David de Jager
David de Jager, CEO, Perfectly Spoken, has always had the vision to see how the language learning landscape would change. Following on from the market disruption machine learning apps caused by suddenly providing opportunities for everyone to learn a language on any device, the limitations of a classroom environment in an increasingly connected world also became clear – David foresaw the true future of language learning lay in offering a blended learning approach, keeping teachers at the heart of the learning experience but at the same time adopting advances in the latest technology.
Then tenacity proved vital for David. Any business is difficult to build and sustain, and great tenacity was needed in the early days as the company fought to carve a niche in what is a huge but hugely fragmented market, where certain key players with deep pockets have dominated, and investors initially proved reluctant to invest in an Edtech company that prides itself on embracing the latest technological developments while at the same time espousing the value of a traditional teaching approach.
Perfectly Spoken was born out of many years of David’s experience in different roles in English Language Teaching, from the classroom through to the boardroom as the founder of Cambridge School, Barcelona, one of the most successful language centers in Catalunya, and through experimenting (and often failing) with hybrid learning approaches which learners struggled to accept and technology was not capable of delivering.
“My frustration was always twofold: why did students need to be constrained to a rigid learning environment and why was access to quality English language teachers available only to such a tiny minority of students who can afford the tuition fees charged by the best language institutions?” he explains.
“You may be surprised that there are approximately 2 billion learners of English across the globe and about 80% of them resort to self-study methods. This is where I saw our opportunity.” To offer an alternative to the classroom for those who want it while also offering free and affordable access to quality English language training to all students across the globe and always with expert teachers at the heart of the learning experience. “Today and every day, students in every country of the world study thousands of complete lessons with us on all devices.”
The Perfectly Spoken offer is designed to be as comprehensive as possible Netflix of English language learning- which is not a bad comparison. As part of that offer, while most students are happy to learn and improve their general English, many need to respond to the growing need to improve their English in their professional life to study abroad or migrate to English-speaking countries. For this, students need to demonstrate proficiency in English in tests such as IELTS – over 3 million students took this globally recognized test of English proficiency last year. Perfectly Spoken provides proprietary courses to help students prepare for these exams. “Our students’ advantage is that all courses are accessible as part of our subscription model, so the fact that students don’t have to buy premium courses independently, underscores our message of affordability.”
“I think our uniqueness goes beyond the specialist courses we design and create inhouse. We are also proud of the licensing agreement that we have with global news agency, Reuters. This helps us create a truly unique learning experience ideal for learners of Business English and for students preparing for official exams,” explains David.
Perfectly Spoken offers a free plan to learn English firstly, to drive sign-ups, and encourage conversion to one of their two subscription plans. However, with all the free learning content already available on the market, they knew their free offer had to be exceptional, and it is. The second reason was their genuine desire to help all students around the world improve their English. This goes to the soul of Perfectly Spoken. “In today’s global economy English is increasingly a key criterion in determining employability and any difference we can make-and we do-must be positive,” explains David. “We know from experience that simply being able to understand basic instructions in English can be the difference of a job offer or not. That’s how transformative it can be.”
Perfectly Spoken gets numerous requests from NGOs to collaborate; in one particular instance, they were approached by an organization seeking to help a highly educated young refugee from Iraq who had been granted asylum in the UK; he had previously been pursuing a career in medicine but now was also responsible for three siblings and his recently widowed mother. Agencies in the UK were supporting him in his quest to gain admission to a UK university. “What we were able to do was to accelerate the progress of a highly talented and committed individual to guarantee a successful outcome,” shares the steadfast leader.In the near future, Perfectly Spoken customers will enjoy continued access to their ongoing program of creating and releasing new specialist courses and additional learning practice activities each month, the release of an enhanced learning experience for all as they implement improvements to the user interface and are looking forward to offering students the ability to create and follow their personalized learning plans which will further support their goal of creating autonomous learners. “In the longer term we have ambitious plans to introduce a range of AI based services, (from voice recognition to writing correction) which will further complement but never supplant the work of our teachers. We are also exploring exciting opportunities to work with partners to create a range of accredited online examinations for students and innovative teacher training courses,” elucidates David.