As doing business becomes an increasingly globalized undertaking —whether you’re merely selling and shipping goods overseas or have an actual physical presence in multiple countries— multilingualism is also increasing in importance. In some cases, a multilingual workforce can even mean the difference between engaging new consumers and growing your bottom line or watching your brand’s reputation slowly wither away on the vine.
RewardExpert spoke with Ozge Ozcer, business development director at busuu, the world’s largest community for language learning, about how the company is helping global businesses improve customer experience and increase sales.
Using Tech for Customized Language Learning
Founded in 2008 by Bernhard Niesner and Adrian Hilti, busuu is named after a language spoken in a remote village in Cameroon.
“The company was originally their MBA project at business school,” Ozcer said. “They were both very inspired by the fact that learning languages can really broaden one’s horizons. As passionate language learners themselves, they had found that existing solutions didn’t really work for them, from having to go to a classroom, learn at a fixed time, the whole one-size-fits-all approach. But they saw a great opportunity to use tech to solve the problem.”
More than 90 million people from 190 different countries are using busuu today. While many are individual consumers, busuu also serves businesses.
“We work with a lot of large, client-facing organizations in the service sector, like retailers and hospitality companies,” Ozcer explained. Business clients include Inditex Group, Adidas and Palladium Hotels. “They use busuu with their high-touch, customer-facing staff,” she continued. “This includes anyone from shop assistants to front of house.”
Courses in 12 Popular Languages
Users can complete courses in 12 different languages on busuu. Each course is developed using the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), which is an internationally recognized standard for creating language lessons. The courses cover everything a language learner needs to progress from complete beginner to upper-intermediate proficiency.
“When you come to busuu as a learner, we first ask you about your learning objectives such as why you want to learn the language, the proficiency level you want to achieve and your timeframe,” Ozcer said. “We then give you a placement test to determine your familiarity with the language. From there, we put you on a personalized learning path.”
Lessons are designed by linguistics experts and are topic-based, containing vocabulary, grammar and practice exercises to gradually build conversational and writing skills. Each lesson can be completed on busuu’s web or mobile platform.
While busuu’s basics are free, a premium subscription unlocks additional features that many users will find useful including Offline Mode, which allows you to download lessons to your smartphone so you can learn while on the go.
Premium subscriptions also include advanced grammar lessons, McGraw-Hill Education certificates for the completion of some courses, and the opportunity to have real conversations with native speakers in the community.
“Language learning is about communication,” Ozcer explained. “We try to facilitate the development of communication skills by connecting learners with other people in the network. Imagine you’re learning Spanish as a native English speaker. We will connect you with someone in the network who is a native Spanish speaker. Then you can practice your Spanish skills and get almost real-time feedback.”
Premium membership subscription fees for individuals are as low as $5.41 per month.
Enhance Business Performance and Brand Perception
“The companies we work with offer these language courses to their employees and can monitor how they are engaging with busuu and how quickly they are learning,” Ozcer said. “We do it all from the busuu management platform, which is essentially a sophisticated dashboard for tracking learning outcomes.”
Benefits for companies using
Companies also benefit from enhanced brand perception. “If your customers are happy, they’ll perceive your brand more favorably,” Ozcer noted. “That is especially important for international companies with very large footprints.”
Because busuu’s language courses are affordable, businesses that need to develop a multilingual workforce can save money as well.
“We’re a scalable, economic way to offer language skills to employees,” Ozcer concluded. “In the past, language education solutions were very expensive. Classroom-based training is easily $80 or more per half-hour. With busuu, companies can pay less than $80 per user for an entire year of learning. It’s very cost effective.”