Join Club

Online Spanish Dictionary Expands Into Language Learning App

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Curiosity Media works on its new program, FluenciaChris Cummings was already the CEO of a media company with a language translation website,, that was drawing 5 million unique page views a month in 2011 when he graduated from law and business school.

His bootstrapped company consisted only of him and one other employee when he moved to Arlington and decided to poll his visitors, asking, “how many of you are learning Spanish right now?”

With more than 6,500 answers to the survey, 77 percent said they were learning Spanish while using SpanishDict. Cummings, no longer running the site during evenings and weekends, decided to dive into teaching Spanish, not just translating it.

Last month, Cummings and his company, Curiosity Media, launched Fluencia, a Spanish learning program that Cummings says is more modern and data-driven than any that have come before it.

Fluencia3“I’ve always felt we could do a much better job with foreign language education,” Cummings said. “People were not happy with the options out there. Most of them were too boring, too expensive or just didn’t work.”

Now based in The Ground Floor in Rosslyn, Fluencia was primarily built starting in 2012 in a small office above Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon. Cummings said working late on Thursday and Friday nights was “not an option” with the loud music blaring from below, but that didn’t prevent him and his team from building the program, which runs on desktop, tablets and smartphones.

What separates Fluencia from more established programs like Rosetta Stone, Cummings said, is that it’s constantly collecting data on user experience, figuring out what the user is learning and struggling with, and adapting lesson plans accordingly.

“The tools people use to learn are really antiquated,” Cummings said. “The tools we use are so interactive. We stay at your pace, we have native speaker audio, and we collect data on what you’ve learned and bring it right back to you.”

The Curiosity Media teamCummings says he is “conversational” in Spanish, and but he has brought in Spanish professors from Georgetown University, George Washington University and American University to test the effectiveness of the program. Fluencia only teaches Spanish to English speakers right now, but it is “built to be flexible,” and Cummings plans on adding new languages in the future.

“A lot of language programs that teach every language are jacks of all trades and masters of none,” he said. “Our focus on Spanish helps us improve.”

The program’s biggest innovation, Cummings said, is a rating system learners can use after every lesson. They rate the lesson on a scale of 1-5, and the Curiosity tech team can use those ratings to improve it in the future. Contrary to his initial belief, Cummings said the highest-rated lessons were taught mostly in Spanish and have more challenging interactions.

The most surprising ratings revelation? People love grammar.

A cultural lesson in Fluencia “We were nervous beforehand about the grammar, but those lessons have among the highest ratings,” Cummings said. “It’s amazing how ratings are so influential to us for things like restaurants and online shopping, but we never use them for the way we learn.”

Cummings told a story of a fifth-grader learning Spanish as an example of Fluencia’s capability. This summer, between fifth and sixth grade, the student used Fluencia a few hours a week, having never learned a word of Spanish before that. After the summer, he took a placement test with Arlington Public Schools and was placed in the same class as students his age who had taken Spanish through kindergarten.

“Our surveys keep coming back with answers that users say it’s the best product online they’ve tried, which is super encouraging,” Cummings said. “We’ve been working in a small sphere, but now we’re getting more people using the product. We’ve got an initial foothold. It’s more than an idea. It’s out there.”

After a month, Fluencia is up to 30,000 users from 180 countries, Cummings said. They have already collectively answered more than 1 million questions, and that data is being culled and used to improve the program. The service costs $7.95 a month for a year’s subscription, $6.95/month for two years and $14.95 for a monthly subscription.

Curiosity Media is also hiring in engineering and design positions.

Recent Stories

ARLnow Daily Debrief for Sep 25, 2023

Good Monday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

More Arlington properties could be impacted by 100- and 500-year floods, according to new federal flood insurance rate maps. The county estimates some 300 buildings, up from 172, now risk…

Costs are creeping up for a courtroom makeover in Arlington. County Board members approved an extra $200,000 this past Saturday to complete renovations in Courtroom 10B, a project ambitiously dubbed…

Gardens with abundant native species could soon have an official definition in county code: “managed natural landscape.” This definition would protect Arlingtonians who grow the kinds of native grasses, wildflowers…

Discover Healing and Renewed Well-Being through Psychotherapy

Life’s challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming, leaving us with feelings of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. That’s where psychotherapy can make a profound difference. Our dedicated team of experienced therapists is here to guide you on a journey towards emotional and mental well-being.

Why Choose Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy offers a safe, confidential space for you to explore your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Whether you’re facing a specific issue or seeking personal growth, our therapists are here to support you. We believe in the power of conversation, empathy, and understanding to help you gain insights, develop coping strategies, and make positive changes in your life.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Our local therapy practice is delighted to welcome Stacey Cali, Resident in Counseling, who has openings now for new clients. Stacey specializes in therapy for women, couples, teens and families. A graduate of George Mason University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Masters Program, Stacey is also passionate about working with people with addiction.

Stacey’s approach: “Therapy’s a powerful combination of reflection, support and action. You’ll find sessions are filled with empowerment, compassion, goal setting and a metaphorical shovel to dig deep to find the root of your difficulties and how to move past them.”

Adds Stacey, “As a therapist who works with women, teens, couples and families, I use a personalized style of counseling, tailored to you as an individual. You’re the expert in your life, I’m just here to guide you towards transformation and healing.”

Stacey grew up in the area and decided to stay here, “since it’s close to beaches, mountains, and cities.” “In my spare time you can find me doing yoga, hiking, or gardening. I also love lounging and streaming shows or movies. I enjoy trying diverse restaurants and trying new food, my favorites now are sushi & Mexican.”

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

New Moms Groups forming now!

Whether you’re expecting your first baby or you just had your first baby, we want to meet YOU! All those feelings you’re having are NORMAL and it’s not just you. Please don’t isolate yourself – that’s quicksand.

Mamistad groups are

Equality Arlington Coming Out Party

Come celebrate National Coming Out Day at Equality Arlington’s Coming Out Party on Wednesday, October 11th from 7-8:30 PM at Busboys and Poets (Shirlington)! Senator Adam Ebbin is our featured speaker and we will have Arlingtonians sharing what coming out


Subscribe to our mailing list