A game approach to learning languages takes entrepreneurial prize

22 Jan 2010

Two entrepreneurs who have developed a “gaming approach” to helping students learn foreign languages have won the 2009 David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Award worth more than €100,000.

Paul Groarke and Garrett Hussey established their company,RendezVu, in January 2008, with the aim of attracting and maintaining students’ interest in learning through Virtual World technology. RendezVu is based at NovaUCD.

“The number of people learning English is expected to top 2 billion in the next 10 years,” Groarke said.

“Research shows that these students suffer from having no way to regularly practise, particularly coming up to oral exams.

“Both oral and listening-comprehension accounts for 50pc of language exams at present and there aren’t enough English tutors in the world to cater for all the students who want to learn English – so we realised that the solution had to be automated.”

Real-life scenarios

By “immersing” students in real-life settings where they must use their knowledge, RendezVu gives students a deeper and more dynamic understanding of languages, through using them in context.

“We’ve built the system in such a way that, in the future, we will be able to offer it through gaming platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox, etc, as an online offering,” Hussey explained.

The David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards were presented at a ceremony yesterday in the RHA Gallery, Ely Place, Dublin, by An Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan, TD, and Iona co-founder Dr Chris Horn.

RendezVu’s prize is €10,000 in cash and more than €100,000 worth of mentoring and consultancy services from a variety of blue-chip companies. Former Eircom chief executive Alfie Kane chaired the panel of judges for the awards.

“I cannot overstress the importance of entrepreneurship, particularly in today’s economy,” Coughlan said.

“An active entrepreneurial sector can continue to assist Ireland in facing the challenge to sustain growth, deepen competitive advantage in a knowledge economy and strengthen the enterprise base. It can also make a significant contribution to creating vibrant regions and to achieving greater social inclusion.”

David Manley Awards’ goal

The aim of the David Manley Awards is to nurture and recognise the enterprising spirit in business, the arts and in social/community.

“To re-build our economy, Ireland needs a new wave of smart entrepreneurs who can create many export-led innovative firms,” Horn explained.

“These will earn further foreign income for us;create sustainable employment and generate both wealth and tax revenues to support the more vulnerable members of our society.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Garrett Hussey and Paul Groarke, co-founders of RendezVu, an e-learning venture located at NovaUCD which has won the 2009 David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Award

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years