The Herman Trend Alert|
September 19, 2007
Sharing Language Resources in a Flat World
One interesting development of our increasingly flat world (thank you, Thomas Friedman) is the global expansion of business. we learned long ago the value of using the local language when speaking or training in a foreign country. Even the attempt to speak the local language (except perhaps in France) establishes an audience connection which, particularly for a speaker, is very valuable.
When we visited Malaysia recently to speak for ETELS, we learned some Malay, the language of Malaysia, and used it in our workshop. While not everyone is a polyglot, anyone visiting a foreign country will benefit from learning the language before departing. Until now, your choices for learning were Rosetta Stone or other digitally based programs or finding a local tutor. Now, there is an alternative, and the best part is---it's free.
Enter emerging web sites like http://www.italki.com and http://www.freelanguage.org. The reason is simple: as globalization spreads, so does the need to communicate with people in their native languages. Though both sites offer rich resources for anyone wanting to learn a language, italki.com features the more innovative approach.
Here's how their "Language Exchange" works. Through the web site, you choose someone who is a native speaker of the language you want to learn. Of course, that individual must also want to learn the language that is your native tongue. You communicate via VOIP (Voice Over IP) on Skype, MSN, Yahoo, or Talkbox---all free services via the web. You agree to communicate at a specific time. For one-half the time, the two of you speak in your native language and the other half, you speak in theirs.
Not surprisingly, both web sites offer lots of resources for people willing to pay. Italki.com offers lists of tutors and seems to offer more languages for which there are resources. Both web sites offer courses, podcasts, blogs, etc.
The development of this new genre of web sites is a direct reflection of our "flattening" world. Expect to see more opportunities for people to use technology to share across the globe further increasing cultural understanding and forming valuable bonds for citizen diplomacy.
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