Language Learning Meets Social Networking

It seems lately everyone is turning to the internet for networking. It all started with the hugely popular social networking site; MySpace. Now there is also FaceBook which comes in as number two for social networking in the US. If you want something a bit more professional, there are a number of sites geared towards business networking: LinkedIn, Xing and YSN. To name a few. The idea of such sites is to help people connect and network. In the case of the business sites; To find business opportunities, finding a new job, new employee or simply just to network with other professionals in your field. The social sites are used to connect with your friends, meet new people, promote a band or an event and so much more…

The latest addition to the networking site realm is language learning. Language sites have been popping up recently and becoming quite popular. Two example are soZiety and xLingo. The two sites are similar in nature, as they are both platforms for language exchange. The basic features of both sites also comparable. Each member sets up a profile where they list the languages in which they are fluent or experienced as well as languages they would like to learn or improve. In addition there are various ways of communicating: Email, IM (instant messaging) and voice (Skype). Members are then able to find each other via the search functions and then connect in the form they prefer. Other features include blogs (many people use their blog to give free language tips and lessons), chat rooms and flash cards. The flash cards are created by members and can be used by everyone. Both sites also offer a group section where users can set up groups based on common interests.
SoZiety also offers a few features not found on xLingo. For example, on both sites members can friend each other although SoZiety also allows you to rate other members. Two other additional features are a multimedia section and translation services. In the multimedia section you can link to videos and other media that you would like to share. The translation services feature has two parts. The first is a simple online translating tool (Actually Google Language Tools built into the site). The second is for full documents. Here you can upload files that you want translated including the deadline and amount offered to pay for the translation. The only feature from xLingo not found on SoZiety seems to be the forums area. I believe this part of the site is still under development as the design doesn’t seem to match the rest of the site and the Google Adwords block at the top of the page is in the wrong format. Currently it is vertical, where it should be horizontal.

So far I have only found one point where that concerns me about the sites. It has to do with the Skype function. I have only used it on SoZiety so far. When you add your Skype login to the sites, other members can see your online status. I am online pretty much all the time and unfortunately when I actively share Skype status on the site I found I received what is called Skype Spam. That’s when someone skypes you so they can send you a link to go to a site to sell something or even worse a malicious site. When I turned off my Skype options in my profile this stopped. I researched a little about who was spamming me and it did not appear to be a member of the site. Admittedly it has been some time since I used this feature, but it would be great if the Skype login was hidden from others. It should be possible to connect to other via the site without revealing your ID. The last time I spoke with the developers of SoZiety they were working on this.

Overall both sites are a great way to connect with others and to boost your language skills, with soZiety slightly in the lead with it’s additional features. They are both valuable tools for people who want to practice a language with native speakers, especially if you live in a location where you may not have any direct contact with anyone who speaks the language.

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