Responding to students' feedback, Ypsi teacher creates foreign language learning app

Foreign language instructor Keith Phillips has heard the same concern from hundreds of his students throughout the years: they feel like they can't speak the language they've learned once they're among native speakers.


As a solution to this issue, Ypsilanti resident Phillips created realLINGUA, a language-learning web app with a unique approach. The program uses real, colloquial conversations between native speakers for users to listen to and learn from.


Phillips compares his patent-pending approach to a parent's method of teaching a child to speak. Users can listen to words and watch a visual representation of the pronunciation by a native speaker. Then, users can record their own pronunciation to compare to the native speaker's recording.


"Almost all people are good at learning languages because we learned our native language with no other experience in language learning," Phillips says. "(realLINGUA) takes the way a parent would teach a child their first language by speaking it to them, correcting like a parent, and we've put it into an adult-learning model."


Language learning is traditionally done from a dictionary or grammar-based approach. In a classroom, an instructor teaches how to conjugate verbs and has students memorize basic vocabulary words. Other language learning programs like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo take a similar approach, Phillips says.


The conversations used in the realLINGUA program have grammar lessons built upon them, but Phillips says the focus is on conversation first and grammar later.


"We're trying to achieve full immersion that's the best way to learn a language but it's a time and money issue," Philips says. "Duolingo and Rosetta Stone take a fair amount of time. They're not getting you to speak the real stuff as quickly as you could. We're offering a faster and more efficient way to learn."


Currently, realLINGUA offers two lessons of realFRENCH. Phillips says Spanish, English, and more French lessons are coming soon. Lessons are currently free as the company builds awareness and seeks customer feedback.


Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at


Photos courtesy of realLINGUA.

Signup for Email Alerts