Ever wondered what the use of learning a foreign language is? TripLingo, the maker of iPhone apps for travel and culture has its own, very intriguing answer. The startup is going to launch a new language learning app, teaching culture and key phrases for Dari, the language spoken in Afghanistan.
The key group of users are of course the American and other ISAF forces, its other personnel and NGO workers who serve there. As you can imagine, one of the biggest problems in Afghanistan is the communication between the locals and the foreign soldiers or NGO workers. In many occasions there won’t be a translator or interpreter in reach.
With TripLingo’s Dari app, you learn colloquial phrases and cultural backgrounds, so the very same things you would learn with the other language apps TripLingo is offering. Other than on a trip to Rome, in Afghanistan proper and clear communication is critical and can even save lives. As Lieutenant David Duffus who spent 9 months learning Dari points out
It just helps you break the ice with the locals … I can talk directly to the soldiers without needing an interpreter and when we are under fire that can save lives –ours and theirs.
I asked Jesse Maddox, the founder and CEO of TripLingo about how this idea came all about. He told me in an email statement
Basically we realized that we already had the infrastructure to do it cheaply, and some of my family members who have served in Afghanistan brought up that it was something that soldiers and aid workers could use. We based the content off of the Defense Foreign Language Institute’s “Survival Guide”, and had a special forces translator fix it up (as it was a bit outdated!). We then recorded the audio files and packaged all of the content up for our app!
Between our team of six, we’ve got several friends and family members in Afghanistan, and we’re all aware of how important basic language skills and cultural knowledge are to building rapport and trust. This is important for travelers, but its even more important for military and NGO workers.
With the TripLingo Dari app, learners will get
- 750 useful phrases with Arabic script, slow and conversational audio plus culture notes
- a word bank with 500 common words including audio and script
- 1600 searchable words in Dari with English dictionary
- cultural information on etiquette and customs in Afghanistan
- pronunciation guide
- quick reference on society, region and religion
The first feedback has been very positive and there is a real need for tools like this. Today over 52k soldiers and more than 62k contractors are working in Afghanistan. The TripLingo Dari app will be available for free in the iTunes App Store on 4th of July, a date chosen by the TripLingo team to celebrate the Independence Day and the 235th birthday of the United States.
Update: The app is already live and you can download it for free and all other apps of TripLingo are available at a lowered price to celebrate the launch through July 6th.