Chat the Web away

Envision learning a language without having to memorize monotonous phrases from books, or taking harrowing verb conjugating tests. Through technology, even the approach to learning a language might be altered forever.  Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace have made social interacting paramount to grabbing the attention of the modern college student.  Bilingual Chat is a new social networking site designed to help people learn a language by encouraging chatting with native speakers.

Bilingual Chat was recently started by Jamie Sprenger, a Davidson College graduate who holds a degree in Spanish.  According to the website, "Bilingual Chat promotes global communication, facilitates cultural understanding, crosses virtual borders and breaks language barriers."

Users make a profile on the website specifying what their native language is, and any other languages they know, and the corresponding level of either beginner, intermediate, or advanced.  Currently the website's groups consist of Spanish, English, and French native speakers, but Bilingual Chat is set up for groups of all different languages. It also offers a specified group for people moving to London to swap advice on relocation and things to do.  The goal is to get native speakers chatting with people who would like to improve their conversational skills.  It's essentially a modern pen pal system.

"I think this will be really good for me to practice conversing with Spanish speakers before I go to South America in the summer," said SMC student Allison Ten.   "I've heard that people can take Spanish for years in school but when they get to Mexico or Spain they struggle to understand."

Some are skeptical of whether the site will be popular.  "I don't know if I'd use the website, I don't think I'd want to contact some random person just to talk French," said Santa Monica College Communications major Tania Woods.

Bilingual Chat offers more than just chatting however.  It's set up very similarly to other social networking sites, with options like personal blogs, having friends, writing on member's walls, and it includes different forums for subjects like fashion, music, and computers.

It even has a translation function to assist in translating most languages.   "I had fun with the translation page," said Jenna Johnson, a student from England.  "A lot of my friends on Facebook are from other countries so now I can translate some of their posts when it's in their language".