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
Local

Mayor reveals new tech hub Digital.NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed Digital.NYC on Wednesday, a new online platform aimed at connecting all things tech in New York City. The public-private partnership…

Local

Falling debris hits two men in Times Square

Two men were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after being hit by falling debris from 110 feet above Times Square. Nancy Greco from the…

Local

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough accused of misusing campaign…

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough has been indicted on state and federal charges for allegedly withdrawing campaign funds as cash for personal use. Scarborough, a Democrat…

News

U.S. Secret Service director Pierson resigns under fire

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned under fire on Wednesday after a series of security lapses came to light.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Oct. 1: 'Criminal Minds,'…

The "Criminal Minds" team adds some supernatural assistance, as the "Ghost Whisperer" herself, Jennifer Love Hewitt, joins the show. She's playing an FBI agent, but you never know when someone…

Music

See the most popular Pandora station in your…

Who knew Bachata music was so popular?

The Word

The Word: Twilight just won't die

You thought our "Twilight" days were behind us, didn't you? Well think again. Series creator Stephenie Meyer (who would rather you not ask about "Twilight"…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

NFL

Rex Ryan fields more questions about Geno Smith,…

The idea Geno Smith will be replaced by backup Michael Vick appears to be all smoke, as the Jets are intent to ride with their second-round draft pick.

NFL

Will Beatty playing like franchise left tackle again…

Left tackle Will Beatty, who is the elder-statesman of Giants’ line, has turned around his season and become a consistent force on Manning’s blindside.

NFL

John Conner back with Jets for second stint

He'll be back. It's "Terminator 2" for the Jets, who brought back John Conner to the team on Tuesday after placing fullback Tommy Bohanon on…

NFL

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry…

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry Donnell will stay solid

Career

Creating a support system for minority women in…

When Kathryn Finney founded digitalundivided — an organization devoted to engaging minority communities with the tech world — she didn’t know quite what to expect.…

Sex

We can learn a lot from animals about…

There’s a lot we can learn about love from the birds and the bees — and the chickens, monkeys and squirrels that we share the…

Style

Saint Laurent

Our review of the Saint Laurent Spring '15 show at Paris Fashion Week.

Style

Céline: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2015

Our review of the Celine Spring '15 show during Paris Fashion Week.

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.