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This startup has created a new learning platform for native African languages.

I’m old enough to remember buying cassette tapes to learn a new language. Today, app-based platforms like Duolingo and Babbel are providing new digital experiences for language learning and have proven to be very popular with consumers. Way better than cassette tapes, even for an old guy like me.

Meanwhile, an entrepreneur from Kenya has recently built a new language learning platform for a very specific market: parents who want their kids to learn and be connected to the family’s native African language.

The startup is called Tayari.live, and the founder, Jacqueline Tsuma, is precisely the target market for her own new venture. After growing up in Kenya, over the past 16 years she’s lived in 3 countries on 2 continents starting in Germany (where she and her husband had two kids), then Zimbabwe and now they are living in Abuja, Nigeria. As a result of the language programs in their international schools, her kids speak fluent French, Spanish and English, but Jacqueline wants them to be connected with Swahili, her mother tongue.

13 years later there are still no programs that do African languages justice,” says Jacqueline, “and I want to change that. For myself and other parents like me. And make it easier, not harder, using the platforms that kids are already using.”

Tayari.live is Duolingo meets Disney+ for native languages. The Tayari.live platform features on-demand video lessons plus live coaching, and they even run physical immersion camps for kids. The company has started with Swahili (the language of Eastern Africa and the Great Lakes, spoken by an estimated 200 million people), and Jacqueline plans to add Yoruba, Shona, Twi, Hausa, and Zulu as they move forward. The African diaspora is huge (over 150 million abroad and another quarter of a billion living in Africa), so the potential market is quite large.

We have parents from all over Africa writing us to ask when we are launching Twi, Tswana, Benga,” says Jacqueline, “The need has never been more evident than now.”

Since the initial product is targeted at kids and families, it is designed to be fun and engaging for children, runs on mobile phones and tablets, and supports different learning modalities. With the availability of Web 3.0 technologies, they plan to roll out Learn-to-earn using cryptocurrency and gamification this summer, and launch a teachers marketplace after that to harness the rich cultural heritage on the continent on this mission.

All over the world today, technology platforms are being used to reach new populations in new ways. Tayari.live is a wonderful example, providing a new way for parents of the African diaspora to help their children be better connected to their heritage.

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Bret Waters

Bret Waters

Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, run the 4thly Startup Accelerator, and coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center. Also, I love fish tacos.