Aug. 27, 2006
Auralog develops and sells cutting-edge foreign-language software that makes use of voice recognition and other high-tech innovations.
Although you probably haven't heard of privately held Auralog, its "Tell me more" brand might be recognizable if you've shopped for language software lately or taken classes in school, at the workplace or because of a government tie.
The company's clients include Maricopa Community Colleges, the University of Arizona, the federal government, Toyota, Exxon-Mobil, Arizona and 10,000 schools.
Auralog claims 5 million users worldwide, with Best Buy, CompUSA, Costco and Amazon.com among its largest retail outlets, said Julien Picard, a retail marketing manager who works in Phoenix. The Paris-based company doesn't release revenue or net income figures, but Picard says the firm is profitable.
"The market is growing well," he said. "More people realize that learning a second language can be helpful."
In the U.S. market, Spanish is the company's most popular language, but English is most in demand globally, Picard said. Arabic was hot a few years back, but now Chinese has come more into vogue, reflecting increased trans-Pacific business ties.
Auralog's U.S. customers range from regular college students to military personnel to business representatives to immigrants for whom English is a second language.
"I was amazed by the English-language market share in the U.S.," said Christophe Pralong, vice president of sales and marketing and Auralog's top executive in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, plenty of native English speakers want to learn other languages for travel or cultural reasons.
"A lot of retirees are starting to learn a second language they've always wanted to learn," said Michael Stoltz, an e-commerce specialist for Auralog in Phoenix.
The company's Phoenix office, located south of Sky Harbor International Airport, provides marketing and customer-service support for the U.S. and Canada. It's the firm's only U.S. office and one of six globally.
Auralog planted its U.S. toehold in Phoenix because its first vice president for the American market happened to be living here at the time of expansion, in 1999. Today, about 25 people work in Phoenix, including individuals from France, Germany, Belgium, Canada and Mexico. The firm plans to expand its Phoenix count to around 40 next year, mainly by adding sales staff.
Auralog employs about 200 workers globally, including full-time linguists and software developers in Paris.
Picard believes Auralog was the first company to integrate speech recognition into language software. Among its software features are 3-D illustrations of mouths when pronouncing words correctly and the ability to export audio content to MP3 players.
Each package combines grammar, vocabulary, voice lessons, cultural insights and more. Users can choose various learning approaches, from a structured path to a free-to-roam mode.
"We have more content that anyone else - up to 2,000 hours of learning (per software package)," Picard said. "The idea is to improve the products using technology to keep our learners motivated."
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