2007 August 24 Friday
Students Practice Foreign Languages On Internet Phones

People from different countries practice each others' languages using cheap internet phones.

Maurice Acker, a junior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, practices Spanish with natives from Spain every Friday morning at the school's language lab. They talk about sports, cultural differences the usual stuff of student conversations but there's a twist: Mr. Acker has never met any of his conversational partners in person.

That's because Marquette's Spanish and Italian curriculums use Skype, a free Internet phone service, to connect students with "language partners" all over the world.

Typically, students practice Spanish for 25 minutes and then switch to English for 25 minutes (it's an exchange: Their partners want to practice speaking English). All the students need is an Internet connection, a webcam, a microphone, and headphones.

"I feel more comfortable speaking in class than I did before," says Acker, who adds that his conversations over Skype have helped his Spanish improve much faster than drills in class.

Students don't need to all come to the same room to do this. They can do it from any location that has a broadband connection.

Imagine something like this approach applied to other subjects. Why not form virtual communities online that debate and discuss an assortment of course topics. Want to learn Greek philosophers? Roman history? Macroeconomics? Study discussion groups could form virtually to allow people to chat with each other about topics they are learning. Then they could take online tests to see if they've learned enough to earn college credits.

Lectures will still have a place. But most lectures can be recorded. You could take a practice test and then in the areas you are weak you could listen to lectures, register indicating an interest in discussions on those topics, and do exercises in interactive learning software.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 August 24 07:56 PM  Education

Matt@occidentalism said at August 27, 2007 6:28 PM:

I am doing the same thing over skype to learn Chinese. A good site to find a language exchange partner is www.sharedtalk.com.

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