Get fluent in the language of Game of Thrones, or 100 others, on HelloTalk

Learn to speak 100 languages with this app
Learn to speak 100 languages with this app

Sash Dothraki ezok?* If so, Zackery Ngai has created an app that will give you a helping hand.

Ngai is the founder and CEO of Shenzhen-based start-up HelloTalk, a peer-to-peer language-learning messaging app that has 3.3 million registered users around the world.

HelloTalk works by matching users who, for example, speak English and want to learn Mandarin with users who speak Mandarin and want to learn English. The app offers additional translation and voice-to-text services for a fee.

Speaking to CNBC at the RISE conference in Hong Kong this week, Ngai says he came up with the language exchange idea in 2011 after his own experience learning English and Japanese.

Hello Talk

At the time, mobile messaging apps were still in their nascent stage in China, with Tencent-owned WeChat just starting to find its footing.

"I went about looking for developers ... people with [mobile developing] experience didn't really exist then," he says, explaining that he created a small team of web developers who learned how to create a mobile app by using developer manuals. "Eventually, the app came out at the end of 2012."

It now has about 750,000 active users every month, who can choose to learn one of more than 100 languages; 60 percent pick English.

"Language is related to economics," Ngai explains, adding that most English learners came from developing economies such as China and Brazil, where they either could not afford a language teacher or find one.

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Korean and Japanese are the second and third-most popular languages among users, partly due to the massive pop culture influence both countries exert through television dramas and music, said Ngai.

Rarer languages are also available, including Esperanto, Flemish and Frisian, as is Dothraki, the fictional language spoken in the popular TV show "Game of Thrones."

HelloTalk, which is currently looking for pre-Series A funding, has received some financing from Chinese private equity investment firm Yongjin Group.

*New Dothraki learner?, according to unofficial fan-site's English-Dothraki dictionary.

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