About Si La Bul

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What do an ADHD language student, a Princeton graduate, and a professional firefighter have in common? Our founder, of course! Danielle spent years at Princeton learning Arabic and working on the Syrian healthcare crisis in the Middle East. As a firefighter, she tried to get back into using her Arabic skills, but never found a way that felt authentic and useful to her. She tried tutoring services, language exchanges, language apps, and nevertheless, she felt like she needed to go back to Amman, Jordan to get back into the groove of speaking.

 

So she set out on a quest to bring an authentic and consistent language community into her daily life, and when a sufficient option didn't exist, she decided to build one. If Danielle couldn’t see herself using the platform for more than a few weeks, why would she expect any of her users to do the same? 

 

Along came Si · La · Bul (Pronounced: syllable) 

 

We boiled Si · La · Bul down to what do people naturally like to do, and why do they like to do it. When we surveyed our beta-testers what they liked versus what tools they used to learn a language, we noticed not one person said they enjoyed memorizing verb conjugations. However, many people said they enjoyed eating at restaurants their target language was spoken. No one liked studying vocabulary flashcards, nor the attempts at gamification by most language apps, but they enjoyed it when they found a really good tv show in their target language.

 

We realized to create a truly sticky platform, we were going to have to build a habit-forming platform that could be the bridge for language learners who couldn’t participate via ‘in-person’ immersion. That’s how we came to the idea of interactive digital immersion. Our new goal became to bring nuggets of cultural wonder, novelty, and wisdom to the digital space, all in one place—one syllable at a time. 

Our Team

I'm not a language guru looking to sell you the best way to learn a language. I'm a firefighter finding the best practices that work when it's time to use your language skills. I'd like to learn 10 more languages by the time I'm 40, but I'd also like to learn the history, culture, music, art, and cuisine that accompanies the language-- I think those are the reasons we learn languages in the first place. In firefighting, you learn to throw ladders, not because it's cool to throw ladders but to rescue people from burning buildings when the time comes. If I can't throw a ladder when it matters most, what's the point? The same goes for my language skills! 

 

Learning: Spanish, Russian, and ASL

Danielle Allen

Co-Founder

I’m an engineer. We engineers like the useful application and function of our products. I’m learning Tagalog because I want to converse with my family members. I’m learning French because I want to be able to flow through Nice like a native speaker. I like to get on the ground to try-it, test-it, taste-it because to me, that’s language applied. I’m interested in what the untapped communities in our cities, here and around the world have to offer us and vice versa through travel, restaurant hopping, and back-road adventuring.

 

Learning: Tagalog, French, and Spanish

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Emily Viggers

Co-Founder

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Revel Arroway

Linguistic Manager 

Hey all! I’m Revel, the all-around language overseer here on Si · La · Bul. Though I studied theatre management and direction back in my university days, I got hooked on English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching in the early ‘80s in New York City. I combined teaching with study, first bathing myself in Applied Linguistics and Teaching Methodology, then applying what I both learned and taught to getting myself fluent in Spanish. I then moved to Spain, where the immersion finished off the work on Spanish and I got a taste of Catalan and revisited my high school French. I don’t think there’s just one way to learn a language, and I know that it can’t be done in the flash of an eye; however, I do know that if you put your mind to it and use a wide range of techniques, you too can improve on what you’ve got under your belt. That’s what I’m here for, to give you some of those techniques and hope to add my brick to the foundation that will become your language learning experience.

 

Learning: Catalan and French