Thursday, April 8, 2010

Language Swapping Site

A blog posting featured in MultiLingual News' weekly newsletter alerted me to an interesting website, called lingomatch. It is intended to help people who want to learn a foreign language find a speaker of that language to practice with. In exchange, they'd teach their partner their own language. My daughter used a similar system run by the University of Leipzig's (Germany) foreign language department for its students to learn rudimentary French while studying there.

The site seems to be still fairly small, with fewer than 50 ads listed in New York City, for example. As the blogger noted, it's also currently limited to large cities. While this service may not be necessary in very small towns where people know each other, it would be particularly helpful in smaller cities, where there may not be as many bilingual people as, say, in New York City.

Such a swap of linguistic knowledge is, of course, no substitute for an actual language teacher, who not only speaks the language in question, but also knows how to teach it (not to mention being familiar with its grammatical structure, rather than simply taking grammatical constructs as given). It is, however, a great supplement to a language course or a good way to practice a language that was once learned formally, but has remained dormant since.

The ads list only one "speaks" language, presumably the person's dominant language -- which, however, raises the question of how truly bilingual people could list both languages as options for teaching others. Particularly in places like New York City, where many people do grow up with English plus one or two other languages, such a situation is easily imaginable. Note to lingomatch's developers: please allow multiple selections (limited to two or three maximum, however) in the "Language I Speak" drop-down menu of the "Post Ad" screen.

I just posted an ad to find someone to help me revive my Spanish skills. (I used to live in Mexico City, but that was a long time ago.) I'll report in future posts on how that search works out. (Some of my friends are Spanish speakers, but having a dedicated time, place and person for learning a language seems a better way to stay on track.)


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