University startup teaches languages in a unique way


Yangwentao(Ryan) Fang

Joseph Milla, left, and Thomas Reese developed a language learning Web application that takes various words on websites and changes some of them to a language of the visitor’s choice.

By Chris Reinhart

FlipWord, a University startup, has a new approach to language learning. The company created a Web browser extension that takes various words on websites and changes some of them to a language of the visitor’s choice.

“FlipWord works by intelligently picking certain words out of a webpage and ‘flips’ them to the language that you’re trying to learn,” said Joseph Milla, a co-founder of FlipWord, via email. “It doesn’t change your browsing habits or require you to exert a huge amount of effort. It seamlessly teaches you a new language as you spend time on the internet.”

The user can then use context clues to determine the meaning of the foreign words. If he or she can’t figure it out, FlipWord can still tell the user what the word means. FlipWord can also keep users up to date with other languages they already know. By integrating that language into everyday reading, the user can remain up to speed with minimal effort.

FlipWord is one of 13 startup companies participating in the Entrepreneurship at Illinois iVenture Accelerator.

“Working with other entrepreneurs in the program has really helped us learn and progress,” Milla said. “Unlike any other accelerators, this program is built specifically for students, and the whole program revolves around that. Having people around you with the same background and same problems has made the learning process so much easier.”

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    Thomas Reese, FlipWord’s co-founder, said the program has helped the company get to the point it’s at now. Reese said FlipWord is almost a finished product, and they hope to release it to the public soon.

    “The original version kept getting better and more functional with more features, and has been completely redesigned over the past couple of weeks,” Reese said. “It’s exactly what you want and not anything more.”

    FlipWord is designed to be a useful tool for people at any level of language learning. If someone has no background in the language, it can help them get started, and if they have a solid understanding, it can help them become even better.

    “It’s like taking a class over a semester, but instead of sitting there for an hour you’re just doing it for a couple of seconds every day,” Reese said.

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