Skype fosters long-distance language education

Laura Ramirez, a teacher at , works in her "classroom." Credit: Ray
Laura Ramirez, a teacher at Live Lingua, works in her “classroom.”
Credit: Ray Blakney

Skype has already revolutionized the way more than 50 million registered users communicate with faraway friends and family. Now, the web-based video-calling platform may just be poised to overhaul foreign language education as well, eliminating barriers like location, money and time.

Ray Blakney started Live Lingua, one of the world’s top Skype-based foreign language immersion schools, in 2008. While learning Spanish through the immersion method in the Peace Corps in Mexico, Blakney came to understand the importance of communication practice with native speakers. Skype helps learners connect with them.

“It’s amazingly similar to a one-on-one class,” Blakney says. “It really feels like you’re sitting there talking to these people. You don’t have to sacrifice that much.”

Live Lingua offers several languages and dialects, and most students are taught spoken communication. Instructors can diagnose their needs as they go. Most students start with at least some spoken proficiency — including Blakney himself, who is brushing up his rusty Turkish with Live Lingua.

For students whose focus is more on grammar, reading or writing, Skype coursework does have its limitations. Joseph Miranda, founder of NoteFull, started his company to prepare students for the TOEFL exam. TOEFL is an advanced English proficiency test required for non-native speakers to study or practice in the U.S. NoteFull uses Skype for tutoring sessions, but relies primarily on other web teaching materials.

“Skype doesn’t lend itself to presenting information,” Miranda says. “Coupled with a website, then it becomes effective. For writing, you’d be texting back and forth.” Still, it offers major scheduling advantages for busy adults: “Skype is on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So it lends itself to flexibility.”

Liliana Novikova, a multilingual foreign language teacher based in Ukraine, agrees that Skype lessons are best for non-beginners. For them, teachers prefer a textbook they can point to, or to draw pictures and examples. And at any level, lessons can be sabotaged by spotty Internet connections. “It’s rarely infallible,” Novikova says. “Most classes are interrupted at least once.”

Despite Skype’s shortcomings, Novikova is still pleased to connect with students she otherwise couldn’t. “It offers complete geographical freedom. But students and teachers still feel connected to each other, and they can achieve almost the same progress as they would face-to-face.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

PHOTO: Queen Elizabeth pulls off epic photobomb

The selfie / photobomb has gone viral.

Local

Astoria minivan crash kills 1, injures 6: NYPD

Anthony Boyd, 45, died soon after what investigators believe was some sort of medical emergency as he drove his family through Astoria on Sunday afternoon.

Local

NYC pension funds valued at $160b: Scott Stringer

The five NYC pension funds that thousands of city employees contribute to saw its fifth year in a row of increased returns, up $23 billion from last year.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Entertainment

'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood' game easter eggs and cheats

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is the hottest game of the moment. Here are its best easter eggs as well as some tips and tricks to speed your way to the top.

Television

Kacy Catanzaro credits mind over body in "American…

Kacy Catanzaro credits her victory to mental focus and upper body strength.

Entertainment

Q&A: The brains behind 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood'

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is the hottest game of the moment. We talked with Christopher Locke of Glu Canada to find out more about developing the game.

Movies

The 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' trailer is…

Watch 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' trailer.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Tech

Amazon offers 3D printing to customize earrings, bobble…

By Deepa SeetharamanSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and…

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Comments

1

  1. Great to see this article about learning languages on Skype. I am originally from France – and moved to NYC 2 years ago – and have been taking English lessons with 2 teachers at Live Lingua(http://www.livelingua.com/english-lessons.php) for over a year and it has been ideal for me. I can continue my lessons from here or from in France. I highly recommend online learning for people like me who travel a lot for work.