Setting Ablaze How You Thought You Should Learn Languages
Published 4 years ago
How a failed love story lead to a pioneering language learning method
I dammed the tears caused by the thought of my love's pregnancy by another man because it had become time to light an educational blaze using the kindling collected along the path I traveled while trying to recapture the love she once felt for me. The signs along this path pointed to wedding bells or heartbreak. Even an oracle couldn't have foretold that this trajectory would instead lead to an extraordinary computer game when one reflects upon the events that lead to Viglo’s inception...
After living in my car during the bitter, rainy winter of Portland, Oregon, I was on my way to the tropics of the Philippines to work as a research SCUBA diver. I lived not far from the research lab with a host family, and for the first time in my life had a servant doing many of my chores. I was extremely uncomfortable with having another serve me like this, and chose to participate in the house work with her, much to the chagrin of my host family that felt it extremely inappropriate to do. 
The chores brought us together, and her fluency in English allowed us to engage in prodigious conversations. A few days after she introduced herself as Edna, she was shredding my assumptions of her being the typical, uneducated house servant. Edna had run away from home because, despite having graduated valedictorian of her class, her father insisted she move to Manila and send money back to her impoverished family with factory work. She landed in our city called Dumaguette, enrolling herself into a university and finding a job as a house servant to pay her expenses.
For the first time in my life I was sharing my time with someone I valued as a hero in every sense of that word, and soon fell deeply in love with her. Upon completing my work contract I told Edna I would go back to America to work off my college debt, and then immediately return to the Philippines where we'd get married and spend the rest of our lives together.
And work I did! Motivated to be with her again, I was putting in 100+ hours per week on ferry boats. After a bit more than a year and a half of being apart, I was only months away from becoming debt free. Wedding bells chimed not so distant anymore... until her admittance to finding another man cracked them.  
About six months prior to that fateful conversation, I went ahead, despite her opposition, with getting a vasectomy because I did not want to raise children. I knew I was tainting the relationship, but I would overcome that by being such a loving husband that that would more than make up for not raising a family. I failed to listen to Edna’s pleas, and what I thought was a mere tainting of the relationship turned into poison. 
Under the delusion that the poisoning could be cured, I immediately booked a flight to the Philippines after her revelation to rekindle the love we shared two years ago. On the eve of my departure I stayed up all night with friends I hadn’t seen in years, yet I was able to arrive at the airport so early that the gates were not open. Therefore I just sprawled out on the floor and passed out. 
During my state of unconsciousness on the cold, tile floor, I slept through the tracks of my life being torn up and set on a whole new trajectory. Upon awakening, I staggered in line to get my boarding pass when a lady started scolding me because she almost tripped over my body while I was out cold. This turned into the start of an enduring friendship that would unknowingly bring the future Viglo team together.
After my temporary success winning Edna back, America called for me to return and sweep up the little bit of college debt remaining. About five months later while still working on the ferry boats I received an unexpected email from my airport friend telling me that her friend Scott needed to hire computer programmers for his place of work… in the Philippines. Coincidentally, his computer lab was located in the same city that Edna spent her first year as a teacher. I was finally debt free and ready to move back to the Philippines, and now I even had the possibility of employment upon arrival there. But most importantly, I was being given another chance at redemption with Edna. 
Scott, being an American, was back in the U.S. for Christmas, and so I drove a fourteen hour round trip to talk to him for an hour. Despite never having done any computer programming, he took a chance on me that I would learn it along the way, and two months later I returned to the Philippines to work under him.
Since Edna’s family, or as I considered them, my future in-laws, did not speak English, it was time that I learned their dialect, called Cebuano. I always carried a pad of paper and pen on me to write down English-Cebuano translations I wished to use, and every day, before and after work, I would walk through the town or the market and try to use as much Cebuano as I could, guided by my list of translations. In three months of doing this I was conversing with the locals. While I was thrilled with the results, I was also enraged with the thought of those years I spent enclosed within school walls learning French without even coming close to achieving the fluency I earned in those three months of learning Cebuano on my own. This lit an anger within me that never subsided, and would later fuel me to spare others of that fate.
Unfortunately, before I achieved full fluency in Cebuano, the department I worked for at the company was dissolved. I decided to move to Thailand to seek work combatting human trafficking, a human rights violation I’d wanted to alleviate for almost a decade since I first learned about it. Plus I would remain in a position to quickly return to the Philippines once Edna realized we should be together.
After bumbling around Thailand for a bit, I landed volunteer work at a shelter for young girls who were victims or at high risk of human trafficking. One of my many duties at the shelter was to teach English, which I did with a passion. 
After months of teaching and really trying to help the girls improve their English, I had to admit the progress was minimal at best. I did all I could to avoid repeating my own school experience, using various new methods and techniques, but the results were hauntingly similar. And my results did not deviate from the other classes being taught.
Repeating the cycle of failure weighed heavy on my mind, and I would often walk the streets of Chiang Mai trying to figure out how to replicate my language success in the Philippines with these young girls in Thailand. During my walks I absorbed the surrounding environment with its tuk-tuks picking up passengers, shoes left at the front doors of various businesses, and the various signs displayed all over.
“Wouldn't it be cool if I had glasses that would display a translation for all these objects and signs around me?” That thought lead me to the realization that a computer generated world where you simply walked around speaking in a foreign language with others could provide a digital form of the immersion that brought me such rapid success in learning Cebuano! 
But was this even feasible with current technology? I flew back to the Philippines when my hitch in Thailand was up because my former boss would certainly know that answer. 
Scott believed it possible and expressed strong interest in the idea. So over the next couple months he kept contributing to and polishing the rough concept I had given him. 
While Scott was molding Viglo, I was back at my mom's house in the U.S. contemplating my next move. Melancholy took hold of me because I had left Asia without my most prized possession, Edna's love for me. I felt that I’d squandered a golden opportunity after a series of unlikely events had lead me back to her doorstep. And despite the romantic final week in Asia I spent with Edna, her heart remained locked to me. Then an email knocked the key out of my hand, never to be retrieved again...
The news she dumped on me brings us back to the beginning of this story, with me sullen over her future child with another man. The agonizing week to come comprised of me just going for walks and listening to my iPod to mitigate the pain. 
But before I could descend into the depths of despair, Scott pulled me out with news of leaving his job and wanting to develop Viglo full time. We had discussed it before, but the abruptness of his decision caught me off guard. I no longer had time to wallow in my loss because our idea that we’d been incubating was now to be materialized from the world of thoughts, and we had a lot of work to do!
Unbeknownst to the world, during the past couple of years an entirely new method of language learning has been under construction. Our team has shunned the failed methods we endured during our schooling years to employ only the means that delivered us the ability to speak. Methods that did not involve tests, flashcards, or worksheets, but rather the application of the spoken word.
Recognizing that speaking in front of others is the biggest fear of language learners, Scott has developed Viglo's Alter-Echo™ feature that eliminates that problem entirely. Additionally, you can engage in real-time conversation with multiple people speaking all different languages because the Alter-Echo™ feature translates every incoming message into the language you are learning!
The conventional methods of teaching that people have suffered through in the language learning world are going to be set ablaze when Viglo reaches it’s potential. And from these ashes will grow a new paradigm in language learning that will leave no room for today’s inept methods to ever return. It is surreal to imagine the untold numbers of individuals who will be equipped with the proper tools to help themselves achieve fluency in a new language; tools initially forged from an enduring love doomed to fail and a chance meeting on the cold, tile floor of the airport.
Scott H. Cameron
Developer | Designer - Programmer