I had a Google Hangout last week. This was a first! It was work-related and had a lot to do with language learning. Soon afterwards, I found out about Helpouts – a brand new idea for hangouts. Can language learners use Helpouts effectively? I think there are at least three good answers – and one brave concept!
0. What’s a Helpout?
Google Hangouts was a brand new way to have voice and video conversations online, and despite early setbacks, the format really works. The ability to share a virtual space and easily interact with everyone else in the room just feels intuitive and natural.
The next move? Helpouts – a hangout designed with help in mind. Many of these meetings are free and some of them can be scheduled on the spot. More often, though, you would need to arrange a particular time for your hangout with an expert – and people expect to be paid for their expertise.
From yoga masters to life coaches, people have taken to the format. What can a foreign language enthusiast do about Hangouts, then?
1. Learn a language
The most obvious answer. I found English and German classes within minutes – and both had native speakers available to teach. This is not news, as there are many sites that offer the same thing. However, the Hangouts format makes it intuitive to schedule, review and choose the meeting (and the technology has been proven to work well).
Be prepared to part with your money via a Google Wallet, and to browse around a bit. When you find the right person, though, the rest is simple and effective.
2. Learn something else (in your favourite language)
For now, this is an Eldorado for English learners. Who cares about grammar and IELTS scores when you can use your English skills to learn more interesting stuff?!? Other languages may be lagging behind a bit. But if this takes off, then it’s just a question of time before help in Spanish, Chinese and Arabic can be offered on any topic. For wannabe language learners, this is authentic practice: a rare and important thing that needs to be cherished.
3. Teach a language you know
Earn some cash, look into the ways of learning and teaching, experiment and earn some money on the side. This could be an eye-opener for any language learner – and pay for the lessons you want to take yourself. The platform is there, and Google takes a cut of your profits in exchange for your market.
4. Teach anything else (in a language you’re learning)
Now we’re talking! How else can you ensure that you prepare for absolutely every lesson – that the stakes are high and real – and that communication is meaningful?
Pick a subject you’re passionate about. Offer to teach it in a language you’re learning. Combine the expertise in a field with the polyglot passion. Result!
A word of warning here, though: you will be given feedback on your Helpouts. If your language proficiency is too low to communicate clearly, this may have a negative impact on how people judge you. If you know you can handle it, dive in.
Any other ideas for using the tool, wannabe bilinguals? Let us know below.
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