[EDLING:1283] Re: Learning language on Web a snap

Shannon Sauro totoro2 at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Tue Feb 28 15:30:36 UTC 2006

I had the opportunity to take an online Swedish course last year, and I have to 
say that one of the highlights was being able to voice-chat in realtime with my 
native-Swedish instructor (who was living in France) using Yahoo!Messenger.

She was also teaching a traditional face-to-face Swedish class at a local 
French university and had observed that the students she taught online seemed 
to have stronger spoken Swedish than those she taught face-to-face class. It 
seems the intensive individual attention we web-learners received more than 
made up for the far fewer contact hours we had with her.

Shannon Sauro

Quoting Francis Hult <fmhult at dolphin.upenn.edu>:

> Francis Hult has sent you an article from The Washington Times.
> Francis Hult's comments: Learning language on Web a snap
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> By Fred Reed
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> I am intrigued by what might be called cottage-industry globalization,
> perhaps because I just ran into an example.
>     Globalization has two aspects. One is the rapid shifting of high-tech
> work -- software development, circuit design -- to India and China. The other
> is the use of technology to outsource nontechnical jobs.
>     Recently, I introduced a friend, a bright computer type in Northern
> Virginia, to a Mexican woman who teaches Spanish to foreigners in Mexico.
> Woody had gone to Mexico as a tourist, loved it and decided he wanted to
> learn Spanish. Back in Virginia, the lowest price he could find for
> one-on-one instruction was $50 an hour. Not good.
>     I suggested that he study with Violeta by telephone. Spanish teachers are
> not held to be of great value in Mexico, and so they earn maybe $5 an hour.
> Well, thought I with great mathematical agility, if she charged him $15, she
> would be tripling her rates and he, cutting his cost by two-thirds. It
> sounded like a business proposition to me.
>     Her husband, an American, had a Vonage Voice over Internet Protocol
> (VoIP) telephone account that allows cheap calling. It also lets its
> customers get phone numbers in as many area codes in the United States as
> they choose, at five dollars a month each. If the husband got a 703 number,
> Violeta would be a local call for Woody, and she would just add the cost to
> her charges.
>     For the idea to work for other than friends, a means of international
> payment was needed. PayPal seemed the easiest, avoiding the hazards of
> international mail. The student could send her a month's tuition, and she
> could check online to verify that it had arrived. Easy.
>     The next problem was the textbook. It turned out that her favorite was
> available at Amazon.com. This allowed the student to order it on his own,
> removing the administrative burden from her.
>     Homework? Her custom was to print out assignments on her computer and
> give them to students. E-mailing them was no more difficult, and the student
> could e-mail back the completed assignments. There was no important
> difference.
>     Finally, Spanish keyboards can be bought and Microsoft Word can be set to
> accept Spanish input. The spelling-checker works for Spanish too.
>     It was worth a try. A month later, Woody reported himself delighted. It
> worked even though, as is her custom, she spoke no English whatsoever with
> him. This is important, since there are many more educated, potentially
> excellent teachers around the world who don't speak English than who do.
>     Woody did say that it was like pulling teeth. I believe him. Vi is
> relentless in forcing the student to keep talking. In some things, there are
> no shortcuts. Languages are one.
>     It seems to me that whenever cheap VOIP telephony is available, and the
> text can be ordered online, language instruction is ripe for outsourcing. For
> economic reasons, it probably would not be cheap for, say, French, since
> prices are at American levels in France. But for Spanish, Hindustani,
> Chinese, perhaps Russian, and so on, it would be attractive.
>     The flexibility appeals. If you lived in a cabin in remote Wyoming, as
> long as you had broadband, you could study Spanish as well as if you lived in
> a city. And of course for practice, countless Spanish stations, such as the
> station of the University of Guadalajara, transmit over the Internet.
>     Now, if you are a teacher of languages in America, this isn't great news.
> If you are a student, it is or would be if the service became widely
> available. Is there any good reason why it shouldn't?
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> This article was mailed from The Washington Times
> (http://www.washingtontimes.com/technology/20060224-105708-5212r.htm)
> For more great articles, visit us at http://www.washingtontimes.com
> Copyright (c) 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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