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localese: learn a local language

A practical platform for learning and teaching dialects specific to communities.

Photo of Naim Abu Darwish
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

There are 7,097 languages alive today ( Linguistic minorities outnumber the main languages many orders of magnitude. Even if there are apps/solutions/schools for a thousand languages, we'd still be leaving out so many more. The solution isn't another app for yet another community. We need a practical platform to enable communities to teach their own language, in their own dialect. Roots of the problem. Let's look at this problem from a first-person neurological point of view. A new language is unfamiliar. A new language is something that's unfamiliar to the brain. `How would I make those sounds?``How do I ask for x?` `How would I say x?` `I can't remember all of this.` The solution is obvious if we break down the problem in that order. The solution is even more obvious with a tool built to enable us to practice those skills individually. There are other reasons but I'm trying to focus on what's immediately addressable to one's consciousness. How? We've built an app, still not usable, should be ready by mid-September. The solution is built around two skills. 1) pronunciation/listening: listen, record your attempt and compare to improve your pronunciation 2) memory recall: flashcards to assist recall. The app enables any community to collaboratively create and share material in familiar formats; image gallery, song, article. Each content type has supporting flashcards. The app has a discussion section. Learners share any material they want and point out something they didn't understand. What started as an incomplete memo is turned into a flashcard and added to the user's collection. Why flashcards? Learning a new language efficiently means remembering a large number of new phrases, different contexts a word could be used in, new grammar structures... All of this needs a link to people that can correct a learner's mistakes and a neat way to collect memos to improve recall ability. Cards are delayed according to a spaced repetition algorithm.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

There is a strong correlation between how advanced a civilization is and how mainstream it's language is. This project is most valuable to marginalized communities. Think of an African country. How difficult would it be to find good language acquisition solutions? Does that make them any less educated? What percentage of their population would you expect to be bilingual? We didn't have enough time to gather data so we are using Ushahidi to crowdmap all subscriptions as soon as we go public.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Language is the last border today. To bridge this gap, we need something any community can use. Localse is built as a platform to do just that. You don't need any special skills to use it. The only prerequisite is empathy. The content is created collaboratively in a peer to peer social network. Content that shows a community's culture is can be shared 1) via songs with lyrics, 2) photo galleries, and 3) articles, to name a few, but this is what ready. Every user group collects its content.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

People moving into a new society are in most need of showing their full skills. To preserve their dignity, they need to be able to fully express themselves and be able to achieve their full potential If no effort is made to integrate marginalized communities they will continue to be just that other and unfamiliar. For a better dose of empathy, check out this cute little clover mite (Bryobia praetiosa) trying to cross a line of blue ink on a white paper. It is suddenly put in a foreign environment and everything is so strange and every time he comes up to a wall, well, a line of blue ink in this case, it freaks out. After a few sniffs, the mite knows this isn't dangerous. We are very different from clover mites but we also act the same when we are put in a new environment. The human in a foreign environment is very restricted with his limited language skills. localese makes this new language familiar, a safe space to practice, rather than study.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

localese is a platform for communities to teach their language. Yes, I wrote that again. I'm trying to stress that there are plenty of cases where it's more important for individuals to learn a particular dialect in a particular context with a particular group. For cultral integration and Intercultural couples, 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants and refugees, migrant workers. Each of these groups has all the motivation and willing partners to learn a new language but it's not very clear how to do that. localese doesn't magically teach it's users a new language. There's work that has to be done to collect material and prepare it for language learning purposes. Contributors use the wiki aspect of the app to build whatever material the learners need. localese just makes the whole process simple.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

I, Naim, always had a problem with new languages. I couldn't learn French in high school. Somehow, I end up in China and was trained to teach English! Part of the deal with the language training school I worked at, was that I would also learn Chinese. After 2 years I started to think `if I can do this, anyone can`. I poured my energy into making that simple so more people can also think the same. I, Hussien, had one English language lesson per week in school. I studied maths and sciences in Arabic. I joined Berlitz for 5 months because I knew English would be important for my further education and career development. then I started university even though I consider my self a good student in math and sciences I couldn't keep up with classes in English, even after university I still have a problem expressing my self trying had to help in the forum a such as, learning English is not a problem anymore even though of course there is room to improve, I caught the tail of the thread.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Even if you consider the poorest communities on the move, many of them have lost their identification, clothes and everything they once owned. They don't have an office or can't go to school, but they do have smartphones. Many of them are highly skilled professionals in their home country but lack the language skills to do what they did back home. We've built localese around such use cases.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Digital content that expresses a community's culture and identity is abundant. But very little is accessible for language learners. localese enables a peer to peer network to collaboratively turn any material into a language lesson. This flexibility is especially important for the self-learner that doesn't have the luxury of joining a university.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

IndyAct: Since 2006 IndyACT has quickly become the number1 organization that allows independent activists to operate to their full potential. They will provide us financial advice to ensure our financial transparency and accountability. DOT : Digital Opportunity trust. I, Naim, have previously worked for them as a facilitator to help introduce ICT tools to public schools. AVSI - AVSI Foundation, is an international non-profit,non-governmental organization ( NGO ) founded in Italy in 1972. It is present in Lebanon since 1996, and has implemented more than 50 projects divided between agriculture and water, educational, humanitarian and emergencies. War child Holland - No child should be part of war. Ever. Ana Aqraa - Ana Aqra Association targets the educational, cultural and psychosocial needs of underprivileged children of Lebanese public schools and their communities. Save The Children - Unicef - These are a few communities that have mission statements we align with ours.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name


Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

I, Hussien, was doing well in school. Back home, before I had to fled the Syrian civil war, my school followed a curriculum that enabled me to be ready to continue my education in university and achieve my full potential. Moving to Lebanon, sudddenly everything I wanted to learn was in English. It didn't matter how well I did back in school or how motivated I am to learn a particular subject now. Even in Maths, I felt I have to go back to gradeschool to catch up. localese as a company will be a social enterprize. The platform will create jobs for more freelance teachers and extra income sources by monetizing popular content, like folk stories. Media, photos and videos can be cartoonified to anonymize the original creators. This way we can use their content with larger groups. (via a command line image manipulation utility)

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are individuals who are part of an informal group or collective

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State


1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Eva Khademi

I love this idea! I am an English and Farsi native speaker learning the Levantine Arabic dialect here in the United States. I find it very difficult to find materials to help me in the learning process online. All I have is one textbook, and I have only found a couple videos on Youtube. I truly understand the problem you are trying to address. I am a passionate language learner and am interested in this idea. Let me know if I can be of any help! localese: learn a local language