Language is the key to unlocking any culture. Cultures are diverse and multifaceted, yet learning a language can really help us understand the nuances of culture as well as empower us with the tools to connect with people of different backgrounds on a profound level.
Passionate about his cultural background and the beauty of the Arabic language, Sami Abu Heiba decided to pursue a profession that taps into his extensive experience teaching Arabic while unlocking the cultural depth of the Arabic language for people around the world. “I have been teaching Arabic for the last seven years to non-Arabic speakers and I always wanted to spread our Arabic language and culture worldwide,” says Abu Heiba. “But I wanted to do this in a scalable way, and to solve the problem of learning the Arabic language while reducing student’s anxiety and fear of participating in conversations.”
In 2019 Abu Heiba founded GIL (Grow up in Language) an innovative approach to learning Arabic that infuses VR and interactive learning in a fully integrated mobile application. Non-speakers will be able to attain fluency in spoken Arabic via interactive lessons based on real-life scenarios. “My company GIL, is developing a virtual reality application to help non-Arabic speakers, students, travelers, and businesses learn Arabic by speaking throughout our voice recognition technology and 360 video lessons, with the possibility to learn in 15 different Arabic accents,” says Abu Heiba.
In addition to Founder and CEO Sami Abu Heiba, the GIL team includes, CMO Haya Saad; CTO Abdulrahman Ibrahim; PR Officer Marah Alrije; Support Officer Mohammad Riyad; and IT Developer and VR Specialist Duja Dabdoub.
With outdated teaching methods, GIL’s competitors struggle to maintain user engagement, as well as the predominant focus on Modern Standard Arabic rather than local spoken dialects can turn many away from learning a new language. Additionally, Arabic immersion programs can be costly and inaccessible to those on a tight budget. While group learning scenarios can cause beginners to feel self-conscious and affect their ability to immerse themselves in a new language.
GIL addresses all these concerns and then some, with a fully integrated system that implements the latest in VR technology, students can learn Arabic in a fun, interactive and engaging environment. “Our teaching lessons are unique because they inspire the interactive engagement that leads our students to start speaking right away,” says Abu Heiba. The GIL App embeds VR technology with Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) into their language learning plans to help students explore the Arabic language while getting the most out of their lessons. “We immerse our students in the Arabic language while teaching them about the Middle East’s rich culture and traditions with rich scenarios.”
Joining the GIL community is simple. Interested individuals simply log-in to the application then choose the preferred dialect from a variety of sources (local or regional per country), and then choose their entry-level and topic of interest. The learning then begins, as students immediately immerse themselves in engaging conversations with a host of virtual characters, and have the option to practice their skills with GIL’s online community.
GIL is developing a freemium based business model that provides free access to the first unit (lesson) as well as the online community. To unlock the full potential of the GIL platform, users can join via a monthly or annual subscription.
In terms of traction, 2019 will be a defining year for GIL. They will initially have built and tested their MVP by May 2019 and the results will be utilized to optimize the platform during the upcoming stages. “Speaking of traction is speaking of translating our MVP into a product that adds value to our customers,” says Abu Heiba. “As soon as our MVP is ready, it will be offered to our customers to try immediately and we believe that we will convert huge numbers into reliable customers within one or two weeks from the time of release.” As of June 2019, GIL is targeting early adopters based on their market research and is set to market the free unit, as well as release the second version of the MVP. Paid ads on AdWords will target users ready to learn Arabic. By August 2019, GIL is looking to raise funds to further develop their MVP, begin marketing the app via social media and optimize search engine traffic. At this stage, GIL is targeting potential students in the GCC, USA, and UK.
In order to unlock the potential of GIL, CEO Abu Heiba is looking to secure 140K USD in seed funding, the majority of which will be utilized towards software and tools (82K USD). The remainder will be put towards marketing campaigns (32K USD), sales and operations (14K USD), and finally towards product development (12K USD).
In terms of impact, GIL is working to integrate some of the latest technology to teach potential students all around the world Arabic in an engaging environment. Providing employment opportunities for emerging graduates is a given. But what really sets GIL apart is their ability to bring forth the diversity and depth of Middle Eastern cultures with the rest of the world through language.
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