Can we talk? Latina-led startup Time2Talk helps bridge the cultural gap through conversation

Language arts are included in the curriculum of a great many schools, offering students the opportunity to learn other languages. But mastering a language requires more time than a school year, or several years, allows.


Daily interpersonal interactions are a necessity, and with the world now relying heavily on remote learning and smartphones—to an even greater degree because of the COVID-19 pandemic—Marina Jackman has devised a conventional way to learn Spanish with the tech startup Time2Talk, an app that links the user with language coaches for one-on-one conversational Spanish lessons.


“I think 2020 has accelerated a technological trend in education that was inevitable,” says Jackman, who operates her business out of her Gordon Square home. “Online tools and resources are becoming more and more accessible. When combined with the irreplaceable human element, global cultural exchange becomes an everyday thing.”


Jackman launched the Time2Talk app earlier this summer as a way for U.S. and Canadian residents to access to real-life tutoring with native speakers throughout Latin America.


The app is available on demand and the pay scale is based on the amount of time the app is used. The Spanish coaches are chosen through an application process.


“This allows us to choose people who are very friendly, patient, and excited to help others learn Spanish,” says Jackman.


It is Jackman’s love for languages that served as inspiration for the app.


Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jackman moved in 2015 to Barcelona, Spain to earn her master’s degree in international politics journalism. She met her husband, Chris, while in Barcelona and the two moved to France. Prior to the move, the couple traveled there to take an extensive five-week French course to prepare for this new chapter of their lives.


“Everything we were learning in class, we were applying in real-life: talking to everyone we encountered, ordering dinner, etc.,” Jackman recalls of the immersion method she and Chris used to learn French.


But the two hit a bit of a language barrier when conversing between themselves. As with many children of Latinx parents in the U.S., Chris understood Spanish but didn’t really speak the language, other than occasionally with his Colombian mom.


“I was more used to speaking English with friends from different countries, so it was natural to talk in English when we met,” explains Jackman. “Sometime after we started dating, he asked me to please only speak Spanish so he could become more confident. We spoke in Spanish every day for a couple of months, and he became fully bilingual. It's incredible what regular practice can do for your language skills.


Then, in 2017, The couple’s plans to start a life together in France were altered when Chris received a job offer—in Cleveland. “I was excited about the move, even though I had no idea about the city,” says Jackman. “I Googled Cleveland, and after reading about the West Side Market and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I was pretty much sold on it.”


About a year into living in their new hometown, Jackman was thinking about their time in France and their conversational approach to learning new languages. With that, a business was born.


Marina Jackman has devised a conventional way to learn Spanish with the tech startup, Time2Talk.“Just seeing the process with [Chris], and seeing our process with French while in France, is what inspired me,” says Jackman. “If you don’t speak a language regularly, you’ll never be truly fluent. That’s the key of Time2Talk.”


Jackman says she and Chris searched for accessible and convenient tutoring programs were unsuccessful. So, they came up with the idea of creating a mobile app that would simplify the learning process without having to pay for a subscription, or pre-schedule the sessions.


“There are so many online tools for the beginning stages of learning a language, but there’s a gap between grasping the fundamentals and real-life conversations while traveling or working with people who speak that language,” explains Jackman. “Time2Talk facilitates the immersive experience on-demand.”


The Jackmans started developing the app in 2018, and Jackman quit her full-time job at a digital marketing agency to devote all her time to the project. Coding began in late 2019 before releasing Time2Talk. Initial feedback on the app has been positive.


Tuesday, Sept. 15 through this Thursday, Oct. 15 marks National Hispanic Heritage Month, and Jackman says she has seen a slight uptick in interest about the app. But she says that any conversations sparked by highlighting Hispanic culture need to be continued year-round.


“There’s a lot of value in the Latin community and I think we need to get beyond the misconceptions and generalizations and see people for who they are,” she says. “I think cities that welcome immigrants and help them network and develop their skills and businesses help make the city stronger.”


Jackman says she hopes stories like hers will the keep the Hispanic heritage celebration and recognition going. “Cleveland is an amazing city,” she says. “There’s so much potential and so many innovative people here, constantly pushing to grow and develop the City even more.”

Read more articles by Nate Paige.

Nate Paige has worked in local journalism for more than 25 years, most of which was spent at as a copy editor, community editor, hyperlocal producer, entertainment reporter, and social media coordinator. He got his start in the business at the Cleveland Call & Post. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.