Debbie Yu
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Rosetta Stone - Language Exchange

Language Exchange

Creating a new service for Rosetta Stone


There are millions of students studying a new language. In every city, every school, at every level of institution, language is being taught. There is a disconnect in the education system between textbook learning and practical application of language through speaking. Conversation is the most important aspect of learning a language, however, students do not get the opportunity to put theory into practice in classrooms all over the world.



example 1

English-language education in Japan began as early as 1600 with the initial contacts between the Japanese and Europeans. Almost all students graduating high school in Japan have had several years of English language education; however, many still do not have fluent English conversation abilities.


example 2

Ontario students study FSL from Grades 4 to 8. But most Canadians live in a cultural space that remains resolutely unilingual, shaped by an Anglo-American view of language.



Opportunity and resources are wasted where users are taught a language but they fail to pick it up in their adulthood. Being able to be fluent in many languages gives more people the opportunity to become more global minded, to travel freely, open up to work and educational opportunities, and participate in more conversations around the world.

There is a clear recognition that conversational practice is important to put language theory to use.
To introduce this concept early on in learning can: 

1. Encourage interest in the language itself
2. Give students more incentive to master the language
3. Gauge what aspect of learning they need to improve on

Not enough schools are able to provide practical application of conversational language with native speakers. People who seriously want to improve language skills are conducting language exchange meetups all over the world through Facebook groups,, and various websites. There is an opportunity to build a brand presence in a space that specifically addresses a need for language exchange, and to integrate accessible language exchange into the learning space for students.




  • Beginners studying a language.
  • Demographics: teenagers & young adults
  • Language students
  • Working professionals 
  • Worldwide

A language student

  • Very interested in mastering the language
  • Has patience to study intensively from the basics
  • Has classmates of similar goals, interests, and schedules
  • Doesn't want to pay for casual conversational exchange, but might pay for tutor for exam prep



  • Italian students studying English in Canada. 
  • Chinese students studying Japanese in Japan. 
  • University students studying Japanese in Toronto.
  • High school students studying a second or third language.

A working professional living and working in a new country

  • Is interested in conversation for the workplace
  • Needs to be able to conduct high level conversation and utilize specific terminology in a professional environment
  • Wants to be able to conduct themselves in daily life without difficulty
  • Does not have as much interest in the language itself, less patience
  • Has other important professional goals
  • Could feel isolated in a new environment, with language barrier


  • Honda Canada Employees working at the Honda plant in Japan to help coordinate processes between plants.
  • Bob Harris in the movie, Lost in Translation.

Possible solutions


Build an app for learners, who don’t have access to fluent conversation partners, find native speakers as tutors. This creates an opportunity to source income from commission.


Build an app for learners, who don’t want to spend money in practicing conversation, find and organize community events/partners. This creates an opportunity to build brand presence in an existing space (free language exchange events).


Build an app for learners, to connect one native speaker to another native speaker, whom are learning each other’s respective languages. This app connects users together for digital meetings, and works by ensuring each learner’s respective languages are being conducted in for equal, fixed amounts of time. Opportunity lies in being able to charge a small fee to users who do not want to invest time teaching their own languages.


Solution C is chosen because:


  • Possible to create a voice-app version.
  • Being an early adopter of voice technology gives early access to unsaturated growing market.


  • Possible to facilitate a great environment for language exchange.
  • Possible to give easy access to a language exchange partner.
  • Possible to connect anytime, anywhere.



The goal with initial research is to reach an understanding with the potential customer base. 

It was important to find a deep connection, to find out why they are learning a new language, and how important it is to them. At this stage, it isn’t important how ambitious their goal in mastering the language- but to understand what they want to achieve through the acquirement of language skills. I want to unveil aspirations and dreams and how I might be able to build a service to assist in their pursuit.


I also wanted to find out frustrations people might be having now that are unaddressed with current services. To make language exchange better, we needed to discover why might a user decide to skip a language session. I wanted to find out if this was due to scheduling and time issues, or maybe they just weren’t connecting with their partners. If people had more control over who they could pair up with, will that affect their decision to commit regularly to engaging in language exchange?


Since language exchange is a very social activity, I also surveyed to find out how people like to naturally connect with people. I asked what products help them connect to strangers with similar goals, to see what is already working, and what might need improving. 

One example, Tinder is very successful- where you can only match with someone who chooses you back. In language exchange, many instances, you will not be able to guage if a session/ partner is successful until after one encounter. How might we assist in making sure people can connect with who they want, and to quickly disengage from people they do not want to interact with?

What anxieties exist if they are not happy with their match? Understanding reasons why one might not be happy with a match could help me create a service that helps solve this problem.



Setting up to let partners find you

Setting up to let partners find you

Finding a partner

Finding a partner

Prototype coming soon...