Use Skype to Learn a Foreign Language or Practice Accents

Language experts say weekly 25-minute conversations won’t transform a beginner into a multilingual wunderkind overnight, but regular contact with a native speaker is a giant step up from slogging through the cassette-based listen-and-repeat methods often used in college language labs.

August 24, 2007

Students using Skype Internet Phone to learn different languages on the web. All they need is an Internet connection, a webcam, a microphone, and headphones.

Dickinson College plans to add a Skype component to its Japanese, German, and Spanish classes this fall. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is using it now for French and German classes but plans to expand its use as instructors hear about how easy it is.

“Students are having these conversations all hours of the day and night outside of class,” says Professor Sawhill. Her students have spoken in Arabic to their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and in Spanish with students in Mexico.

Students periodically switch their overseas language partners, letting them hear a variety of accents and speaking styles. Typically, students practice Spanish for 25 minutes and then switch to English for 25 minutes (it’s an exchange: Their partners want to practice speaking English). Link.