This WashU sophomore is making waves in the startup world

Lingohop is a revolutionary language learning app

Rising WUSTL sophomore D.j. Hammett had a busier freshman year than most.

D.j. and his high school classmates, Tsavo Knott and Michael Ashley, worked tirelessly all year on their startup: Lingohop, a language learning app. While most high schoolers were consumed with prom, D.j., Michael, and Tsavo brainstormed how they could make their language learning method stand out from the rest.

Lingohop founders Tsavo Knott, Michael Ashley, and D.J. Hammett

Lingohop founders Tsavo Knott, Michael Ashley, and D.J. Hammett

With the help of Ohio State romance language professor Dr. Ramón Padilla Reyes, where Michael is also entering his sophomore year, the boys developed a prototype of a groundbreaking tool for quick and effective language learning.

“We realized that platforms such as Duolingo and Rosetta Stone have a blanket approach. We understand that people learn languages with different needs, such as business, vacation, study abroad, or just day-to-day conversation,” explains D.j.

Right away, the user inputs their purpose for using the app so their learning style can be adjusted to their needs.  Other innovative techniques include a background for socialized learning, where your scores can be compared with your friends and you can challenge other users. Lingohop also offers dialects and slang specific to the country in question.  

Impressed with D.j.’s professionalism, I asked how the trio acquired the expertise to pull off such a detailed language course. D.j. said that he was bilingual and his mother was from Spain, so he understands that there are major differences between Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Mexico. The Spanish offered by the app isn’t uniform because the language certainly isn’t.

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What makes Lingohop different? “Well, we live in an era where we want instant gratification, don’t like to waste time – when we feel like we’re wasting time we lose motivation. Rosetta stone and Duolingo work at a slower pace,” answers D.j. “And at the end of the process, you still can’t converse well. One of the phrases actually taught by Duolingo is ‘a horse eats salt’.”  D.j and Michael recognize that there is a 99.4 attrition rate for Rosetta Stone, so maintaining users’ motivation is key.

“We don’t waste your time,” says D.j. “Within four minutes you can have a basic conversation with someone.  You should learn your second language the same way you learned your first one: immersed in the target language.”

There is also a feature for pronunciation. “You will be hearing the native speaker, you will be listening, you will be talking, you speak into program and you match speech with native speakers,” D.j explains animatedly.  

Technology-wise, Lingohop currently is compatible with a laptop, iPhone and Android, and they are working on making the app accessible without wifi. Currently offered are Spanish, French, and English, but also in progress are the additions of Swiss and African languages.

Together, D.j., Michael, and Tsavo raised over $25,000 with their Kickstarter campaign during the month of May. They are also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Founded on a solid base of problem and solution, Lingohop is poised to soar.  Only a sophomore in college, D.j. has the makings of an excellent entrepreneur, not to mention his enthusiasm is contagious.

Move aside, Rosetta Stone.

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