For my final post discussing my progress and learning journey I will be focusing on my connections I made with others online in order to practice speaking Italian. I shouldn’t say speaking Italian because I didn’t end up speaking to anyone face to face, but I had a few conversations with people to test out my skills and learn along the way.
After searching for different ways to connect and chat with others online I came across WeSpeke. This website is an online community that allows you to connect with people who speak a language you would like to learn. In return, you help them learn your language by chatting/speaking to them. I was a little nervous about joining because I didn’t know if I was ready to connect with people through Skype, but I was happy to learn that I could simply chat with others through the site.
When you sign up the site will ask you for your native language and the language you are interested in learning. It will also ask you to rate on a scale of 1-5 your level of mastery for the language you want to learn. It will then give you a list of profiles for people on the site that may be a good match for you. From there you can select some people to connect with and start chatting away.
The most difficult part of using the website is dealing with the time change. For myself it works because I am at home all the time being on maternity leave so I am able to be around to connect with people. Most of the people I connect with are in Europe so it is usually late evening for them when we connect. It may be hard for you to connect with people depending on the time change between you and them and of course daily schedules.
I was able to connect with a couple of people and have a very brief basic conversation. It was nice to be able to connect and put my skills to work. I quickly found that I don’t have all the basics down and I need to refer to a translator like Google translate often to help me complete sentences. Even though I needed to refer to a translator and get help from time to time it was a great learning experience. Certainly more realistic than practicing with Duolingo. Here are a few snapshots from my conversation using WeSpeke.
One thing I did find after using Google Translate is that it sometimes translates differently than what I have learned using Duolingo or other sites. Sometimes I was sure of what I wanted to say but would double check it using the translator and it would be very different from what I thought it should be. I know that the languages don’t always translate word for word, so maybe the way I was interpreting it was a little different.
I enjoyed using the website and decided to download the app because I can log in and chat more conveniently when I have my phone with me. The service is free and I would recommend it to anyone trying to learn a language.
Livemocha is another site that allows you to use others in order to help you learn. This site works a little different than WeSpeke. Rather than connecting and having conversations with others, you complete lessons and others will give you feedback based on your work. You can listen and see the work of others as well and give feedback to them so they can learn. There is a points system involved that allows you to earn points by completing lessons and giving feedback on lessons that others have completed. You have to use points to ‘purchase’ lessons to complete so it ensures that you can’t just take and only use the service to complete lessons and get feedback. You must also give back and review lessons completed by others. I didn’t find the service to be super useful and didn’t get feedback from anyone on any lessons I did. I’m not sure how others find my lessons to review. From what I can tell a list of lessons appears on the screen and you just select one that you want to review. So it could take a while before someone picks your lesson to review. For anyone wanting to give the site a try, you have limited time as it is closing down as of April 22, 2016 with no reason stated for ending.
There were a few other websites that I looked at but didn’t use or investigate for a variety of reasons. Some of the websites looked to be a little ‘sketchy’ or unprofessional so I wasn’t sure about the people I would find on the site or safety of the site as well. These were mostly pen pal sites that I had searched. Other sites like italki are paid tutoring sites. I signed up because it was recommended by someone who commented on my blog, but I didn’t realize it was a paid service so I didn’t investigate it.
One site that I came across that I think would be really awesome to join is Conversation Exchange. This site connects you with someone to practice a language. Once you have practiced and learned the language you are able to fly to the country of the person you have been meeting with online and have them host you for a stay. In exchange you will do the same for them. It sounds like a neat way to learn a language and travel as well, but I would be a little scared to take the leap and join. I am sure you could make some great connections, but I always worry about connecting with strangers online. But like their FAQ page states, you are only strangers for a short time and then you become friends. I would like to look into it more and read some reviews to see how it has worked for others.
If you were learning a language would you try to use a site like Conversation Exchange?