One of the winners of Microsoft’s Civic Tech MassChallenge Sidecar prize this year is a brilliant Boston-based company called Lengio. Lengio is the first app that allows users and companies to build custom English courses from any digital content using cutting-edge technology out of MIT, Princeton, and Stanford.
One line struck us in Lengio’s presentation:
“In civic engagement, the worst case is not the individual who does not use their voice, but rather the individual who has no voice.”
Largely due to poor English skills, right now, 9 million eligible immigrants in the US lack the rights of citizenship and are unable to communicate effectively with government, and thus, are unable to generate true civic impact. Poor English prevents immigrants from participating in their communities and is a leading reason why many have not yet applied for citizenship. Lengio addresses this gap by teaching users the English they need to understand the fundamentals of American democracy, pass the Naturalization Test, and become active citizens.
Unlike other options like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo, Lengio is a customizable language learning software that can be tailored to the exact parts of the Naturalization Test that immigrants don’t fully understand. Imagine learning what “executive branch” and “constitution” mean instead of random sentences. Lengio is an incentive for immigrants to apply for citizenship. It’s about inclusion. It’s about everyone having a voice in government. It’s about civic tech.
Ultimately, Lengio will greatly increase civic impact and citizen engagement because it teaches immigrants the skills they need to become citizens who can actively participate in their local governments, communities, and economies. As the Lengio team explained, “Lengio helps people gain their voices, radically improve their circumstances, influence government, and create a more inclusive society.”
Lengio will also put their Sidecar Prize money from Microsoft to use… and right away. They’re using the grant money to create and deploy a specialized course that immigrants can take to learn the English required to become informed citizens (beginning with the Naturalization Test). They’re also giving 6 months of free access to 10,000 immigrants from emerging countries and using the grant for outreach to these users.
Beyond this, the team said they can also expand access to educational opportunities through personalized English courses based on MOOCs like EdX. They could also partner with initiatives like TEALS and YouthSpark to prepare ESL learners for in-demand STEM careers by teaching the technical English required for success in the global information economy.
We’re proud to give this grant to a team who’s using civic technology to help build a more engaged, informed (and united) United States.
To learn more about Lengio, head to their website https://leng.io/.