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My Happy Planet and Practicing Foreign Languages Frugally

At the beginning of this month, I wrote about my plans for “recapturing” the French I’d lost without spending a lot of money. So far, the film-watching part of the plan has been going quite well. Reading is coming along a bit more slowly, but that’s ok.

My next goal is conversation. That’s what I was looking for when I discovered My Happy Planet.

The majority population on the site seems to be young people (late teens through young adult) from trying to learn another language. As long as older adults are comfortable with modern methods of communication and website use, it could probably work for them too. They just might feel less comfortable when making friends.

What does My Happy Planet offer?

Essentially, it’s a networking site. There are some lessons, but I don’t think it’s for absolute beginners. It’s intended for people who have been learning a second language and want to practice it with native speakers. Or for people who used to know/study the language and are brushing up on it.

In your profile, you specify which language(s) you speak natively and which you’d like to learn. For English speakers, there are plenty of people who’d be willing to help you with their language if you’ll help them practice their English. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar for Spanish/French speakers.

You can also specify what mediums you’d like to use for conversation. There are slow and fast ways to write and even an option of conversing with a native speaker.

Slow, careful communication: The site has its own internal messaging service, so if you don’t want to give people your screenname (at first anyway) you can just leave it at that.

Writing in real-time: Or you can add Windows and Yahoo Messenger names for instant messaging. That’ll keep you on your toes! With the internal message service, you can take your time to compose a response. Less so here, but it should also increase your speed and confidence.

Practice speaking with a native: They include an option for putting in your Skype screenname. For those of you not familiar with it, Skype is a program that lets you make free computer to computer calls. So if I want to talk to my aunt in France, I can just log in and call her Skype account if she’s logged in (like turning off a cell phone, you’ll be unreachable if you log out).

If I meet someone on the site, we can have live conversations in French or English if we want. It doesn’t cost anything and they don’t have to be somewhere in the States. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it’s really exciting. Part of wanting to know French is being able to converse.

Voila! A multi-faceted conversation solution to fit into the third-part of my (reading, listening, speaking) puzzle.

I haven’t had much free time lately, but I signed up for the site and set up a profile (no, it’s not under Mrs. Micah). If you’re one of those people who answered my previous post about learning French and expressed a wish to improve your language skills, here’s another way you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Free.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Salinas June 12, 2008 at 1:50 pm

I would like to learn Spanish, Italian and German. Probably not a realistic goal so maybe just Spanish? I like the post…nice direction, fun reading!

QL Girl June 12, 2008 at 2:22 pm

This is great! I definitely need to work on my spanish writing, so this is good…plus I wanted to work on French conversational skills. I will have to check this out. Thanks!

My Small Cents June 13, 2008 at 3:13 am

Excellent, I definitely have to check this out.

modge June 15, 2008 at 11:34 am

LiveMocha? Seems similar.

I find dual texts most useful, or just buying a book in Spanish that I already have in English so I can read a sentence first in one language, then the other. You can pick up a lot through context.

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