The Scoop: BlaBla is a language learning app that has harnessed the power of video lessons to help users learn English from native speakers, no matter where in the world they are. The app looks like a social network but acts like an English tutor, and its engaging content helps people of all ages pick up a second language. If you’re interested in building relationships across cultures and borders, you can start by downloading BlaBla and adding your voice to its diverse learning collective.
Learning another language can be difficult if you don’t know a native speaker who can help you practice your dialect, word order, and slang. However, not everyone can afford to hire a tutor or squeeze English lessons into their busy schedule.
Fortunately, Chinese speakers now have a more convenient way to create a dynamic relationship with native English speakers. Because, of course, there’s an app for that!
BlaBla allows students to learn from native speakers without paying expensive tutoring fees. The app shares real-life videos made by native speakers, and subscribed users can watch the lessons and take pop quizzes in their free time.
The BlaBla app doesn’t use games or gimmicks to teach English as a second language. Instead, the app provides a networking forum where native English speakers can post educational videos. ESL (English as a second language) learners watch the videos on their time and at their pace.
The app’s AI-driven tools offer a combination of virtual tutoring and entertainment to foster a more efficient and engaging learning experience.
BlaBla Founder and CEO Angelo K. Huang has been focused on this issue for years and sees enormous growth opportunity for a language learning app with a social media twist. He predicted the digital English language learning market in the Asia-Pacific region will be worth $5.9 billion by 2027.
“We want to make tutoring more socialized,” he said. “By using social media, you interact with a native speaker’s content in more interesting ways.”
BlaBla is a graduate of the Y Combinator startup accelerator program and is currently part of Telefónica’s Wayra X, which is a digital innovation hub. With the help of seed money and tech partnerships, the BlaBla team is looking to hyper-scale its product and reach millions of users worldwide.
Over 10,000 Video Lessons at the App User’s Fingertips
BlaBla publishes and promotes videos created by native-English speakers to help Chinese speakers learn a new language in a fun, engaging, and mobile way. The app’s social media setup has sparked interest across generations, but it is particularly popular among Gen Z.
Within its first year, BlaBla attracted over 10,000 weekly active users and saw 30% month-over-month growth among paid customers. About 1 in 3 of the app’s paid customers subscribe to the quarterly or yearly plan.
As of now, BlaBla is primarily used by Chinese speakers who want to learn English. Over 90% of BlaBla subscribers are in China, and the rest are Chinese expats. In the coming year, Angelo said he plans to grow the app’s membership in Southeast Asia and expand its native speakers network to include both English speakers and Spanish speakers.
“Our tool is adaptable for different cultures and backgrounds,” he said. “We have opportunities for lateral growth from people speaking different languages, and vertical growth to younger and older age groups.”
BlaBla is designed to lower the cost and increase the convenience of learning a second language. Its affordable subscriptions start at $6 per user per month, and every subscription includes access to over 10,000 video lessons, 500 video series, and unlimited speaking practices.
Rather than hiring an expensive tutor, students can download BlaBla to explore unique video content and gain familiarity with the native speaker’s culture and language at the same time. The app has taken the language learning experience out of the classroom and created a more engaging space for storytelling, joking around, and building relationships.
BlaBla also includes language learning quizzes, speaking contests, and learning notes to facilitate the educational process.
“BlaBla’s mission is to democratize language learning for everyone worldwide,” Angelo said. “We don’t think that learning English — a crucial skill in this day and age — should be limited to those who can afford it.”
Expanding to Add More Features & Partner With Influencers
BlaBla has been dubbed “TikTok for language learners” because it focuses on short videos to convey grammar tips, vocabulary lessons, and other educational content. All video creators are native speakers who have been trained as ESL teachers.
The app uses AI technology to personalize each user experience, with speech recognition to assess the user’s speaking practice and video recommendation systems. Videos are divided into three levels — basic, intermediate, and advanced. Some videos are part of a video series following a particular topic, and some are stand-alone lessons with an entertaining twist.
“Language learners have learned a ton from online tutoring experience in the past, and we’re about to unlock a new economy to consume bite-size content for education,” Angelo said. “Our next step is to expand our current operation.”
As a fast-growing startup, BlaBla has taken the tech world by storm. Its team members are experienced at using technology to engage individuals and create new relationships, and they are eager to grow toward the future of language learning.
In the coming year, BlaBla will expand in several meaningful ways. First, the team wants to sponsor seasonal content from creators who are well-known on TikTok and YouTube. Adding more robust content will add to the app’s value and appeal to users. The next step is to spread the word and market to language learners around the world, starting in Southeast Asia.
The BlaBla app will also add some new social features to strengthen the relationship between people learning online. The Pair Speaking feature launched in January 2021 to facilitate social learning within the app. It fosters around 3,600 minutes of meeting time (or 1,800 successful pairings) per day.
“Content is the key,” Angelo said. “We discovered that users really prefer more lifelike content for their speaking practices.”
Fostering Live Interactions Between Leaders & Learners
The BlaBla app connects people around the world through a love of language. The app has not only facilitated learning English as a second language — it has facilitated cross-cultural friendships and relationships.
People from a variety of backgrounds can come together on BlaBla for the purpose of learning and chatting. It’s an engaging platform driven by ESL learners and tutors.
“Our next step is to bring native speakers to the spotlight with an audio chat room,” Angelo said. “We believe the real-time audio chat room can be a game-changer for language learning.”
The BlaBla chat room will call on native speakers to become ESL teachers and lead conversations in a friendly and casual environment. This tool has the potential to lower language barriers and create relationships across different cultures and countries.
BlaBla relies on the power of live engagements and online communities to stimulate interest in learning English as a second language. The app has won over many Chinese students who want to converse with and be tutored by a native English speaker.
Bruno Yu is a BlaBla yearly subscriber who said he hopes to speak English as well as a native one day. “I want to expose myself to more content created by native speakers,” he said. “[BlaBla is] richer in content and more suitable for young people.”
Another subscriber named Yilan said she liked that BlaBla was flexible enough to work with her schedule and affordable enough to work within her budget. “I love the short video format so I can learn a few lessons here and there with flexible schedules. “It is cost-effective. Even free video series are great for learning.”
BlaBla Offers Global Citizens a Way to Connect & Chat
The BlaBla team has put in a ton of elbow grease to make a language learning app work within a social networking framework. And they’re not nearly done. The app continues growing to push boundaries, expand markets, and usher in a new era of interconnectivity.
Looking to the future, Angelo said he sees a lot of benefit to the way BlaBla engages users and invites them to learn from native speaker content. It’s a natural extension of social media, and a tool that will most certainly be important for future generations navigating international and cross-cultural relationships.
“I don’t think any country can be an island anymore. We’re seeing now the world is more and more a globalized society,” Angelo said. “That’s becoming true for the human race. And it will never go back.”