A couple makes a difference in strangers’ lives by providing the gift of communication.
Building their business while exploring the world.
Their journey began 42 years ago in high school when they met in the lunchroom in Colorado, USA. The minute they met, they knew they were going to be good friends. They both arrived in America just a few months apart, one speaking Spanish and the other Dutch. Even though communication was challenging, they started to get to know each other and learn English together. They discovered that practice, practice, and practice were the key to becoming proficient in English. They realized that being patient and making mistakes was part of the learning process. With time and hours of conversation, they got to know each other’s story. Five years after their first encounter, they got married.
Let me introduce you to Philipp and Kendal Knetemann,the founders of http://lingohut.com. I asked them to give me a quick overview of their lives together. Kendal smiles and starts by saying: “We are best friends, we are parents of two amazing adult children, we have lived in 3 countries, traveled around the globe, started several businesses together, and the best part is we are still in love and happily married. What more can a woman ask for?” Kendal laughed out loud and continued, “Our childhood experiences have defined and molded our journey together, that’s for sure.”
In 2011 they started brainstorming a new idea and concept. This was nothing new for these two; they had already begun other business in prior years. Their goal for this idea was never for money and always for love. The language service they were building should not cost the student any money, and the student should not need to provide personal data to learn (which many companies collect as revenue). The resource had to be in multiple languages to help a global audience and allow students to learn from their native language.
What prompted the idea for this language service?
100 % personal experience. They both faced language challenges as teenagers, allowing them to understand the importance of language skills. Philipp moved to the USA when he was 15 with limited English skills and parents who did not understand the American culture. Kendal came to the USA when the Sandinistas overturned the Nicaraguan government. She was 14 years old, all alone with limited to no English skills. “It was the most difficult year of my life, but I was a lucky survivor because my family joined a year or so later. Unfortunately, some of my friends were not so lucky,” she says.
The time she spent alone was lonely, scary, and quiet – because she had no language skills to communicate and express herself with people she encountered. Instead, she learned the power of language and how language is a gift. “This experience left me knowing that assimilating to a new environment was difficult and language played an essential piece in a transition from one culture to another,” Kendal said.
Philipp and Kendal’s educational backgrounds assisted them in building a platform to help others. Philipp is an IT engineer, and Kendal is a cross-cultural facilitator and was an ESL teacher for 27 years in American schools. Their career combinations gave them the tools and opportunity to know how to build this free language learning resource.
“When we first started, it was difficult. We are not wealthy and knew this idea would not make much income, but we still wanted to help others. We knew this would take time and money. What idea doesn’t? We went to a few friends and colleagues, but sadly we could not convince them to see the importance of providing a free language resource. We believed so strongly in our concept that we decided to put all our savings into the project,” Philipp continues. “We expand LingoHut regularly, and at least now it pays for itself. It’s always a work in progress, but we love it.”
They wanted to help a couple of thousand people online when they started. Today that is not the case. Instead, they help millions and millions of people. Their platform teaches refugees, students, teachers, seniors, polyglots, and anyone needing to learn a language. It is shared worldwide through school districts, cities websites, non-profit organizations, education sites, and other organizations.
LingoHut’s lessons are carefully organized into everyday conversation topics, the games help reinforce the language, and the extensive library of languages allows almost anyone to learn from their native language. Their language library extends to 52 different spoken languages (and growing), teaching 50 languages from the spoken languages.
It is a perfect resource. However, it is not a course but a place to practice and foster vocabulary, gain listening skills and build confidence in word pronunciation.
“It’s fun to get emails from refugees assimilating to a new culture, students needing to improve their grade in their foreign language class, or senior citizens improving their mental skills.” Said Kendal
LingoHut launched in 2012. In 2015, Philipp and Kendal went on a few vacations where they tried to promote their free language learning resource. It was so successful that in 2019 they sold everything they owned and became digital nomads.
They committed two years of extensive travel to share LingoHut, and after the two years, they would re-settle somewhere. They visited Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Mexico, Croatia, Dubai, Egypt, Turkey, Netherlands, Georgia, Poland, and Ukraine during the two years. The results have been spectacular; the best part is they are meeting the people they are helping. They understand Covid 19 was challenging for many, and it happened during their travels, but they hardly noticed it. They did tests before traveling and traveled to open countries. They spend 1 to 3 months in each place to ensure they immerse in the culture and learn from their experience. “Honestly, it was a magical time. We met families who opened their homes and shared their culture. We went to two different Egyptian weddings, celebrated Chinese New Year’s in Vietnam, participated in Tipusan in Malaysia, picked grapes in a Georgian village, and learned how to cook Georgian cuisine. Making friends in every place we landed was truly lovely.” Said Kendal
I did not talk to them much about their other businesses; they own three different websites. Their business advice is to go for it, life is short, and you do not know where the journey will take you. Take small steps, keep detailed notes of your progress, keep a to-do list, explore your vision, and never give up on yourself. Every one of their businesses had successes and failures. They celebrated victories and learned from their mistakes.
These two are go-getters. They might be almost to retirement age, but trust me, these two are not done coming up with ideas and contributing to the world. I will definitely follow their journey on their social media and YouTube channels. I asked them both how do they stay motivated every day? Kendal looked at Philipp with a huge smile and said, every morning, I ask Philipp, “what are we gonna do today, Brain?” Philipp responds, “The same thing we do every day, Pinky-o. Try to take over the language world!” A line assimilated from the TV cartoon Pinky and Brain.
Kendal starts laughing and says, “what are we doing next, Brain?” Philipp said, “conquering Brazil, but of course,” they both laughed. What a great story and a great way to live your life.
They welcome YOU to join their educational community LingoHut.com and email them your language learning success story.