Learning a foreign language is often a daunting task for many students, but with a new social network catered specifically towards people striving to improve their speaking and writing skills, this process may become a bit easier.
Bilingualchat.com, a free online website launched in April, aims to help people who are learning foreign languages by fostering communication with others also using that language through email, chat rooms and video chat.
The website is similar to other social networking websites — featuring profiles where users can post messages — and allows people to join chat rooms in 53 different languages, as well as participate in blogs and forums about different countries and cultures.
Bilingual chat also provides features such as an online translator and a system that supports multiple keyboards, allowing users to type in several foreign scripts.
Jamie Sprenger, creator of Bilingual Chat, wrote in an e-mail interview she developed the website as a way to maintain her foreign language skills. Sprenger came up with the website’s concept last summer after realizing she wasn’t speaking Spanish and Portuguese as much while she was busy learning French and Italian.
“I realized that if I didn’t practice my Spanish and Portuguese, I was going to forget everything I’d spent so many years learning,” Sprenger wrote.
Sprenger added she has always been interested in having an international pen pal, and even tried to find one online while studying Spanish in high school and college.
“I put an ad on an English website seeking a foreign language partner, but never seemed to find the time to organize a meet-up,” she wrote. “It was too complicated to coordinate schedules, travel across London to meet the people, and to be honest I was way too shy and nervous. I wanted to chat with international friends online.”
After encountering difficulty in practicing languages with others, Sprenger came up with the idea to create a website that would make it easier for herself and others to interact.
“I decided that since what I needed wasn’t available, I’d create it myself,” Sprenger said.
While it is a new website, Sprenger said she has high hopes for Bilingual Chat, including increasing membership though she wrote it is already “growing extremely rapidly.”
Like Sprenger, students at the University said they also want to improve their foreign language speaking skills through interaction with others. LSA junior Matthew Hardison, who took Spanish at the University, said he feels there has been a lack of emphasis on speaking in the curriculum.
“I feel like they never really stressed the speaking of the language,” Hardison said.
Hardison added that a website like Bilingual Chat would have been helpful while he was learning Spanish.
“I thought there should be a separate hour for speaking (during language classes),” Hardison said.
Business and Kinesiology junior Brandon Rhodes said Bilingual Chat would also be beneficial because it allows students to speak with native speakers.
“Talking to people from that area would be helpful,” Rhodes said. “In a classroom setting, you learn how to read and write, but speaking isn’t something that comes naturally.”