Michael Elchik has more than a few words—and languages—to draw on when speaking about his language learning startup, WeSpeke.

It’s going to be a big year, he says enthusiastically. WeSpeke is growing with users now in 160 countries who are learning to speak 103 native languages. And more are in development. The startup recently closed on a $3 million Series B round of funding and will double in size this year from 8 to 16+ people, hiring web developers, designers and a digital media specialist.

To date, WeSpeke has raised $6 million.

“I’m amazed at how we are touching people all over the world with WeSpeke,” says Elchik who founded the company in February 2013. “Pittsburgh is at a digital crossroads with people from all over the world. Brazil is communicating with Chile. People in India are practicing French.”

WeSpeke is a sort of eHarmony of language learning, he says. The teleconferencing platform combines personality-based algorithms with language learning tools, pairing people with language learners from around the world who share similar interests.

The match allows both sides to engage in meaningful conversations that improve both vocabulary and pronunciation. Users include adults learning a language for professional or personal goals as well as teachers and students at more than 1,500 schools around the world.

Speaking conversationally with a native speaker is key to becoming fluent in that language, he says. And in a world that is growing smaller every day, fluency is key.

“We’ve transformed the language experience away from a structure dictated by a textbook to one that’s driven by share interests,” he says. “The next generation are global citizens. People in all walks of life are tapping this.”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...