YongoPal – Make Money by Making a Difference!
Sounds great, right? But what exactly is YongoPal? Apparently the site offers a service that connects Korean university students with native English speakers who will get paid for having a chat in English with the students.
The service is only targeting the Korean market and in this market only university students who want to practice their spoken English.
YongoPal describes the service as complement to the basic academic and curriculum-based English language education in Korea which is focused on rote memorization and teaches only what students need to receive high marks on standardized written exams with the result that many students struggle with simple conversation even if they learned English for years before.
The conversation partner earns $9 USD for a 50 minute conversation. The recommended VoIP client is TokBox which works in the browser, so no download or installation needed, and is free to use for the teacher and the student. Conversation partners do not need to speak Korean as the aim of the service is to get the Korean students into speaking and understanding English.
YongoPal also tries to get a good student : conversation partner ratio so that people who actually would like to earn some money have the chance to get booked. There are no minimum or maximum working hours.
Students can rate their conversation partners by timeliness, patience and quality of the conversation but the platform is working on further rating options which will provide the conversation partner with more feedback.
As you noticed, I tried to avoid the word teacher in this post. Of course it is not said that only people with a non ESL / EFL teaching background can subscribe to the service. But is this service made for teachers? Teachers tend to take control over the conversation and hence start to do, what they do: teaching. I think the focus of YongoPal is more on a casual conversation without focusing too much on learning about grammar and so on. Also $9 USD per 50 minutes would be fairly low end in terms of teacher payment, even for the ESL market.
All in all I think the guys could be on to something here. They target a very interesting market with a huge potential as Korean parents invest a lot of money in the education of their children. Another interesting point that is mentioned on the YongoPal website is the fact that Asian countries are very homogeneous compared to Europe or the US where we interact with foreigners on a daily basis. In Asia English speakers are very rare and hence the overwhelming demand in comparison to the scarcity of opportunities to actually meet or interact with a native English speakers has built a sizable market.