By: Pola Papadopoulou
What I will be commenting on today is a site called WeSpeke. This article will provide you with some technical and practical information of how to use the site, as well as some personal comments on it. Let’s get started!
All of us I guess are familiar with the difficulty of learning a new language without being able to actually practice it. Living in your own country and learning a foreign language leaves you with a feeling of incompleteness regarding the lack of native speakers of the target language so as to practice. The WeSpeke platform solves exactly that. It connects you with millions of people learning your language while practicing the language you desire to learn.
Getting Started with WeSpeke
To get started with your learning there are a few easy steps to follow that take no time at all. First thing you need to do, of course, is sign up either using your LinkedIn account, your Facebook account or your e-mail address. After you are signed in and redirected to the main dashboard there are some pop-up questions that you need to complete and which work as classification characteristics in order to match you with and suggest people that are suitable for your learning needs and current interests. Regarding the language spectrum you are asked to insert your native language and the language you wish to learn and practice- the second one is rated with stars; 1 star denotes that you are a beginner and 5 stars near fluent.
The next thing you need to do is identify your interests and select your role. In another pop-up window there is a number of interests appearing on the screen such as culture, education, travel, food, movies, sports, books, environment and others. You need to choose at least one that you would like to talk about with your learning match. After choosing them you also get the chance to dig a little deeper into what you like about books, for instance, so that you and your partner have a more specific topic in mind. As far as your role is concerned you either select learner or teacher/instructor. The former denotes that you are an individual learner to practice on your own, while the latter the site assumes that you are a language teacher searching for native speakers to help your students with practice.
Now that you have your profile all set up you can try and make some friends!
Main Features of WeSpeke
There is a banner once you are redirected to your main dashboard that shows you some of the trending topics now. Since my account is recent the most recent topic is the World Cup 2014. What you can do is find people to chat with about the World Cup or other trending topics. Moreover, you can use the WeSpeke matching skills to find someone to practice your target language with and use your webcam to do so for a more direct approach. As the site supports many languages and there are speakers from all over the world you can find someone with the same interests or one that fulfills your language requests and instead of using a webcam (if you are shy) you can use chat or be a bit bolder and use audio. Making friends is easy and very straightforward on WeSpeke as the learner can either send a friend request or if they see that the person they are interested in is online they can just send them a message and start practicing. What would be even more beneficial for both parties is to find a partner who is fluent in a language you want to learn and vice versa.
As I haven’t used the video chat yet I searched around a bit only to find out that it is really fun and easy to use. There are translating modes while chatting and other tools that help you understand your speaking partner, such as write it, rephrase, say again and slow down, and make this interactive experience very entertaining, especially if you keep in mind that you are chatting with a complete stranger. You can take a look at the following link to get a glimpse of what the WeSpeke experience has to offer.
Last but not least, WeSpeke offers its busy learners the opportunity to learn on the go by using the app on their mobile phones, available both for Android and iOS. In addition, in order to get the best out of your WeSpeke experience there are features that allow you to set alarms and reminders on your calendar and schedule as many conversations with as many people as you can handle and not getting confused and missing out on new and old opportunities for practice as practice makes perfect and this is all you need.
At this point I must point out that I haven’t been using this particular learning site for long. However, for the time I did use it I must say I was impressed. It is very easy to use and pretty straightforward in what it offers. What differentiates it from other such websites is the fact that it allows for actual real time practice with native speakers of the learner’s target language doing so in diverse ways. Additionally, you yourself as a learner can also lead the way by practicing with a WeSpeke partner that would like to learn your native language. Apart from the educational part that the site offers, it also helps you make new friends and what better way to learn of a new culture and a new language than by interacting with its native people?
Once again I would love to read your thoughts in the comment section below whether you agree or disagree with the review in case you have tried the website in the past or are trying it now.
At this time I would like to add some features that became known to me after I was contacted by the founder of the site, Michael Elchik, a couple of days ago and gave a more complete picture about the site as it is now as well as some innovations that are currently under process of being incorporated into the future version of the site. With this in mind, let’s take a look at those characteristics that make WeSpeke one of the most innovative and effective free language learning platforms online.
First of all, I would like to point out a few things that I missed on the previous version of this review. Saying this, being able to copy and paste links and digital files as well as download them at any time during conversing with another WeSpeke learner is of utmost importance as it supports the language exchange and experience between the speakers. Additionally, this feature allows for teachers that use the WeSpeke platform to encourage their students to use the Internet and at the same time enhance learning by making it more interesting.
Other features that appear on the interface while a conversation goes one between the speakers is the time of the session that can be seen under the picture of your profile and the translator that is visible under the session time. WeSpekers can use the translator when they are at a loss for words in the target language. The translator feature, when beginning a session, is standardized in the native languages of both the speakers (e.g. English and Greek), but during the session this can change by selecting another language on the drop down menu next to the language.
As was mentioned at some point in this review before you start experiencing you have to choose some of your interests; this works as an icebreaker between learners that never met in their lives to realize how much they have in common after all. Great idea! Regarding this feature, I didn’t mention that during the session one or both of the learners can choose one of the common interests and by clicking on it the other learner knows what is desirable to talk about. This is a great feature because it stirs the conversation without that moment of awkwardness in between the changing of subjects and this way you never run out of things to talk about with your WeSpeke friends.
The WeSpeke platform is user friendly, as is well understood by now, and it integrates all the components that you need while learning and practicing a foreign language. You can write, speak, read and listen to a native speaker. A learner can start the learning by using text chat first. As the learning progresses and the learners get to know each other a bit better both the learners can require an audio chat and then a video chat. It was actually really fun being able to do that and progress from one mode of communication to the other by just clicking on a button. The available modes can also change backwards- from video chat to audio to text.
Unique WeSpeke Features
Having arrayed all the current features of WeSpeke I think it’s time to get into some more evolutionary movements. For starters, the friend activity will be much more interesting. What the learners will be able to do is categorize their friends into sections that they think of. Therefore, some friends might be categorized under the name of their country or their native language or others.
However, the most catching addition that I can think of after virtually meeting up with Michael is the simultaneous chat sessions with more than one speaker. A WeSpeke learner will be able to engage one or more people at the same time and anything that will be said will be preserved that participating learners’ log. This will allow the learners to keep track of their sessions and even better design in a way their own vocabulary. Let me explain that a bit. If you are able to keep track of all the things included during the sessions in your log you will easily have access to them and remember all the words, phrases and other things you learned. Therefore, instead of carrying your little paperback dictionary with you, you will just log on to your account on WeSpeke and voila! Following this way, the learners will continuously evolve through the platform and build their own vocabulary. I can’t wait!
I hope you enjoy this updated review and even more the WeSpeke platform because it’s really worth your time! And as Michael Elchik told me “WeSpeke is a digital crossroad for people all over the world”!
Check out WeSpeke here!
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