Bitcoin and the Language Learner: A Profile of Language101.com

I stood in a little Italian café somewhere in Rome at the beginning of my junior year study abroad program. I asked the man behind the counter with a pretty good accent, “Dov’e il bagno?” The man smiled. He clearly knew I was a foreigner, but since I had asked where the bathroom was with confidence, he launched into an explanation about how the bathroom was outside the building, down an alley, and… To be honest, I don’t think I understood one word he really said.

That was when I figured out that there is more to learning a language than studying lists of vocabulary and choosing the right answer on a multiple choice grammar quiz. Since then, I have done  a lot of Japanese study and been through a ton of books and programs. It is difficult to find something that is really spectacular.

It was for this reason that I was really excited to find a business that put my love of languages together with my love of Bitcoin. Language 101 is a company offering an innovative language learning program meant to fix the problems with programs like Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. They also have a Bitcoin payment option with a nice blurb describing it as an alternative to PayPal.

What Language 101 Offers

The program was started when owner and founder Brent Van Arsdell got frustrated trying to study Russian. He felt that Rosetta Stone didn’t help him at all and Pimsleur was just too slow and boring. He says he tried a lot of other programs, but just wasn’t able to find anything that really did the trick, so he decided to make it himself. After two years in development, his product launched in 2007 and currently helps people learn six different languages with two more in development.

Language 101 is designed for beginners, where it really shines, through basic conversational. It is a sentence based, interactive program that helps students learn truly useful phrases by repeating after phrases recorded by native speakers of the language. The phrases are presented using spaced repetition which mixes learned and new material so that you both review and acquire new language all the time.

As a language teacher, I was really curious about this and tried out the tutorials for Russian and Irish. I found that as promised, the recordings a clear, the phrases are useful, and after just a few practices I had picked up enough to feel that it might be fun to start in on my third language (my second is Japanese). I really appreciated that there is an option to listen to phrases as slow speed. They had the native speakers record the slow sentences as well as conversational speed sentences and not electronically slow them down. This is really useful since you can hear all the sounds said distinctly when played slow and then said naturally, with all of the mixing of sounds that occurs at full speed.

Language 101 and Bitcoin

**Get started with Bitcoin at Coinbase.**

Brent says that he was introduced to Bitcoin by developers he had hired to work on the program when they asked to be paid in the cryptocurrency. Having figured out how to buy the coin and pay the developers, it was a simple matter to add a page to the site accepting Bitcoin.

Unfortunately, to this point, no one has opted to pay for the program with Bitcoin yet. At the moment, the Bitcoin option is buried on the site and you kind of need to look to find it, but Brent says that he is looking for ways to feature it more prominently on his site. He thinks this is would be a good thing since there are built in difficulties in getting started with Bitcoin and making payment easier would help people new to using Bitcoin. Brent mentioned that his might be good business strategy since this will show potential customers that they are, in Brent’s own words, “a flexible, friendly bunch.”

When asked about the challenges in accepting Bitcoin, Brent said that Bitcoin is like cash and presents the same kind of money management problems merchants face at the cash register: There is always the chance that the person working the till will pocket the cash rather than put it in the till. Brent also mentioned that this is a problem that could be solved by coding a payment link into his site.

When asked about taxes and money laundering, Brent observed that, “In my experience, almost everyone who makes cash transactions using national currencies makes a point of paying any taxes due, so I don’t think Bitcoin will affect tax revenues even if it becomes a much larger part of the market.  I’m also quite confident that any illicit uses of bitcoins will pale into insignificance when compared with illicit uses of regular banking system money and national currencies.”

In conclusion, Brent said, “There are a few constipated people and organizations in the world who like to scream that the sky is falling every time they see something new in the market.  My advice to them would be to relax, take some prune juice and some Metamucil and you will feel better and more regular in the morning. This is just NOT going to affect the overall movement of money in the world market very much.”

In the coming weeks I will have several more articles profiling the businesses of Bitcoin. If you have or know of a business with an interesting story to tell, please drop me a line.

09/09/2013

Please feel free to visit Brent at Language101.com and please let us know what you think below. Your comments are always appreciated!