Speaking Practice: When Was The Last Time We Just Talked?

Esther Barker lives on her own in a retirement community in Chicago. She knows her neighbours and the staff, but they may not always find time for a lifetime of stories.

In Brazil, young people are hungry for the big wide world. They dream of moving to America, speaking to Americans like Esther, but they don't have the chance to travel abroad.

And then the Brazilian language school CNA works out a way of bringing the two of them together online, and the idea resonates with so many people that over one million of them watch it on YouTube! This video was sent to me by a Facebook fan (thanks Kellie!) and it's just too cute to pass up. Here is where language learning is not the point anymore, and things become about just telling each other stories. 

How Does This Really Improve Language Skills?

We all know that in the real world there can be some limitations to the benefits of language exchanges, so what I loved about this programme in particular is the emphasis on sharing the finished video chat with a professional teacher.

Speaking to a teacher is a great way of helping them discover where your little weaknesses might be, but this is one step further and I love it! As the teacher, a video like this could help me go right in and target the gaps in my students' knowledge, to boost their confidence for the next time they get to talk.

When confidence and skill come together, that's when you really hit the ground running.

Our Stories are What Makes Us

Watching the video above, I felt moved and happy. It's wonderful to see an exchange in which both sides benefit so clearly from sharing with each other. And it's where two world's come together, where an old person's story goes from dull to cool, and where we scratch the surface of who these people are.

Esther can share pictures and talk about what Chicago used to be like. They can imagine worlds of travelling together and just...make friends, you know? One of the toughest things about language exchanges can be to forget that you are really only doing this to improve your new language. When it's good, you are not. When it all comes together and you find an exchange partner that you really connect with, learning the language becomes irrelevant.

What about you?

Would you start a language exchange with someone so different in age? When was the last time you talked to someone, and really just talked?