Thursday, January 08, 2009

Language-Sharing Programs

Has anyone tried out internet sites for language learning, in which users share their knowledge with one another? Let’s say your native language is French and you want to learn Russian; on such a site, you can find someone whose native tongue is Russian and who wants to learn French. You two can work together online, exchanging your knowledge. My university actually has a program like this and recently I’ve heard about Palabea, a site with users from 190 countries. I’ve looked at Palabea, but I am not sure if I think such sites can work so well; just because someone has a particular native language doesn’t mean that s/he knows how to teach the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation to another person. I might try it out at some point, anyway, so I’d be glad to hear what experience others have with language-sharing programs.

8 comments:

Chris said...

Hi there,

Check out Lang-8, I haven't actually tried it but it seems to be fairly successful at bringing language learners together. There's a write-up on it at Asiajin.

Chris

Toffler said...

BJ,
Actually there are a number of sites that connect people for language exchange, and Palabea is one of the lesser known ones, so I'm a little surprised you stumbled upon it first. Some are more active than others, and all have slightly different features to help language learners.
In most cases, the point is not for one party to 'teach' the other grammar, vocab, etc. The idea is for both partners to gain confidence in speaking and improve their fluency. Usually a language partner is supplemental to other instruction, not instead of.
However, some sites have already started or will soon offer both a formal teacher and language exchange partner service. My favorite of these is www.italki.com

dimka said...

Hi,

I was looking for a language exchange site when stumbled upon your blog :)

I tried couple of sites (lang-8.com lingozone.com www.language-exchanges.org) in hope to improve my written English. I would think that if I'd post my writings, someone would correct them and would give me a feedback. It seems even better to post translations as it may help other people too to learn the language of the original while correcting the translation.

This should work well but there are some obstacles:

1. A site should have to attract lots of users otherwise it is hard to find people willing to contribute.

2. A site should provide convenient tools otherwise it is hard for people to provide feedback. People try helping out but find it inconvenient and drop that.

3. Not everyone can write well even in their native language.

4. People need help at different levels, that makes it harder to find a right partners and we are back to item 1 I already mentioned.

So far I have been correcting other people's writings in my native language (Russian) but have not been able to find someone to help myself. It may be because I haven't made enough efforts to find partners or because sites I tried have different ideas behind them.

It might help to find a partner to work on joint translations. This may be done in a form of a wiki site where people contribute in a similar way they edit wikipedia. But that would be a different model.

Dmitri

Essentials said...

Hello,

Off-topic:
I have been checking out your blog for some time now. I should say I find it interesting (though I have not read all your articles - yet!).

On-topic:
I am a Romanian who wishes to learn Russian. I too have engaged myself in searching for the kind of sites you are talking about in this article. I have to say I have not found the support I have expected. I shall continue with my search, and hopefully will find a place to help me out with my goal (my goal for 2009: Russian language).

Off-topic:
I too am passionate about languages and translation studies. It is a world of great adventures - as I like to call it. One never gets bored.
All the best with your goals of 2009.

I shall return with comments from time to time.

'Essentials'

B.J. Epstein said...

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions for sites! It was very interesting for me to hear about your experiences with these programs.

Best wishes,
BJ

kevin grimes said...

I agree with Toffler that lnaguage-sharing sites offer many resources along with opportunities for conversation. The later is a social thing that requires shared-leadership and motivation; otherwise, the conversation just dies. I had a language instructor with whom I was to converse but I found myself feeling incapable of making intelligible comments and rather preferred attending a course locally.

Along the line of Dimitri s (where is the apostrophe on the swedish keyboard?) idea, I created a wiki workspace and to which I invited others to collaborate on translation of content into swedish. Being a novice this was fun and a great way to practice my new language.
Kevin

B.J. Epstein said...

Thank you for your comment, Kevin! Working on translating content that way sounds like an interesting method of learning a language.

Best wishes,
BJ

Ann Sander said...

Another good language-exchange community, which I found recently is www.languageforexchange.com