Addicted to novelty since 2001

Idea du Jour: SchoolofBabel.com

Currently, I’m taking French lessons. I’m at the stage where I can order dinner, express what specific actions I completed last week, and discuss which musical instruments I can play. To learn a language at my venerable age, I’m employing as many different strategies as possible:

  • I’m taking a class once a week.
  • I’m doing the homework for that class.
  • I’m listening and speaking along with a French language tape.
  • I’m watching a bit of zany French television.

I want to practice some writing, but I need someone to review my work. At first I thought I’d just start a weblog and take my changes, but then I came up with this idea: A multi-language, mutually-beneficial collaborative Web site.

Here’s how it works: I practice writing my French, and I post it to the site. A native French speaker who is learning a language reviews my content. Then, someone who is learning English posts something they’ve written to the site. I review their content. In short, the site uses the mob, many-to-many model of the Internet and turns all of the students into tutors. You could implement a currency system where-in reviewing someone else’s content earns you one BabelDollar, which you can spend to post something to the site. That might or might not be required.

Maybe this sort of site already exists? Does anybody know of such a thing?

8 Responses to “Idea du Jour: SchoolofBabel.com”

  1. Duncan

    That sounds like a fascinating idea. I think there are more people trying to learn english though! I have never heard of this but it sounds like one of those ideas that must exist already!

  2. Darren

    I’m taking French 2 at Vancouver Community College. I’d provide a link to the course description, but the VCC site is so bogus that it’s nearly impossible to find. The classes are a bit long–two and half hours makes my head hurt–but the instructor’s good and the level is very appropriate.

  3. segacs

    Hey don’t sweat it, I live in Montreal and have been taking French my whole life. I speak it every day at work. And I still suck at it. So don’t worry about getting it right… someone’ll always be worse at it than you.

  4. Ross

    First I learned to read French completely on my own while writing a dissertation on a French village — I just wrote long vocabulary lists compiled from my reading and kept plowing on, occasionally looking up the definitions. But that develops passive vocabulary only.
    Moving to Québec, I’ve taken every inexpensive class I could plus a summer scholarship at what once existed as L’École française d’été as an intense program.
    But none of the above is what Darren is discussing when the topic is writing. It’s another kettle of fish.
    I am a bit sceptical about the idea. Every day, I go over my daughter’s lessons in writing with her and she has difficulty with my explanations. Admittedly, she’s in Third Grade. But the principle is the same: just jotting in corrections on written work with mistakes doesn’t do a whole world of good. It is the explanations and the practice that does the job.
    At present I have a few clients who would not understand my notes and email if it weren’t in French. I consider my written work horrible. But it forces me to just do it. That’s good practice and I do it every other day. And on my blog I run the occasional French text, as I noticed Darren did with the all-Canadian thing lately. That too is very good and you are forced to just do it — imperfect though it may be.
    The worst thing I ever did, and I caught a ton of flac for it, was to write out a text in French and then run it through a grammar software application and accept the suggestions. Nothing I have ever ground out myself caught the negative response of that automated cop out.

  5. M

    How about listening to the French station of BC CBC radio?
    I’ve often thought that listening to CBC Radio 1 would be great for people learning English as a second language–varied speakers, intelligent level of content, good vocabulary, lots of variety.

  6. Pär Boman

    Sounds like a good idea, maybe a bit hard to make into reality but someone with the right skills and patience should be able to do it.

    I am currently studying german and have found some great free online material from the german radio station Deutsche Welle where they also have todays news in _very_ slow german.

    Another good technique is to rent foreign language DVD’s and if you are on a quite good level turn the subtitles off.

    When I studied esperanto there was a good supply of mentors available online who were happy to help for free. But then esperanto is quite different from most languages.

    Thought English in thailand for a while and found the News channels like CNN and BBC World News was quite good excercise since the language was quite quick but very often repeated over and over also giving the opportunity to discuss world events as another excerscise.

    The first foreign language to learn is always the hardest.

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