Homegrown language app to make headway

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The Ligo Educational Application is a tool for non-native speakers to aid their learning of the Khmer language. KT/ Ismail Vorajee

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Ligo Educational App is a multi-platform mobile application which helps non-native speakers learn, speak and understand Khmer language.

The application takes the tried and tested approach of repetition to help learners grasp the language quicker and with ease.

Luy Lysieng, a student at Institute of Technology of Cambodia, said the idea to create the app came about after she noticed the scarcity of polished and effective Khmer language learning applications currently available.

“We had the experience of working with foreigners at various workshops, and they would often ask us about learning Khmer,” said Lysieng. “We did not have any good recommendations at the time, so that’s why we decided to make our own app.”

With a team of just four people, Lysieng together with Chhhouy Sotheavy, Heng Mengsroin and Duk Panhavad built on that idea and developed a mobile application, which has been praised by language learners for its ease of use, through the SmartStart: Young Innovator Program.

The Ligo platform focuses on pronunciation and minimising culture shock among foreigners who live in Cambodia. It features two main features called “Learn” and “Do’s & Don’ts”.

“Learn” helps users get familiarized with the language through repetition of sounds, improve their vocabulary, learn the Khmer accent and be more confident when speaking. “Do’s & Don’ts” teaches users about Khmer culture, specifically things they should or should not do in Cambodia.

The potential of Lysieng and team, did not go unnoticed. The group, who call themselves “B-First”, was in the top five of SmartStart, launched by Smart Axiata last year with strong endorsement from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Aimed at helping university students nurture their own tech ideas, SmartStart has helped these developers reap benefits thanks to the leading mobile operator’s funding, support and mentorship for young entrepreneurs.

The nine-month program also offers expertise from development partners in the tech start-up space and is managed by Impact Hub Phnom Penh, a co-working space, business incubator and social enterprise builder located in the Cambodian capital.

As one of the winners, B-First was awarded 4,000 USD and given six-months incubation support at Impact Hub to further develop the Ligo Educational App. Lysieng and her team said the experience and mentoring offered by the program is invaluable as they plot the next steps for their innovative application.

“We learned deeply about the theoretical, technical and practical aspects of setting up a tech business, and also team management. Furthermore, we were exposed to valuable insights and approaches by experienced mentors throughout the last few months,” Lysieng further explained.

Mélanie Mossard, Impact Hub Phnom Penh Director of Community, expressed satisfaction and admiration at the level of talent and creativity brought to the table by this SmartStart team: “It was a great pleasure having the winning groups with us during the incubation period, demonstrating the capabilities of Cambodian talent. All the teams, including B-First, have progressed very well and we cannot wait to see the other digital solutions to be launched very soon.”

Ligo launched its beta version last month, and it is now time for the development team to continue their learning experience as they plot a course to improve their application.

“For the future, our plans include implementing feedback from app users as quickly as possible and after that, we would like to include more features to attract even more users. We hope to create even more professional content as well,” enthused Lysieng.

For Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt, success stories like that of B-First and other winners of the SmartStart program are indicative of the abundance of young tech talent in the Kingdom’s bourgeoning start-up scene – and that early stage funding coupled with sufficient mentorship will be essential in keeping the momentum going.

“This is indeed a commendable achievement for B-First, and no doubt other teams will follow suit before the final pitch at the end of this month. It is a proud moment for us at Smart; to be able to support as well as encourage budding tech entrepreneurs as part of our drive to lay fundamental building blocks and develop the digital ecosystem here in Cambodia,” Thomas said.

“Initiatives like SmartStart resonates with our mission to enrich the lives of Cambodians through digital experiences, world-class networks and significant corporate responsibility engagements. I anticipate more digital ideas and talents to unfold through this annual program,” added Thomas.

The top five teams who are part of the incubation phase will be pitching for a trip to Singapore to visit the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft as well as gain further valuable tips and advice. The final pitch will be held at Impact Hub Phnom Penh on 28th January 2018 from 8.30 am.

For more information on SmartStart, follow the “Smart for Cambodia” Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/smartforcambodia or visit www.smartstart.com.kh. The Ligo Educational App can be downloaded from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bfirst.ligo

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