Israeli startup LinguisTech Solutions has launched a software program which helps users to learn to speak English quickly with a comprehensible accent. The company has invested $3 million in developing EZSpeak. LinguisTech is planning to raise additional funds to support the sales and marketing of its method of teaching spoken English.
The software will be sold at a significantly lower cost than other methods currently on the market. The company plans to target the global English as a Second Language (ESL) market with a clear focus on China. The company is in the process of looking for distributors for the Chinese market as well as for the Spanish speaking market in the US and Latin America.
EZSpeak has successfully undergone a pilot at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). Analysis of the results after two weeks found an 80% improvement in the pronunciation of the participants. This contributed greatly to improving their self-confidence in speaking English.
China is already the largest buyer of digital English teaching solutions. According to Ambient Insight, an industry analysis firm, China already accounts for more than a fifth of the global ESL market. The main focus of the software program is upper-middle class families in China with an annual income of up to $38, 000. This segment of the population currently accounts for 14% of Chinese households, approximately 100 million individuals. Projections estimate that this segment of the population will grow to 400 million by 2022.
The global ESL market is one of the largest and fastest growing segments in the educational field. It has been growing at an annual rate of 25% and is projected to exceed $193 billion in 2017.
EZSpeak allows the user to speak to a computer, which analyzes the speech quality and creates a personalized learning program for each user. By doing so, performance can be approved immediately obtaining immediate results. The personalized program of exercises for teaching English speaking skills helps to improve on the pronunciation of difficult sounds for the non-native speaker.
Serial entrepreneur CEO Kfir Adam, who led the development of EZSpeak notes that “EZSpeak is the only available solution for teaching English as a second language that includes instruction of the phonological rules for proper pronunciation combined with actual speech training.” He adds that EZSpeak focuses on American English, which is by far the most widely used in the world. Adam points out that the software includes video clips that explain and demonstrate how to pronounce different sounds, along with interactive dialogues in which the student carries out conversations with the software and is able to direct the conversation as desired.
Explaining the uniqueness of EZSpeak, Adam notes that “the software program was developed over three years. It is based on the phonemic approach and combines speech recognition technology, signal processing and specially developed algorithms with English linguistic capabilities. The development team was comprised of experts and scientists in speech recognition, the learning of foreign languages, software development and linguistics and included speakers of a large variety of languages.”
Kfir Adam cites studies the company conducted in the US “found that adult employees with fluent English earn 25-40% more than employees with limited English.” He adds that in China the wage differential is even greater with fluent English speakers earning 2 to 3 times as much as those who are not fluent in the language. With China having virtually no pension system, Adam points out that a Chinese child is often the sole economic support for his or her parents in their old age, underscoring the significance of a Chinese family’s investment in the private education in general and English in particular.
EZSpeak’s speech recognition technology is based on the identification and assessment of the pronunciation of phonemes, the smallest sound unit of a language. The software uses an algorithm based proprietary speech recognition engine that differentiates between various sounds and grades the speaker on each sound. Each sound pronounced by the speaker is assigned a color, with green indicating improved performance; blue unchanged and red a decline in performance. The method allows the user to focus on mastering each sound, instead of memorizing expressions and trying to imitate them.
EZSpeak’s lessons are structured in a way which ensures that each concept taught is properly understood by the student before moving on to the next concept. As a result the student is able to strengthen his or her self-confidence through graduated success and the implementation of an effective teaching method.