Two people reading in a library

Yaya's Story

We're, David Gaynor and Patrick Coleman, two friends who are both a little too obsessed with studying (but definitely not mastering) foreign languages – Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and French.

One night while getting ready for bed, David had an idea to practice Chinese with his wife Xinqing. He'd build a little program to translate Harry Potter sentence-by-sentence to Chinese so they could read together before going to sleep.

Meanwhile Patrick had been trying to learn Japanese for a few years, had read all the bilingual learning books at the local Kinokuniya Japanese bookstore, and was getting defeated by real paper books and comics (like Kitchen, Men Without Women, and Akira).

One day on a catchup call, David and Patrick realized they both wanted to work on the same project. (And Patrick wanted David to teach him how to code.)

In a weekend, David and another friend built a quick prototype that matched professional translations to original texts (e.g. the many masterful translations of Haruki Murakami) using sentence embeddings and beam search. It was cool but a little too niche and hard-to-use.

Next David and Patrick tried AI-generated stories using ChatGPT and lots of “high-tech” prompt engineering. We quickly started using the stories to study. Turns out, they were fun, easy, and effective!

So we hustled to build a user-friendly interface for learners and teachers, adding spaced repetition vocabulary, teaching tools and other helpful features. Months went by. Winter became spring...

Finally in May 2023, we launched!

And now we're both using Yaya to study every day. One day Patrick hopes to understand what his wife Courtney's parents are saying about him in Korean, and David (who lives in Geneva) hopes to order a croissant in French without them responding in English.

Studying another language? Teaching language learners? Trying a bunch of different tools? Get in touch and tell us your story too!


What is Yaya?

Yaya is a language learning app where you learn by reading. Reading compelling content is one of the most effective ways to learn another language. And it's fun!

Ok, how does it work?

Give us a creative topic or prompt, and we'll use AI to generate a dialog, story, article, or other fun types of content with sentence-by-sentence translations at any reading level. We'll also include daily vocabulary words using spaced repetition. It's way more fun than flashcards!

You can also upload your own texts (so you can study with whatever reading you want!). Yaya will get you tackling that novel you've been wanting to read much sooner in your learning journey.

Who's this for?

Yaya is ideal for learners of all levels. For beginners, it helps to know the basics. For intermediate and advanced learners, dive right in. Reading is the fastest way to grow your vocabulary .

Yaya is also great for teachers. It's a fast and effective way to create highly varied, engaging, and personalized teaching material. And you can be sure that your students will want to do their homework!

Is it free?

Yep. For now (while Yaya is in beta), everything is free.

Where does the name Yaya come from?

Ya comes from 鴨, the Chinese character for duck. Why Yaya? Well, we like linguistic reduplication, plus it's fun to say. Yaya!

Why Yaya Press? We're an AI-generated publisher, aren't we?

We cycled through a few potential names – notably Kongwon (a sloppy romanization of 看官 or “dear reader” in Chinese) and YayaYomu (“duck, duck, read!” 鴨鴨読む in a confusing combination of Chinese and Japanese) – before settling on Yaya Press.

Illustration of a duck with a book

Why bother learning another language?

If you have to ask, we'll answer!

In the slightly paraphrased words of teacher/translator Jay Rubin, “One of the most satisfying experiences a person can have is to train their mind to think in a foreign language.” Couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Oh but of course we also do it for the people, food, travel, movies, games, TV, music and BOOKS!