The mission of Woodpecker Learning is to help help teachers and students engage with content designed for native speakers.
We want to help teachers build lesson plans designed around the latest and most interesting content on the internet. We want to help language students move on from their textbooks to content designed for native speakers. We want international students and foreign professionals, studying in say English, to be able to fully understand their course materials. And we want everyone with an interest in a foreign language and culture to be able to immerse themselves in its media and entertainment.
Woodpecker Watch enables teachers and students to fully engage with video content originally intended for native speakers. We are adding features that will handle text and audio content.
We started with English and Chinese and then added Japanese, Vietnamese, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese. Russian is coming soon. We won't stop adding languages until we have exhausted the supply of good dictionaries.
Those dictionaries, which we supply free to the user, have been published with Creative Commons licences. We won’t ever charge you for open-source dictionaries.
We offer access to a vast amount of free content and the functionality for language learners to understand it, making the free version of our product a great resource for teachers and their students. In the future we will offer additional premium features within the app, commercial dictionaries and premium content, all designed to help you learn even faster.
We chose to name our company after the woodpecker since it is persistent, as a language learner must be, tapping away at tree trunks, just like our users tap on a screen to learn, until they achieve their goal. We are based in Taiwan where there are three species of woodpeckers.
Co-Founder and CEO
After working in finance in Auckland, Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong, Peter moved to Taipei where he worked in an office where nearly everyone spoke good English but many documents were only in Chinese. With languages, you are only good at what you practice, and in this environment, his reading of Chinese characters improved much faster than his spoken Mandarin.
To improve his listening ability, he was told to watch movies and TV, but that didn’t really help because the dialogue was too fast, and pausing and replaying content was cumbersome. It was frustrating that there was no technical solution for subtitles in the same way that there was for other types of text documents. Peter decided that if he needed this kind of help for his language studies then so did millions of others.
Gijs is a native speaker of Dutch and fluent in English, German and Mandarin. His interest in Chinese started when he was in Taipei in 2007 for a six-month internship at an engineering company. When he got back to Europe he started studying Chinese in Germany. While studying for his Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, he decided to write his final thesis in Taiwan, so as to study engineering and Chinese at the same time.
The experience gained while learning three second languages convinced him of the benefits to language learners of being able to engage with content designed for native speakers. In this project he knew he could combine his background in electronics and software engineering with his experience in language learning and in May 2015 Woodpecker Learning was born.
Woodpecker Watch is free to download and use, coming with thousands of videos to learn with.
Our How-To page is full of tutorials and guides on how to get the most out of Woodpecker Watch. Find out more here.