quarta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2009

Interview - Andreas Schroeter - Founder of the biggest online dictionary

Andreas Schroeter is a German guy who loves languages and decided to share this passion with the world with a project to create the biggest online dictionary, the portal bab.la.

Check his ideas in this interview:
Tell us something about your education and professional experience.
Andreas -
My background is actually in business. But I have always been fascinated by new countries and cultures. My mother is Swedish so I guess I have this explorer gene from here. That's why I decided to study international business. I went on exchange to Canada and Sweden and did two internships in France and Sweden. So I am fluent in German and English, quite good at French and Swedish and have some basic Spanish knowledge.

How did you have the idea for the site bab.la? How did you create it and when?
Andreas -
I had the idea while being on exchange. Communicating in another language can be quite tricky and I wanted to have a website to go to that is all about languages: Where you could look up translations, find the right phrases, practice your vocabulary and so on. It took me another 7 years to actually start the website, but in July 2007 it finally went live.

Who's the team behind the site?
Andreas -
Patrick is our IT guy, who is in charge of all the programming. Thomas is my brother. He got so fascinated by the idea that he decided to join and is now managing all the content. I am in charge of the making bab.la known to the world. In addition, we have one native speaker for every language here in Hamburg.

You have a very ambitious project, to create the world's biggest online dictionary. How do you plan to do that?
Andreas - You need a bold vision to succeed
. We are working as hard as we can but it wouldn't work without all the users helping us. Every day users add new words, create new language quizzes, put new vocabulary lessons online and share these with other users. This wiki-style approach allows us to grow fast. Everyone is welcome to join and help us.

The site offers free content and it doesn't work as a tool for advertising a school or online sales, for example. How does the the site make profit?
Andreas -
The idea is to share as much information as possible for free. The advertising is necessary to cover our costs. However, we also offer some content such as vocabulary lessons for a premium fee. These lessons are licensed from known brands such as Langenscheidt and Pons and we keep a share of the premium fee.

What's the main difference between your site and other similar multilingual online dictionaries?
Andreas -
This is going to be a slightly biased answer ;-) Of course we feel that we offer the best product. In our dictionaries, we offer various additional functions such as pronunciation, synonyms, sample sentences and so forth. We also work on adding new translations every day, through our team and the users. Besides the dictionaries we offer great additional products such as our phrasebook or our vocabulary lessons.

It seems that the project involves an emotional aspect, as you want to have a 'portal where language lovers can meet and exchange their ideas and learn languages from each other'. How important is emotion in learning languages?
Andreas - Emotion is the best way to learn a language
. I married a Canadian and trust me, my English is getting better every day. If you feel strongly about a language, learning will be fun and you won't perceive it as work. You'll try to use it as often as you can and thereby improve way quicker than by just sitting in a language class.

Do you know Brazil? Can you speak Portuguese? The site offers a Portuguese dictionary, but the flag is from Portugal. Do you intend to have something on the site related to the differences between Portuguese from Portugal and from Brazil?
Andreas -
No, unfortunately I don't speak Portuguese. Regarding the flags we had a very long discussion about it since some languages are spoken in several countries. We decided to stick to the flag where the word originates from. I know it is 'unfair' for some countries but it helps the user find the right language a lot faster. We also include as many regional words and translations as we can. You'll find them marked with the country it used in. One example would be the translation for bus.