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Teaching languages to friends

I started working on Kommit in March 2020, and now that it's March 2021 I find myself reflecting on what has happened in the past year.

The app was conceived as a way to study languages orally rather than visually, hearing words and phrases rather than 'looking at them' on a screen, because to me this more closely represents what happens while speaking. Unlike many previous projects, I didn't stop at personal utility — I also imagined using it to share my accumulated language experience with others. At the same time, I was in Brazil when COVID-19 was starting to have global impacts and taking away my primary income source, so I had an idea to help Brazilians learn English because there is demand. My proposition was as follows:

This was way less popular than I imagined it would be. Most students faded out after a few weeks and I'm not really sure why. Maybe it was the business model (pay what you want after three weeks), maybe the app wasn't sexy (black and white, crude prototype-y interface, no gamification), maybe the moment was difficult (pandemic, zoom overload, hardship, lack of energy/space/motivation). In any case, I regret nothing and gained a lot of valuable experience through this endeavour. In total I worked with about 20 people over a period of a few months.

More interesting was what happened when I tried it for fun with some friends:

What they all have in common is that I told them from the start they would not need to pay for it, and that I would do it as fellowship, not as commerce. I'm very proud of their progress—our progress—and it warms my heart to know that we worked together to create these new possibilities. There is a lot of richness in these exchanges: we can both learn and teach and share and improve simultaneously, and this is beautifully, sublimely human.