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Language Apps Evolve Marketing To Engage Quarantined Learners

April 15, 2020 Sarah Cavill


As soon as Americans started self isolating en masse, social media lit up with ideas on how to use all the extra time so many of us would now have. Many, many people made bread, while others took up knitting, working out or learning new languages. 

According to a Business Insider article on popular language-learning startup and disruptor brand Duolingo, “Globally, new sign-ups [for Duolingo] grew nearly 108% from March 9 to March 30. For the U.S., there was even higher growth, with a 148% increase.” Other language brands, including Rosetta Stone and Babbel, which, like Duolingo, offer desktop and app versions, are seeing increased memberships, particularly from students and parents who are now relying on the language-acquisition technology to help maintain language skills and assist with homework assignments.

StartUp Duolingo Uses Gamification To Make Language Learning Fun

Duolingo was founded in 2011 as a fun, free, gamified platform — offering a different approach than some of its more staid competitors. (Duolingo offers an ad-free version of its app for $9.99 a month, but only a small percentage of Duolingo users are paid subscribers.) The company currently has more than 30 million monthly active users, and, prior to the coronavirus crisis, Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn, predicted revenues of $160 million in 2020. “We've seen evidence of many people taking up language learning during this period of isolation and quarantine as a means of self-improvement,” said Michaela Kron, Senior Public Relations Manager at Duolingo. “Learning a new language comes with numerous benefits, including cognitive ones such as improved memory and social ones such as connecting better with others.” 

Duolingo is also popular in schools, with a dashboard that helps teachers and students track progress on Duolingo and learning games that make classroom instruction engaging and interactive. During self-isolation, while more than 87% of students around the globe are not in school, Duolingo is offering a guide on how to make their platform the most useful for students. 

Rosetta Stone Drops Subscription Fees During Coronavirus Pandemic

“In light of the current COVID-19 situation leaving millions of kids across the U.S. doing their school work from home, the global language and literacy company, Rosetta Stone, is stepping up to help provide those work-from-home parents some relief,” announced Rosetta Stone in a press release following the company’s decision on March 30 to make their service free to students. As of April 7, the brand had seen 10,000-20,000 new users per day since dropping subscription fees for students. Although language experts have reservations about the exclusive use of language apps, Rosetta Stone recognizes teachers and technology are intertwined. “We don’t believe there’s a self-learning trend that’s going to replace teachers,” said Matt Hulett, CEO for Rosetta Stone. 

In 2019, Rosetta Stone saw anticipated revenues of approximately $190 million, and more than 516,000 subscribers on the consumer language side. Since launching in 1992, Rosetta Stone has transformed from a software-based service to an app-based service, and the adjustment has impacted their market share against startups like Duolingo. However, Rosetta Stone is a trusted name in schools with more than 14% of  schools licensing at least one Rosetta Stone product. This built-in usage could be beneficial for the brand during self-isolation.

Students And Subscribers Get Free And Discounted Language Lessons With Babbel App

Shutterstock_1375976735 Focused mixed race woman wearing headphones watching webinar write notes study online with online teacher, african female student learning language computer course on laptop listen translate lecture

Babbel, a language acquisition brand out of Berlin, has also seen increased business since the start of self-isolation. An article in USA Today reports, “Babbel, based in Berlin, Germany, also has offered free access to students during the pandemic and has added more than 50,000 new young users, including around 10,000 new students in the U.S.” Babbel’s approach emphasizes conversational opportunities to use newly acquired language skills, for example, “how to talk about animals in Danish” or “how to talk about your feelings in Polish.” The most recently added? “How to learn a language with your quarantine partner.” 

Babbel is highly interactive, with language acquisition guided by the needs of the learner, whether quirky, professional or out of boredom. The brand recently launched a limited-time promotion, offering access to all 14 languages they offer for up to 50% off their usual monthly fees. 

As with so many subscription-based businesses navigating the needs of consumers during quarantine, brands that adapt, engage consumers authentically and offer usable, trustworthy services are more likely to gain customers that will stick around after the pandemic is over.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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