Solving a personal problem brought success
Do you believe that technology can speed up language learning? If no, you have a good reason to change your mind. Estonian particle physicist Mait Müntel, who used to work at the European Organization for Nuclear Research and was a part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson, created a new programme Lingvist, which aims to make language learning significantly faster.
Solving a problem lead to creating a company
For years, Mait had been living and working in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and he had been meaning to learn the local language. The existing textbooks and web-based study environments were too slow and did not have the vocabulary he needed in this day to day life.
Having thought a little about how an efficient language programme might work, he thought of using methods physicists applied for finding the boson, and created the prototype for language learning programme, which he then used to teach himself French. Believe it or not, but after using the prototype he developed himself for about 200 hours to teach himself French, Mait took a high school level exam in French and passed it with an above average result.
The uniqueness of the programme is that the system combines statistical analysis of language and mathematical optimisation of the study process. The programme takes into account the existing knowledge of the learner, maps the learner’s memory and decides in real time, what the person should learn next in order to gain as much additional value as possible.
By now, Mait’s prototype has grown into a company called Lingvist, the team of which includes more than 40 people dedicated to accelerating language learning.
Help is within reach
To facilitate Lingvist’s growth, the company needed financing, and so the team came across the European Union Horizon 2020 project.
Lingvist is a company that brings together language specialists, data scientists and top developers – all for the purpose of harnessing the newest developments of technology and science for the benefit of language learning. As such, it qualifies well for the European Union research and innovation programme Horizon 2020.
However, applying for this funding is rather complicated, due to which the company started to look for a partner who would have the know-how of applying for a project. This is how Lingvist found one of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Estonia’s partners Invent Baltics.
In the opinion of the company, the approach of the EEN advisors was sympathetic, practical and professional. Together they prepared a project application, which in the end was successful and received funding from H2020.
The H2020 projects last for several years and the progress of activities must be reported to the European Commission on a quarterly basis. Any kind of reporting is quite an effort for a start-up and Invent Baltics was of great help for the company in doing that. They gave the company the chance to dedicate themselves to the substantial work and helped communicating the success and problems efficiently to the Commission.
Today, Lingvist can be used to learn 16 different language courses and thanks to the funding of H2020 as well as technological developments of Lingvist, approximately one million people in the world have had the opportunity to speed up their language learning.