Hallo Connects English Teachers and Students Around the World
By Jenny Rollins
A Provo-based language learning platform, Hallo, is instantly connecting hundreds of thousands of people who want to learn English to native-speaking teachers who help them practice the language.
Similar to Uber, Hallo allows users to instantly match with teachers and other students to practice English within seconds of opening the app. You can also schedule one-on-one or group lessons with your favorite teacher in advance.
Since its launch in 2019, the app has developed a worldwide user base, with over two million downloads and hundreds of thousands of monthly users. The company’s monthly revenue has tripled in the past year.
The story behind Hallo
Joon Beh, the founder of Hallo, was born and raised in Seoul, Korea. His family moved to the U.S. around 15 years ago when his oldest sister got into Brigham Young University. He also attended BYU and earned a degree in accounting.
During his time at BYU he wanted to drop out and chase his entrepreneurship dreams, but he stuck it out, graduated, and moved to Silicon Valley as a consultant for Deloitte, interviewing with engineering executives from tech giants like Amazon, LinkedIn, and Uber.
One day he was talking with engineers from Uber and had an idea: an Uber-like platform that would connect language learners to native speakers over video chat within seconds.
“As an immigrant, I understand the challenges of learning a new language, and the biggest one for me was finding opportunities to speak,” Beh told TechBuzz.
When he lived in Korea, he thought his English was good. He knew grammar and vocabulary and could read. But when he arrived in America, he realized that he still had trouble communicating with native speakers.
“Learning the basics is important for learning a new language, but being able to communicate and speak is a whole new level,” he added.
So he came back to Utah and started creating Hallo. He launched two products similar to Hallo’s current product in 2017 and 2018, but they were missing the Uber-like element of connecting people for a service immediately.
Beh created what he calls “the Uber of language learning,” and launched the platform in 2019. From there, it began growing exponentially and organically. At first it was just to connect students at a similar level who wanted to practice English with each other.
This peer-to-peer practice feature is still unlimited and available to anyone for free. Current daily Hallo users spend 32 minutes on the app a day, which is three times higher than the amount of time the average Duolingo spends on its app.
As Beh workshopped names for the company, he noticed that big companies like Google, Apple, Samsung, and Intel all had names that were two syllables that were easy to pronounce. The word “hello,” or “hallo” in German, is an almost universal greeting in most countries. It also happened to be the first English word that Beh started using with his family when they moved to the U.S.
After organically building this language learning community, Beh introduced native English speakers to Hallo. Students get on the app when they want to practice, and the app shows which teachers are available for lessons. Then the student pays to instantly practice and learn with an available teacher.
The matching process is simple. You see profiles that show experience and ratings of the person available to practice with, and you either accept or skip. If you both accept, you can start talking instantly. There is a limited number of skips.
There is an option for one-on-one learning and group learning, which is more like a classroom run by a teacher who is a native English speaker.
For one-on-one and group lessons with native teachers on Hallo, students choose how many times they’d like to learn each week and pay a subscription fee.
If you like a specific teacher, you can schedule one-on-one classes with those teachers rather than doing on-demand learning.
“We make language learning fun, affordable, and interactive at the same time,” Beh said. “You can just click a button or go through the list, find the right classes you want, and learn with a teacher anytime, anywhere.”
How do you become a Hallo teacher?
To become a Hallo teacher, you have to submit an application through the company’s website.
Although the preference is that teachers be native speakers of the language, there are specific proficiency criteria that teachers need to meet, as well as criteria for the device and network they would be using to teach. Applicants also submit a demo video of themselves teaching a concept.
People who make it through the first round start training to ensure they understand the company and the technology. Then they create their profile and start teaching. The third round of evaluation is through Hallo’s five-star rating system.
“If you’re not good at teaching, and if you’re not providing value to students, you’re not going to be able to find students,” Beh said.
Hallo staff review the applications once a week, and they only accept 15-20% of applicants.
Beh and his team have been focusing on English while they nail down the business model, and then they plan on expanding to B2B and new languages by the end of next year. The next languages in the queue are Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese.
“One of the unique things about Hallo is we essentially have spent zero dollars on paid acquisitions. So we just have been growing organically because of the freemium model that we have,” Beh said.
Beh explained that the online language learning market is predicted to expand by $30 billion over the next five years. He attributes a large part of that to increased remote work during COVID that has opened up employment opportunities across the globe.
“With our B2B initiative we are taking at the end of this year, I could see us working with global organizations that have employees offshore going forward,” he said.
Hallo also has an AI system that monitors the calls 24/7 to make sure that nothing inappropriate happens during a call, as well as admins that monitor the community.
Beh said that learning English is no longer a hobby. It’s a must as the world is getting smaller and closer due to globalization. Learning a new language is a passport to new opportunities and life-long relationships, and he is happy that he can help people around the world achieve their dreams and reach their full potential through language.
Note: Joon Beh was honored earlier this year as a WIN100 awardee.
Jenny Rollins is an award-winning writer, editor, and content producer. Jenny is a senior editor for Business.org and manages her own freelance writing and editing business stories.