Effective communication is one of the most essential tools for any organization or companies to function smoothly as well as to increase productivity. However, with individuals from different corners of the world entering workforce everyday it becomes a challenge for organizations to succeed in the said area.
Well, understanding and recognizing that English is increasingly becoming the global language, everywhere, here is one startup working to help non-native English speakers – and the businesses that employ them – change their lives and careers by improving their pronunciation and English communication skills.
Bellevue-based English-learning startup Blue Canoe believes ‘Good pronunciation is good business.’ With this belief, the startup provides tools to learners and partners with English training organization to empower employees to speak English more clearly. But what is even more interesting? The startup uses artificial intelligence and speech recognition to increase business productivity by helping non-native English speaking employees communicate clearly with colleagues and customers.
So how Blue Canoe helps non-native English speakers speak English more clearly?
English is a stress-based language, said Blue Canoe’s CEO and co-founder Sarah Daniels. “If someone is not proactively thinking about stress… we, in our system, can teach them where it is and how to do it.”
To help users learn where to place the correct stress on syllables in real time, Blue Canoe digitized a 20-year-old brain-based methodology called Color Vowel System, which is used by over 1,000,000 people around the world to help with their English pronunciation. Its mobile app directs the users to repeat sentence prompts and record them. Speech-recognition technology then analyzes the recordings and uses machine-learning models to point out the differences. When users spend 10 minutes per day on the app, personalized feedback from an artificially intelligent teacher informs learners precisely how they mispronounced words.
Blue Canoe’s system works by overcoming the brain’s resistance to perceiving new language sounds by using other ‘muscles’ in the brain to help. The startup makes it fun to practice, detect the errors that matter, and provide personalized brain-friendly tips for quick progress.
The startup has raised $2.5 million in seed funding early last month led by Tsingyuan Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and others. The funding came after it won $500,000 at Qualcomm’s inaugural Female Founders Summit pitch competition held in San Francisco. The company plans to use the funds to expand its services in East Asia. Meanwhile, the recent seed round has brought the total raised by the company to $3.9 million.
Commenting on the funding, Quinn Li, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Qualcomm Ventures, said Blue Canoe’s traction with customers in Fortune 500 companies and Daniels’ entrepreneurial skills made the startup an easy pick.
Blue Canoe has since last year been selling its services to multinational companies in the professional services and tech sectors that provide the app to their employees. English-teaching companies in Japan, China and the US also offer the app to clients for additional training.