They are altering the grammar of English as a second language and helping 43 million people across the world acquire a major life skill. When Jaipur-based Pranshu and Nishant Patni started Culture Alley in 2012 as a platform for English speakers learning a foreign language, it didn’t take them long to realise learning English was a more urgent need for Hindi or Chinese speakers. Hello English, launched as a mobile-only app in October 2014, used native languages as reference points and quickly gained traction.
There are over a billion people in the world trying to learn English. It is a desperate need – Prashant Patni
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Venture funding from Tiger Global, Rajan Anandan and others—a total investment of $6.15 million so far— and working with 40 freelance linguists globally have since helped evolve the app. Users no longer have to blindly follow a curriculum; they consume real-world content, from news to trending videos and stories, delivered to them in a mix of English and their native language, progressively reducing their dependence on the latter. A voice-based engine has been added to get learners to have conversations with virtual friends. The Patnis now work with Wipro, Domino’s Pizza and other companies to train their front-facing workforce, and based on their understanding of the market, are able to recommend jobs for users with various levels of proficiency in English.