WeSpeke Lessons: An Innovative Combination of Learn + Practice + Chat!
WeSpeke now offers language Lessons for WeSpeke language learners who want more guided instruction. In this interview, Michael Elchik, CEO of WeSpeke, talks about the importance of Lessons in the WeSpeke experience.
Mike, what are Lessons and why have you added them to WeSpeke?
Second language acquisition is best accomplished when there is a purpose with motivation (e.g. a business trip, a family holiday or admission to graduate school). Effective and efficient language learning occurs when the content is relevant and useful. WeSpeke Lessons are short, focused modules (think sections and chapters, not books) integrated with a communications platform and combined with a global community of native speakers who speak the target language and can help learners achieve their language goals.
When our users register, they tell us their purpose for learning a target language. They also tell us their language level. Many are beginning learners who want to improve their language skills so they can chat with a partner on WeSpeke. Most of our registered users want to improve their English so they can pass the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT® exam and other English language certification tests.
To meet these needs, we now offer Lessons for beginning language learners and intermediate level English Lessons for members who want to improve their skills so they can succeed on the TOEFL iBT® exam or other English language certification tests. We are starting with Lessons in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German and will expand to more languages later in 2016.
What’s unique about the WeSpeke Lessons?
We are taking a different approach. Our model is to break apart the traditional curriculum into small chunks of learning that focus on specific topics and tasks. This enables members to select exactly what they want to learn. This makes language learning both relevant and useful.
This is similar to what Apple did with iTunes. iTunes enabled consumers to purchase only the songs they wanted; they no longer needed to buy the entire CD. WeSpeke is offering 30-minute Lessons that focus on a specific language task. For example, if you are traveling to a Spanish-speaking country and want to know how to ask for directions, we’ve got a very focused Lesson that teaches you how to do just that; again, relevant and useful.
Another unique feature about our Lessons is the integration of of our global community as a practice partner. At the end of each micro-lesson, the learners can go online and be matched using our proprietary matching technology to find their doppelganger and talk about the topic with a native speaker in our community. The WeSpeke Lessons offer our learners the best of both worlds: self-paced guided instruction followed by the connection with a partner with live language practice. We are a one-stop shop to learn, practice, and chat.
Tell me more about the TOEFL® Lessons?
A large number of our members are using WeSpeke to practice for English certification tests, especially the TOEFL iBT® exam. The TOEFL iBT® exam tests reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. We offer Lessons that would help our members achieve the score they need for admission to any of the 9,000+ colleges, universities, or agencies in 130+ countries who rely on the TOEFL score. We are starting with reading Lessons that teach and practice the reading skills needed to comprehend academic texts. We’ll be adding Lessons for listening next, as well as additional pre-TOEFL English Lessons. Our TOEFL Lessons will help learners get the scores they need. We are working on several other innovative products for English test practice that we’ll be launching in 2016.
Are the Lessons available on the smartphone?
We will have a WeSpeke Lesson app in the iTunes Store and Google Play in early 2016. These will enable anyone to use our Lessons on iOS or Android phones.
Who is writing the Lessons?
Our Lessons are being written by experienced and skilled content writers and language educators using a pedagogical framework for language learning. In Summer 2016, we’ll have an authoring tool available that will enable anyone who is qualified to write a Lesson for WeSpeke. There is a global demand for languages and our authoring tool will enable us to provide a wide range of Lessons. We want writers to adapt our current Lessons to other languages or create their own.
Is WeSpeke still free?
Absolutely. The core WeSpeke experience of crowdsourcing humanity for the purpose of language learning is completely free. Our platform enables members to meet people from across the globe, chat using text, audio, or video, and create a personalized language Notebook. If you want more guided language instruction, you pay a very affordable price for the Lessons. We offer our registered users a free Lesson to evaluate on their own the effectiveness of combining content with community and communications. But the Lessons are optional; anyone can log onto WeSpeke for free and chat with anyone in our global community. We envision people using a combination of both experiences as they build language skills and exchange cultures on WeSpeke.