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No matter what Rosetta Stone or an infinite number of other language-learning companies would have you believe, the best way to learn a language is through immersion — to be thinking in the language all the time, to be learning its rhythms and patterns, and to be listening to native speakers speak it.
Unfortunately, that usually means leaving where you are, and that’s usually not such a cheap option. Fortunately, we live in a small world, and the CNA Language School in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has figured out a way to teach English to its students without having to send them abroad: have them Skype with the elderly.
While it says something about our society that this is the case, the elderly in America tend to be somewhat neglected, and thus are often happy to have an audience, or at the very least a conversation partner. The Speaking Exchange program conducted by CNA and FCB Brasil solves this problem by having students Skype with residents in retirement homes in the United States. It turns out, the interaction is pretty productive. The Skype sessions are recorded as videos, and any of the language mistakes the elderly conversation partners miss are checked by the school’s teachers.
Here’s to hoping more speaking exchange programs like this start springing up.