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Northeast Ohio is full of creative people following their dreams while trying to make a living. From jewelry crafted out of broken street glass to sound equipment engineered for rock stars, see what people are "making" in the community.

Making It: Time2Talk App Bridges Spanish Language Learning Gap

Maker: Marina Jackman  
Business: Time2Talk

Give me a little of your background, and how did you end up in Cleveland, Ohio?

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I come from a very international family. My mom is from Spain, my grandparents from my dad's side were from Poland and Russia. So my whole family is spread throughout the globe. I studied international relations in Argentina, and then I moved to Barcelona to do a master's in international politics journalism. I met my husband in Barcelona. We were planning on moving to France, but in the middle of that plan, my husband got a job offer in Cleveland.

Jackman with her husband, Chris, in Barcelona in 2016. [Marina Jackman]

It sounds like developing a mobile app wasn’t necessarily in your career plans. What gave you the idea for Time2Talk?

My husband and I were already studying French because we were planning on moving to France. We did this course, which allowed us to fast track our French. And we were speaking French after these five weeks, which was amazing. Then we moved to Cleveland. We found it very hard to keep practicing our French when we moved to the U.S., so we were trying to find online tools to do it. My husband was using this website, but it wasn't exactly what he wanted. And in my case, I didn't even use it because I didn't like how the process was. So that's one of the reasons why Time2Talk was born, because all these websites that offer connection to native speakers to practice a language required pre-scheduling, prepaying, and subscribing to packages of hours. And the reality is that we were thinking, how cool would it be to have an on-demand service that you can just call whenever you want and use it for as long as you want or as little as you want.

Jackman and her husband after completing a 5-week intensive course on learning to speak French. [Marina Jackman]

Once the decision was made to pursue your business full-time, what was the first step in starting to develop your app?                            

It all started with the idea, and then, how do you even start to think of what that idea will become? Because you think of something, you think of a service, and you have to think, will this be a website? Will this be a mobile app? Will this be something else? We spoke to so many people, did so much research to understand if there was an actual place for something like this and realized that yes, there is, because there is nothing specifically like this. No one is solving the problem like this. So we thought, well, it could be us, the people who do it.

Time2Talk connects Spanish language learners to native speakers across Latin America, on-demand. [Time2Talk]

What’s been one of the most rewarding aspects so far since launching your business in 2020?

In general, what keeps me and the team going is knowing that we are actually helping people improve their language skills and also giving people the opportunity to have an additional income. We're creating jobs, which is an incredible feeling. But there's this excitement every time someone calls and they are able to speak with a Spanish coach and speak for 45 minutes. That is the fuel that keeps us going every day.

Users of Time2Talk also learn about different cultures across Latin American through conversations with language coaches. [Time2Talk]

Part of the bigger picture of this is, you're here working to bridge the language learning gap, but you're also connecting people across different countries. Through their conversations, I'm sure they're learning about different cultures.

A language is not just words, it is a culture that comes with the language. That particular aspect of Spanish is that there are so many countries in which Spanish is spoken. In all of these countries, yes, we all speak Spanish, but we have different accents, different cultures, different traditions. So it is extremely interesting to learn about each country, because sometimes in the U.S. and in the whole world, there's this misconception about Latin America that it's all the same. That could not be further from the truth and the reality. It's such a diverse region. But it is very interesting for people that are using Time2Talk to realize, ‘I'm not only practicing my Spanish, but I am also speaking to new people from different countries and learning about their daily life, their cities, their traditions.’ So, yes, one hundred percent a language is tied to our culture. It's not just words that you learn randomly.


Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.