Back in 2015, I contributed to a Kickstarter for a new language app called Fluent Panda. It was a really exciting app, with the potential for additional languages in the future. I contributed at a higher level so that I could get all languages and all future languages included. I promised a review when the app became available.
Unfortunately, it appears you will not be getting that review, because it seems I will not be getting the app. Instead, I’ll share with you what I know about what happened.
I couldn’t remember any recent updates, not that they weren’t incredibly sporadic anyway, so I went to check on the app. There were no updates since March of this year, but there were plenty of unhappy comments on the Kickstarter campaign page.
It took time to find specifics presented by the actual project creators. I did manage to find messages that corroborated the information in the user comments. These messages were located within comments threads rather than in actual creator updates. First, in a response to a previous update, they confirmed that the app will only teach English:
The final app will only “teach” English (I put teach in quotation marks as it will be more of an assistant than a language learning app, and will be useful both to foreigners and native speakers).
We unfortunately came to the realization that our initial plans very overly ambitious, unrealistically so. Covering a wide range of contexts in English is an enormous endeavour in and of itself, and it will take months and years, a lot of money and strategic partnerships with existing publishers to have the range and quality of content we’d like to.
As a native English speaker, I don’t have a lot of use for an app to teach me English.
In the same thread, they also confirmed information I’d been seeing that the app is only available on Android.
Thank you for your support and understanding! We certainly plan to launch an iOS version in the future, and the current app is developed in a way that will make that as easy as possible.
I’m an iOS user.
In another thread, I found a comment from a backer who had received this reply from the company:
Hey guys. Not sure why they haven’t posted an update about this (or how they expected me to already know) but I e-mailed them about the app and this is the response I got.
Thank you for the message. Maybe you haven’t seen, but we have rebranded Fluent Panda to Leaf and the app is out, with new content constantly being added. It’s still in the works regarding the UX/UI so if you have any comments they will be very much appreciated!
I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback.
Director of Outreach at LinguaLift
Another message from the creators of the app used an email dress at leaf.com, verifying this information. Sure enough, the Leaf app exists. It’s available for free on the Google Play store.
I’m extremely upset at this. Not just that they changed the product, greatly reducing its functionality, but that they didn’t update backers to inform us of this change and to provide an explanation.
I’m also questioning where my money went. The creators of the campaign are also the creators of a site called LinguaLift, which has received an extensive facelift and updates to functionality since the Kickstarter ended. I’ve reviewed this app previously, at least in its older form, and I found it to be a very usable and complete method for learning, although the prices have fluctuated wildly (up to $99 a month) before seemingly settling on the current $14.99 a month (though I don’t know how long that will last).
[UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after posting this, I received an email that “prices will double for new users” after November 30th. So that answers that question.]
Despite the functionality of the site, I’m hesitant to give them my money after having lost a significant amount to their Kickstarter project, which they have handled incredibly poorly. I don’t even like linking to their site, and I’m only doing so here for completeness in case any other backers or interested parties find this post when searching for information, and because I’ve been conditioned so heavily to always provide references (normally a very good thing).
I recently sent them an email requesting a refund due to violations of the Kickstarter terms of service, specifically this section:
If a creator is unable to complete their project and fulfill rewards, they’ve failed to live up to the basic obligations of this agreement. To right this, they must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to the best possible conclusion for backers. A creator in this position has only remedied the situation and met their obligations to backers if:
- they post an update that explains what work has been done, how funds were used, and what prevents them from finishing the project as planned;
- they work diligently and in good faith to bring the project to the best possible conclusion in a timeframe that’s communicated to backers;
- they’re able to demonstrate that they’ve used funds appropriately and made every reasonable effort to complete the project as promised;
- they’ve been honest, and have made no material misrepresentations in their communication to backers; and
- they offer to return any remaining funds to backers who have not received their reward (in proportion to the amounts pledged), or else explain how those funds will be used to complete the project in some alternate form.
The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they’re unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers.
I have yet to receive a response.
As of now, I am removing LinguaLift from my links page and retracting any endorsement I may have previously made. I cannot support a company that has violated their customers’ trust and not even attempted to communicate about or rectify the issues.