If there’s one thing people, especially professionals, love and want to do more of, it’s learning languages.
Knowing a language opens doors to countless personal, and professional opportunities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a position which seemed like a dream job just to read that one of the prerequisites was knowing a language I don’t know the first thing about.
Well, it seems that someone’s picked up on that. Meet CoffeeStrap, a startup still in its beta stage, dedicated to promoting cross-linguistic exchange. Set up as somewhat of a social media platform, where users create profiles with their own pictures, and list what their primary language is, along with languages they want to learn, the site works as a forum for users to connect with one another via an online chat/workstream.
Upon creating a profile you’re directed to the main board of the site which features profiles from other users around the world. The premise is that you send a message to any one of the members who speak the language you’re looking to learn (and vice versa), and start communicating with them through the site. If all goes well, you’ll be well on your way towards not being the obnoxious tourist no one likes the next time you visit Paris.
Near endless really. CoffeeStrap bases itself on a human need comparable to water, communication. As mentioned earlier, the number of people looking to learn new languages is enormous, and when combined with the site’s casual nature, and personable setup for its customers, you have the opportunity to broaden your linguistic horizons at the touch of a button.
If developed properly, CoffeeStrap could indeed have opened a pandora’s box of language education. Not to mention that the connections a person might develop with their ‘teachers’ can lead to both personal, and business network development, something especially vital to young professionals.
The same easy going structure that might prove beneficial for the tasks listed above could be the company’s downfall as well.
Upon using the site, its most striking aspect is its lack of structure. Now, granted they’re likely aiming for a decentralized growth plan, the fact that after creating a profile a user’s likely first question is “so now what?” leaves something to be desired. It also means that the company is left vulnerable to a significant percentage of its members becoming demotivated quickly, and ultimately leaving.
There’s no clear understanding of how exactly you’re supposed to develop further knowledge of a language, and since most of the site’s profiles belong to individuals more looking to learn themselves than to teach then there might well be a lack of “teachers” available.
Furthermore, CoffeeStrap doesn’t seem to be able to convince users why they should use the site as even a complement to more structured language courses. It seems quite possible that the site could descend into one of the endless groups one finds on Linkedin, where professionals are more eager to further their own ambitions than to actually build lasting relationships.
Overall, the company has the benefit of working on a sound concept. People like learning languages, and they also like connecting with other individuals from around the world. It broadens their horizons, and can offer an opportunity to further their linguistic capabilities.
However, future growth could well be stunted unless company leadership seeks to clarify the site’s purpose, and how its users can achieve their goals through this platform.