Then the pair, who met while working for the same London tech company, went to a business meeting in France and couldn’t understand a word.
It was an epic fail that propelled them to quit their jobs and set up a language learning company which was all about speaking and listening skills.
The company was one of the first to pioneer games as a route to learning. Uniquely, it also developed a template so its products could be used by English and non-English speakers alike.
And after years of experimenting and learning from past mistakes - like originally calling the company EuroTalk because of its earlier European focus - uTalk is now helping people worldwide learn any of 140+ languages.
Richard still heads up the company today and he and Andrew can now speak French!
Scientists, researchers and linguists all pooled their expertise to help make uTalk. Here’s why it works:
Linking a word to an image creates a stronger memory than using words alone – so each word or phrase you hear on uTalk is represented by a picture. It’s called dual-coding because it uses both sides of the brain: the left which controls language and the right which handles visual information.
Voice recognition technology is good but it’s still not as good as the human ear. That’s why users are asked to judge for themselves how their pronunciation compares with a native speaker's as part of two uTalk games.
Repeating new information boosts your memory so words you want to learn pop up in different games and words you struggle with are identified by intelligent software and crop up more often.
uTalk’s Practice section introduces new words into your short-term memory while its other five games, which get progressively more challenging, are aimed at getting them into your long-term memory. The games are designed to be short but hard enough that you are unlikely to get full marks first time – giving you time to stop, refresh and come back to a topic later on. That’s because spaced repetition does more for your memory than cramming.
uTalk makes learning fun and that releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine into our bloodstream which boosts motivation and aids recall. So keep up the good work - play the games, score points and enjoy!
More than 1,000 native speakers have visited uTalk’s studio to record 140+ languages in the last 15 years with more being added all the time.
We’ve also recorded in a desert and in far-flung islands - if we have to go the extra mile we will.
Every language tells us something about a people and a culture. Mainstream, minority and especially endangered languages – we love them all!
We hope we’ve got the language you want. If not, please get in touch especially if you can put us in contact with native speakers. We’re always looking for communities to represent their language on our app at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you work for a non-government organisation doing peace-keeping or humanitarian work, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com, some of the topics on the uTalk app are specifically designed for you.
We have made lots of friends through our work with languages. Click below to see the story of some of the people whose work we admire and support: