Language Learning Through Skype



Image courtesy of Renjth Krishnan/

Talking to another person by visual/audio technology is hardly a new concept in the realm of science fiction and comic strips. Going back a generation to the time of George Jetson or two generations to the time of Dick Tracy and his two-way watch, humans have been dreaming of ways to communicate with one another outside of conventional face-to-face encounters.

It is now an every day reality. Take for example the use of Skype (a contraction of the words “sky” and “peer”). Skype is a voice-over-IP and instant messaging service, and offers the ability to hold a visual conversation with someone via the Internet using a computer with webcam or a smartphone. In fact, Skype has become so commonplace, it is often used as a verb as in “I will Skype you to go over the meeting minutes.” (You can find out more about how to set up Skype through Matt Bauer’s My Computer Works on YouTube.)

Technology has infused our lives in almost every way from how we drive to how we cook to even how we learn. It has revolutionized the way people access education. Case in point is language learning. You only need a computer or a smartphone to meet with a native-speaking instructor from any point in the world. Technology provides a wide range of delivery to people who, in the past, may have been unable to access foreign language education due to location or economics. Thus, once a pastime of the rich, learning another language is now affordable to almost everyone and in some cases, even free.

Learning a language via a tech-based platform also enables users to tailor lessons to highly personalized pursuits (ex. prep for a vacation, job interview, etc.). There are numerous opportunities to not only meet with a language instructor, but to practice your new skill with others in the Cyberworld. The Mixxer and Conversation Exchange are only two such sites that help language students meet online to practice speaking and writing skills.

In February, Anna Codrea-Rado of examined language learning via online means. As an extension of the article, The Guardian set up a challenge to see if three reporters could learn a language in six weeks using their computers and smartphones. You can read about their experiences here.

Written by Marlene Martzke for English Classes by Skype



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