Virtual Language Exchange

Neyvi Loaeza and McKenzie McBride visit in person during their Language Exchange meeting in 2018 at Teton County Library. The program is now accepting applications for Virtual Language Exchange partners.

The saying “practice makes perfect” has many applications — whether you’re perfecting your skill in a sport, learning to play an instrument or, perhaps, developing proficiency in a second language.

Language Exchange JH is now welcoming applications from people to participate in its Virtual Language Exchange program, in which people can converse with native or proficient speakers in the language they are learning while helping that partner develop skills in the language they are practicing.

For example, native English speakers trying to better their Spanish may be matched with a native Spanish speaker trying to improve his English.

The language exchange usually takes place one-on-one in person at Teton County Library, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the conversations to shift to a virtual format in March.

“It’s pretty similar, except how people are trained and where they meet,” said Jacqueline Vulcano, who teaches English as a Second Language at Central Wyoming College and helps pair partners for Language Exchange JH. “They register online at LanguageExchangeJH.org, and there’s two videos that they watch to determine if they’re a level 1 or level 2. We need at least a level 2 high beginner so that they can communicate in complete sentences with their partner.”

The exchange program is not a class, but instead is a way to practice and cement the skills a learner has already learned.

The next round of virtual conversations is set to correspond with the coming spring school semester, running through May.

In addition to being at least level 2, prospective exchange partners need a U.S. phone number and a valid email address. The application to participate includes questions about the individual, their language skills and their availability.

Vulcano said the organization is also requesting audio clips of the individual answering a few questions so the team can gauge their skill level.

“Once we get a pool of people together ... then we’ll pair people up based on language level, age, gender and, somewhat, interest,” she said.

Partners will then meet with a Language Exchange coordinator for a virtual introduction and to make sure that they are a good fit. Partners are then expected to meet once a week for an hour, with each spending about a half an hour speaking the other’s language.

“For our ESL students it’s an ideal opportunity to speak with native speakers and practice the language skills that they’re learning,” Vulcano said. “Probably 95% are English and Spanish speakers. We do have a handful of people from the European countries. We have had some Asian students, ESL students in our program that have applied. It’s more difficult to find partners.”

Those wishing to strengthen a second language through virtual conversation can apply at LanguageExchangeJH.org/apply. All languages are welcome, though matches depend on the other applications received. The partnering and training services are free, as are monthly resources and activity ideas.

Contact Danielle at djohnson@jhnewsandguide.com or 732-5901.

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