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Thursday, December 06, 2007

italki - Social Network for Language Learning

italki is an interesting website in the language learning space - which seems to be very busy these days. They provide the ability to connect with other learners who are trying to learn a language. People find each other using the site and then connect via chat, IM, voice/Skype, etc.

There are other resources, but the use of a social network to find people who can help each other learn the language is a great idea.

Not sure if it can work in practice given the many other barriers that will come up.

I'd be curious what people think about this as a learning mechanism.

3 comments:

Michelle Gallen said...

Hi Tony,

I've blogged about livemocha.com on at www.liquidelearning.com.

Livemocha.com is a social networking and language-learning site. It works well in some areas, but underperforms in others - particularly in that the social networking aspect seems well worked out, and the learning is well integrated with the networking aspect, but the actual learning content disappoints me. But I guess this is to be expected in a new area. Lingro.com is another interesting web 2.0 experiment in language learning - I've reviewed it here.

Susan said...

When in Rome, why not let the Romans teach you?

In Huangshan (黄山) southern Anhui province in Eastern China, Fu Shou-Bing logs on to the computer in the public library near his village. Since discovering ECpod.com (http://www.ECpod.com), the retired High School Chemistry teacher has been logging on almost every day to the English-Chinese teaching website. Sometimes he cycles the 25 miles home, cooks himself a simple lunch of rice and stir-fried vegetables with salted fish, often returning once again to the library and his new hobby in the evening.

ECpod.com boasts an educational website that teaches members conversational English or Chinese (no "this is an apple" stuff here) via video clips contributed by other members. After a vetting and often transcribing process by language tutors commissioned by the site, the clips are available free of charge in YouTube fashion. The twist? Members film each other in everyday activities, hoping other members will learn not just their native tongue, but also cultural innuendos lost in textbooks and more conventional means of language learning.

"One member filmed himself cooking in his kitchen. We got a few emails asking what condiments he used," says a bemused Warwick Hau, one of the site's more public faces. One emailer even wanted to know if she could achieve the same Chinese stir-fry using ingredients from her regular CR Vanguard (华润超级) supermarket. "We often forget our every day activities may not be as mundane to people on the other side of the world," Hau adds. Another such clip is "loaches" - a Chinese mother of 3 filmed her children and their friends playing with a bucket of loaches - slippery eel-like fish the children were picking up and gently squeezing between their fingers.

Lately the members have also begun to make cross-border friends and contacts. The ECpal function works much the same way sites like Facebook.com and MySpace.com work - members can invite each other to view their clips and make friends. And it has its fair share of juvenile humor as well. “Farting Competition” features two teenagers and graphic sound effects. Within several days, the clip was one of the most popular videos that week, likely due to mass-forwarding by the participants’ schoolmates.

For other members keen to learn more than the fact juvenile humor is similar everywhere, there are many home videos featuring unlikely little nuggets of wisdom. “The last thing I learned from the site is why you never find green caps for sale in China”, says Adam Schiedler one of the English language contributors to the site. Green caps signify cuckolded husbands, particularly shameful in China as they are a huge loss of face. Adam vows not to buy any green headgear for his newfound friends.

The subject matter of the videos often speaks volumes about its contributors. Members choose their own content and film the clip wherever they please, some of their efforts drawing attention to rural surroundings and the quaint insides of little homes otherwise not seen unless you backpack your way thru the tiny dirt roads and villages along the Chinese countryside.

Idyllic countrysides and cooking lessons aside however, ECpod marries the latest video sharing technology with the old school way of teaching a language - from the native speakers on the street. It's a modern, more convenient alternative to spending 6 months in China. And why not let the Chinese teach you?

Visit http://www.ECpod.com

Anonymous said...

There's another very good site to practice foreign languages: www.sharedtalk.com