past six months and the addition of Prezi’s former Head of International, Drew Banks, as the company’s chief customer officer earlier this year.

Banks’ appointment marks the end of a short retirement following his departure from Prezi in 2015.

What sets Drops apart from competitors like Duolingo, Banks told TechCrunch, is a combination of the app’s fun and easy approach to designing games around these languages and the app’s focus on building vocab over complex grammar skills.

For some learners, this lack of emphasis on mechanics and grammar may ultimately be a drawback — especially for those looking to improve their written language skills and not just their reading comprehension. But for users looking to gain practical language skills, linguistics research has shown evidence that creating a robust vocabulary can give a learner comprehension of about 70 to 80 percent of the language.

By focusing on visually appealing games and vocab, Drops aims to lower the barrier preventing users from exploring a new language and, ultimately, accessing the social and economic benefits knowing that language may provide.

“We grew up understanding that being multilingual is critical for participating in the global economy,” Farkas said. “The world is growing more diverse every day, and the barriers that once made it hard to connect across cultures are shrinking.”