Choose Your Language

The Recipe Behind Our Growth and Why We Continue to Add New Languages

Peter here again. Today I want to share with you something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time. It’s an honest look into why we do what we do here at Thanks for stopping by to read!

Financial Freedom through Teaching Bulgarian

On July 2nd 2012, our team launched a Bulgarian language learning website:! We worked just as hard, just as long and put in just as much passion on this language site as we did all of our previous websites!

Do we expect a financial windfall now that Bulgarian is live?

The Harsh Business Reality

No. In fact, early indications are that this language will not return our investment for a long, long time. If ever. Growth projections are currently angled at about 1 degree.

The plot thickens. We didn’t just launch 1 niche language on July 2. Our team actually launched 6 new language learning websites. And much like Bulgarian, we worked very hard to bring a good product to market.

But will we turn a profit on these languages?

Good question! We’re not sure quite yet. Each language is unique and the market is always changing, but some are definitely more profitable than others.

 The Danger for Some Languages is that the Economics Don’t Make Sense

I remember speaking with a business mentor. He is beyond successful and one of the savviest business people I have personal contact with.

We went over our bottom-line numbers language by language. He looked at them, and then drew a line through all of the unprofitable languages and circled the profitable languages.

“Abandon these,” he said, pointing to the crossed-out languages.

“Focus on these,” he said, pointing to the circled languages.

Needless to say, there weren’t many circled languages. And the sad part about the situation for many niche languages, is that he was right. It’s not profitable or practical to take on these languages. It’s a better business decision to invest in the bigger, more profitable languages.

Without investment, innovation in language learning material slows. Other, more profitable, languages get more investment. More competition leads to better and more widespread tools, and the number of students increases.

In the end, we didn’t take my friend’s sound business advice, but instead produced content for several unprofitable languages and continue to do so.

So Why On Earth Invest in Small Niche Languages that May Never Be Profitable?

That was a question to which I had to give a lot of consideration. I think the best way to explain it is to explain our thought process, which is kind of like a recipe.

Thought Process Recipe:

1 part passion

1 part competitiveness

1 part emotion

1 part familiarity

1 part business sense

and a dash of arrogance…er…I mean hope.

Add lots of sleep deprivation and do not expose to investors!

A Closer Look At the Parts

1 Part Passion

It’s cliche, but we really do like languages. Almost everyone here at the company speaks two languages, with the average being 2.5. We work with people around the world, and have made many connections and friendships.

1 Part Competitiveness

We’re pretty competitive at our core. If someone is doing it, we often challenge ourselves to put forth a competitive product. Said another way, if someone’s doing it, we’re trying it too. And we want to be the best of breed in the language learning field.

1 Part Emotion

Several of our languages were chosen because of personal connections or relationships. We have created language learning content because team members or fans have made compelling cases for it. We have juggled the order in which a language was created because of a team member.

1 Part Familiarity

Creating awesome content is what we do well. And sometimes it just easier if your team is structured in a way that sticks to what you’re good at.

1 Part Business Sense

In order to be a legitimate language learning company, you need to cover a lot of languages. The big ones will be profitable, but you’ll need some smaller, less profitable and unprofitable languages in your portfolio.

A dash of arrogance…er…I mean hope!

When my business friend told us to abandon some languages, a part of me definitely felt like we could prove him wrong. We didn’t. But…my competitive nature is one of the driving forces behind why we move so fast and cover so much ground.

There has been a lot of good that has come from this, but also a fair share of hiccups. With every new product and website we release, we learn more about ourselves and what’s important to us. On the dark days where we feel like we’re wasting our time, we refer back to the numerous emails from fans thanking us for paying attention to their often neglected language. That helps to rekindle our motivation to drive forward.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 9th, 2012 at 12:42 pm and is filed under Founder's Blog, General Announcements, Language Learning, Second Language. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “The Recipe Behind Our Growth and Why We Continue to Add New Languages”

  1. Jonas Rydell Says:

    Nice post, really insightful and it’s interesting to hear how the inner thought processes goes in a language company.

    Thanks to my own invested time and money with your Japanese site which brought some real good results, I often encourage my Japanese friends to try out your language sites for whatever language they intend to start.

    Peter, please make sure to never take away the lighthearted humor and anecdotes that fills the podcasts, it is what still defines japanesepod101 in my mind.

  2. Julio Says:

    I bougth Learning English volume 1 Lesson 1-50 from and receive the podcasts without the review track. I can’t practice and it doesn’t work learning without practice.
    How can I get the review track??

  3. Jaacob Kai Says:

    This is a great initiative starting Niche-Languages sites, and I’m really thankful, personally (I was requesting Finnish podcasts and that’s great! that’s on the list now)
    I’m a pleased costumer, and I have had very positive experience with your Russian-Pod podcasts!

    However - take a look for example at your - it’s been up for more than a year - and there’s hardly any useful material online - very few absolute-beginner level lesson - I pity the costumers how registered your PolishPod lesson - firstly - your beginner-level lessons - generally - contain too much english, and are thus not a good time investment to-re-listen to, and there’s simply too little to chew on.
    it’s up for more than a year, if they’re still on that beginner level after that year - comeon.
    What I’m trying to say - even the languages you have launched a year ago have so little content (nothing comparing to the major language sites), this is simply not fair towards the users of the niche languages, nor is it tempting to register there.
    It’s a vicious cycle I know, you probably see low number of users registering, so you don’t create alot of content, but that’s pretty useless launching these minimalistic sitesm there has to be real content.
    Please seriously consider producing Intermediate-Level lessons for the Niche languages, I know I would register (to Finnish) had it had that, I’m sure alot of users would start flowing in, as you say, there’s so little material for these niche languages in a friendly and high-level way, and the few (the ‘long-tail’) who are interested - are simply thirsty for this kind of knowledge. 1 basic level serious is enough.

  4. Innovative Language Says:

    Hello Jonas, sorry for the late reply and thanks for the great comment. Was really great to read your story and that you passionately support us! That was very motivational for the team! It was really great for me to read that you enjoy our style of teaching, and we’ll do our best to keep it going!

    Hello Julio, could you contact us @ info@? Someone will get back to you right away.

    Hello Jaacob, thank you for the insightful post. You have a very good point. These days, however, the sites may be lighter on audio and video lessons early on, but come stocked with other compelling features: WordLists, Flashcards and more video lessons.

    Other factors affecting development time are location of production, popularity of language and resource availability. Depending on where the language is developed, in-house vs. locally, the turn around time can vary significantly. Our roadmap is the same (5 to 9 levels in each language), but development and distribution time tables tend to vary significantly. So for niche languages, we ask for more patience. We will strive our best to bring top quality lessons in all languages to market.

  5. orgulous Says:

    I hope you keep adding new content on the Cantonese site. It’s really helped me in my studying Cantonese here in the United States.

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