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Language Web 2.0 November 11, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Social Networks, Speaking.

I have joined so many language exchange networks in the past year that I have already lost count of them. Whenever people contact me for language exchange, I would ask them from which language exchange website they found out about me. Quite often, they simply cannot recall it, probably because they themselves have also joined too many of these networks.

There is recently posted on Mashable a comprehensive list of 70+ online language communities and resources. 15+ of these are language exchange networks. So it looks like everyone is jumping into the wagon! Most of these sites render like a typical social network, with features such as messaging and forums. Some also include built-in voice-recording, communication tools, and even language courses. Out of the many I have tried, I would recommend SharedTalk, Kantalk, iTalki, and xLingo.

But then this whole new business of language exchange network, or Language Web 2.0, has still not yet proven to be anything effective. So far, I have only seen people using the services as a mean of socializing and making friends. Have their languages skills improved? It is really hard to tell.

As for myself, I always find it difficult to follow through once I have established a contact in those social networks. I would usually exchange a few private messages and end there. Sometimes, we would conduct a few voice-chats but that’s all about it. Perhaps I should try to make more effort in knowing the other person instead of just treating him as a resource of language learning. Here is a brilliant quote from Master Steve in his recent podcast which is very true:

“It is very difficult to have a conversation just for the sake of having a conversation with someone that you aren’t necessarily interested in having a conversation with.”

One thing is for sure though. Everybody seems to be looking for more exciting ways to learn languages other than the traditional model of classroom learning.



1. Keith - November 15, 2007

I hope you don’t mind me questioning, but…
Why do you join so many language exchange sites? Do you have so much time for language exchange? Are most of them ineffective at producing language exchange partners?

Unfortunately, I will iterate the often posed viewpoint that language exchanges are a waste of time. Your are obliged to spend 50 percent of your time speaking your native language. I have some other issues with language exchanges that perhaps only affect me, so we’ll leave those for another time.

But if you find them exhilarating, then they could be very effective.
One thing I don’t like is needing to set up an appointed time. How do I know how I’m going to be feeling at that time in the future?

The other thing is, that I just want to talk for a short time. The other person seems to always want to talk for an hour. I don’t want to spend 2 hours in one day talking with one person. For me, 15-minutes each for a total of 30 minutes. Maybe even just 10 minutes each is better.

What about you? How long do you like to spend at one time in a language exchange?

2. Edwin - November 15, 2007

Keith, I think you just hit it right on. Why on earth would I want to join so many language exchange sites?!!

I guess this already implies that none of them has met my expectations. Another reason … well, they are free. I have nothing to lose. Also, I don’t really spend too much time on them. I usually signed up, fill-in part of my profile, and that’s it. Sometimes I get private messages from others, sometimes I don’t. This is why I have forgotten so many of those sites I joined.

On the topic of language exchange. I think it does not seem to be effective because we are not finding the right partners, or simply we are not doing it right.

I can’t give you much advise on what will work, for I have not been very successful so far. But I know what will not work for sure. Perhaps I will talk about this topic in my next post.

3. For the Sake of Conversation « Tower of Confusion - November 20, 2007

[…] left me a comment on my previous post, asking why I would join so many language-exchange networks. In fact, I am not quite sure if I know […]

4. Simon - November 22, 2007

I’ve had similar experiences with language exchange sites – I’ve signed up for quite a few and get random people contacting me now and then. In most cases I only talk to them a few times, because the conversation often dries up after the initial getting-to-know-each-other stage.

5. Edwin - November 22, 2007

Thanks, Simon, for letting me know that I am not the only one experiencing this problem. 🙂

6. The Language of Good « Tower of Confusion - December 1, 2007

[…] of Good December 1, 2007 Posted by Edwin in Cantonese, French, Toronto. trackback Since I have joined so many language exchange websites, I am quite used to receiving language exchange requests from time to time. Back in September, I […]

7. chris(mandarin_student) - December 8, 2007

I have had a similar experiance to some extent but in the end I usually condense things down to Skype and or Google talk, so If I find a really good contacact we can move off the the site site and carry on email, or text chat or voip somewhere else.

@Keith I am lucky, in the UK ( and a few other places around the World) the 3 Network have bought out mobile phone on which you can use Skype (not Skype out yet) for free. Perfect, I am filtering contants etc. but already have but already have a couple I can have short chats with when waiting for a bus or have a coffee before work. The 50% thing is a bit of a pain but it can be a productive give and take. To be fair you are more likely to make a longer term friend on this basis. I can’t imagine there are many people in China who would be willing to talk 100% Chinese with me for no gain.

Once my contacts get the idea that chats whilst on my mobile phone are not likely to be Marathons, they seem to like it (either that or there is always the “remove from contacts button”), touchingly the two who I have made good contact with so far were originally concerned for me that I had to pay to use the service from my phone (which I don’t) probably a good initial indicator that they were not overly selfish.

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