Startup Profile: Bilingüe
A second language should be seen as an asset. At least that is what Emely Ramirez, 2021 Blackstone LaunchPad Summer Fellow and Founder of language learning app Bilingue, believes. Bilingüe gamifies language learning by pairing an interactive app with tangible study materials to help children learn, retain, and enjoy speaking their family’s native language.
Ramirez, whose parents are both from the Dominican Republic, grew up speaking both English and Spanish at home. As she got older, however, she realized that not all native speakers in the Latinx community are as lucky as her to be truly bilingual. Many families end up losing their native language because it is not spoken in the home. And in our school system, children are often encouraged to stop speaking their native language to focus on an all-English curriculum.
As Ramirez points out, “Since your academics in elementary, middle, and high school are entirely in English, you are naturally going to gravitate to English over your native language unless it is being reinforced in your home or you have other resources to learn and use it.”
In hopes of increasing the number of multi-language households in the U.S. and helping Latinx families retain their native languages, she launched Bilingüe to help children learn both English and Spanish.
Before she started Bilingüe, Ramirez identified a void in the language learning app market: a lot of language learning is geared towards adults, and many of the apps lack child-friendly lesson plans. She also noticed that no one was focused on helping native speakers retain their language. With guidance from the Blackstone LaunchPad at her Temple University campus, Ramiez took these findings and began mapping a way to solve these problems for the Latinx community via an app. Her goal was to incorporate as many variances of words within the app so as not to leave anyone out. With this keen understanding of her userbase, she quickly got to work, creating a wireframe for how Bilingüe would look and operate.
Work on Bilingüe has progressed quickly, thanks in part to Ramirez being no stranger to learning new languages. She currently resides in Germany, where her spouse is on active military duty. Seeing how other cultures handle language has reinforced her belief that learning a new language during childhood is important. When she goes to the store, for example, the likelihood that someone speaks both German and English or German and Spanish is high, and puts her mind at ease that she will always be able to communicate with someone in one of her native tongues.
This broad adoption of bilingual households has yet to happen here in the United States, which is why Ramirez sees an opportunity, “This is one of the reasons I started to increase my efforts to get this startup off the ground, because I’ve experienced so many different countries, and I’ve learned that language is an asset that we really need to emphasize to our children, especially in the States and especially among Latinx individuals.”
To accomplish her mission, Ramierez built Bilingüe to appeal to both parents and children alike. Leaning on studies that demonstrated the benefits of play-based learning in childhood education, she incorporated tangible game pieces for children to make the app come to life off the screen and onto the table. For the parents, her app incorporates progress reports to indicate that children are retaining the information and improving their fluency.
Ramirez credits Temple University with instilling her entrepreneurial spirit. Both Temple’s LaunchPad and Fox School of Business’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute helped her refine Bilingüe: “They really encouraged students to be entrepreneurial, bring their ideas to the table and make them a reality.”
Julie Stapleton Carroll, Temple’s Blackstone LaunchPad Campus Director, notes that Ramirez has always done a great job seeking out the resources she needs for her business: “Emely is a model innovator and typical ‘roll your sleeves up and get it done’ Temple Owl. She identified the solution to the problem of second-language acquisition for the youngest learner and set out to get the resources she needed to launch her idea – including Blackstone LaunchPad.”
To help with the next phase of Bilingüe’s growth, Ramierz joined the Summer 2021 Cohort of the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship, powered by Future Founders. Offering hands-on learning and development through a variety of interactive workshops, plus mentoring, goal accountability, and financial support, the Fellowship is providing Ramierez with the tools she needs to achieve her dream of a truly bilingual Latinx community.
And that’s a future that looks bueno para todos.