With hundreds of thousands to millions of refugees from Ukraine, it could be incredibly valuable to help them learn English or German in Austria. It may be the best way we Europeans can help Ukrainians in their struggle to maintain their and our values.

However the large costs and inconvenience of learning a languages makes it difficult and costly to offer something to them.

The solution should be:

  • So scalable that it can be offered at a very low cost
  • So high quality that it’s fun to participate and study
  • So easy to use, that you can study at maximum efficiency
  • Based on methods that work very well and don’t waste your time

Methods that work well

Six years of research about this topic have lead me to believe that I found the three basic ingredients of successful language learning. In the next section I will suggest how to operationalise them in a format that can be used in an attractive offer.

  • Listening-Reading. Understanding people when they speak is the biggest struggle for people to start enjoying a new language. It helps greatly to practice understanding native speakers in the natural tempo, and it’s easy to do with a recording and a translated transcript. Learners can watch the same video 3-5 times, while reading along and after 30-45 minutes understand what’s being said, get exposure to a lot of words, and get used to the sounds, sentence structure, and separation of words.
  • Conversations. Learning a language usually has the goal of communicating with people in a language. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to express yourself naturally in a foreign language. By practicing phrases you may use in a conversation, you know correct things to say when you need it. Conversations can be about a certain topic or situation and there’s a native speaker interacting with students.
  • Structured Practice. Any new skill needs deliberate practice. It’s easy to waste time with ineffective activities that may seem fun and easy to do but don’t really help much. Another problem can be that people are overwhelmed and blocked by the range of work they need to do. Sometimes there it is hard to make a decision, sit down and start with a task. Here a mobile app can help you get started anywhere, while tracking and visualising your progress. An app can also make it easy to get started with the most effective activity, by a tap of a button.

How to offer this in a scalable way

Ukrainians could receive targeted advertising that invites them to participate in a project to help them learn English or German fast.

Most technical infrastructure is already in place and we may succeed with a low budget and help from volunteers. With more budget, we can create incentives for creating content, and fund further app development.

In the simplest set-up, the programme could be delivered as an email course with two emails per week that describe precisely what to do.

The emails can contain links to website posts that describe in more detail what to do with videos, images or multi-lingual written instructions.

For example, an email could contain an instruction to choose from 5 filmed conversations where basic vocabulary is introduced. The student should watch the video about a topic of interest, or a simulation of a situation. Videos are recorded with a native speaker and possibly learners.

To make practicing easy, these recorded lessons come with a link to the phrases recorded during the conversation to be reviewed on our mobile app. That way, the student can get 30-40 relevant phrases from every conversation into their long-term memory.

In addition to videos of conversations, there can also be recorded monologues about a topic, but with the transcript and translation to read. By reading the transcript and the translation on the side, one can eventually understand the speaker. These videos are supposed to be watched multiple times, until they’re understood or the learner is bored. They should be reviewed at a later point of time.

For students that want private lessons, to learn even more personalised vocabulary, there can be an online course that prepares teachers to have conversations that are supported with Lingophant. Potentially, these conversation can also be recorded on video and then made available to the community.

A 12-week programme

Twelve weeks should be enough to get someone comfortable in speaking the language, especially if this includes:

  • 12 short videos that have been watched and understood
  • 12 recorded conversations about relevant situations or topics
  • Around 25-40 phrases per conversation memorised and available in your long-term memory. That would be 300-480 correct phrases in total

After this, it should be possible to observe large improvements. Learners know the vocabulary to have conversations and can understand native speakers when they respond. Also, they have the vocabulary to talk about certain hobbies and topics of interest, as well as situational humour through funny comments.

By working in cohorts that start every few weeks, one can measure success of students, ask for feedback and requests, and make continuous improvements

Furthermore, one could think of a pairing mechanism to pair people who want to learn and teach Russian or Ukrainian with people who want to learn and teach English or German. In the current set-up with recorded lectures, that is not necessary though.

Roles Required for setting this up

For a successful project several roles should be filled. The following are the roles required to run the different systems of maintaining the school and create new content.

Role 1: Conversation Success

  • Recruitment and training of native speakers to host and record conversation sessions
  • Support of native speakers to get started with learners from Ukraine, through topic suggestions and training videos.
  • Recording Zoom calls and related sets of phrases to create website posts to present the conversations
  • Making scheduling of conversations easy through online tools such as Calendly and Zoom

Key Performance Indicators

  • Number of new relevant conversations that are posted
  • Ease of finding the right content in user tests
  • Learners and teachers they have talked to

Role 2: Listening-Reading Content Creation

  • Recruitment and training of native speakers for recording listening-reading videos
  • Support in creating listening-reading videos, with transcription and translation activities, and tutorials on how to record them.
  • Suggestion of topics to talk about and create content for.
  • Posting the content as website posts with instructions on how to work with them.
  • Creating a content library of external content that students can also learn from

Key Performance Indicators

  • Number of L-R videos created
  • Views on YouTube of content
  • Usability of content library, how easy is it to get started
  • Feedback on content quality by creators and learners

Role 3: Internal Curriculum Creation

  • Making sure the email content is clear
  • Making sure feedback is collected and operationalised within the next cohort
  • Creation of content that supports the learning journey

Key Performance Indicators

  • Drop-out rate of cohorts
  • Engagement rates of emails
  • How much students practice in each cohort
  • Quantity and quality of feedback collected from students

Role 4: Marketing Channel Optimisation

  • Getting the average advertising cost per customer acquisition as low as possible
  • Making it as easy as possible to get started, fixing possible barriers to success.
  • Creating a funnel for new teachers and content creators to join

Key Performance Indicators

  • Customer Acquisition Costs
  • Number of customers talked to

Role 5: App and Admin Success

  • Coordinating a small budget for continuous improvement of the mobile app
  • Directing developers effort
  • Creating a simple payment system for content creators
  • Communicating Data Privacy and IT Governance

Key Performance Indicators

  • App usage metrics can be easily viewed through Firebase
  • Collection of development requirements from stakeholders
  • Improving practicing mode of the app
  • Improving visualisation of study progress within the app
  • App stability and bug fixes

Budget Consideration

It would make life easier to pay content creators, e.g. 50€ for a recorded and transcribed video of 5-8 minutes.

Also, teachers may need an incentive or a process to have their conversations recorded and shared publicly. This may require courage, trust and self-esteem, requiring an above average payment too.

Both content creators and teachers could do it voluntarily as well, but


Lingophant e.U. is a 6-year old company that has developed Android and iOS apps for practicing content effectively, as well as a server architecture for uploading and downloading content from and to devices. For effective learning to happen, a longer and dedicated journey is required, for which email courses have been serving well so far.

Contact Person:

Alexander Hartveld +43 699 11 4242 67

alex @ lingophant.com