1 Aug 2009

Language Social Networks - Don't Stop Learning!

Due to the globalized world we live in, many people decide to learn a foreign language for different reasons and purposes. The best opportunity to learn it is being immerse in the context the language is spoken but not everybody can afford to live in a foreign country. However, learning English has never been so easy, interactive and social since social networks appeared on the net! ESL/EFL students spend a lot of time surfing on the net, maybe more hours than they do studying therefore, why not provide them with opportunities to practice and learn real English with native English speakers or ESL/EFL students from other countries in a communicative setting?

Social networking can be an excellent reading and writing practice which can be completed with other communication tools like Skype, since Skype allows you to speak in real time. This is a great way of producing fluent speakers! Besides, with social networking students can learn more about English culture since they can be in touch with native speakers who can share photos, videos or audio files with them.

English Social Networks
  • Babbel: it is a language learning social network where you can improve your language skills chatting with other Babble users, many of them native ones. As it is said in this website "Babbel already has more then 250,000 users from over 200 countries that learn English, Spanish, French, Italian and German." You only need to register in order to start communicating with other learners. Besides, you can also choose an online course if you are interested in learning grammar or vocabulary.

  • Busuu: it is a free online community for learning languages where users have access to more than 150 highly audiovisual leaning units covering a wide range of day-to-day topics. The language material is currently available in French, Spanish, English and German but further languages will be added soon. Additionally, the users have the possibility to directly improve their language skills with other native speakers of the community. Via an integrated video-chat, users can practice their skills while being at home. They are a Madrid based start-up and launched the website in May 08. By now, more than 100,000 users from over 200 countries have joined this great website and they have been nominated Official Project of the UNESCO during the International Year of languages.

  • Italki: is a social networking site that helps people learn languages in a fun and interactive way by connecting members for language exchange. The site initially went live in December of 2006 (making us one of the earliest players in this space), and has experienced tremendous growth such that we now have about 440,000 members from more than 200 countries, speaking over 100 languages. One of italki's earliest and most popular features is "Answers", where members can ask questions about learning languages and other members of the community respond. Many students have used italki to get help with their homework and to find recommendations on textbooks and other study materials. In May of 2008, italki added "Knowledge," a publicly editable wiki of language learning content, which we hope over time, will become just like a free public textbook.

  • Livemocha: Livemocha, with more than 2 millions of members offers a great number of languages including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hindi, Japanese and it is the most popular language learning site! Students can write or speak about a topic and receive feedback from native speakers on the network. According to Shirish Nadkarni, chief executive of the company, the name Livemocha refers to the relaxed atmosphere of a coffee shop, the perfect place for chatting with native speakers while drinking a cup of coffee at home.

  • Palabea: it is another social network for practicing, communicating and learning foreign languages which uses audio and visual tools as learning aids (podcasts, videos, etc). Palabea has created virtual classrooms where all users can upload or create content, I mean, if you are a teacher you can record videolessons, podcasts or create documents. However, if you are a student, you can search for a language course or communicate with speakers from all over the world in audio or videoconferences.

However, if you are interested in creating and customize a free social network for communicating with your student, Ning makes it easy. You can create your own social networks just in a few minutes, adding the content you want and have your students participating and learning. In EFL Geek 3.0 blog you will find very useful information to know how it works.


Nice post.
I am looking ways to improve my Chinese learning website. Maybe I need to look into Language Social Networks.

I have just checked your site and it is really great! If you want to improve it you should add more content and spread it in social networks like those ones mentioned in this post, Livemocha is a really good one, or others like Twitter http://twitter.com/
Another great way to keep in contact with other Chinese teachers is creating a Ning Community (it is free) http://www.ning.com/ in order to share ideas, ask for advice and create a communicative environment with people interested in learning or teaching Chinese language.

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I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to read lots of articles on your blog. We will look forward for future updates.

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