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Language Learning and Social Networking in the New York Times

There is no shortage of stories out there about “the dangers” of social networks and how they’re banned in various workplaces and countries. So it’s really nice to see a story in the mighty New York Times about one worthwhile use for social networks that we here at English, baby! know a lot about: language education.  

The story focuses on a couple of sites that specialize in bringing foreign languages to Americans who want to learn them. It also focuses on the innovative technologies these sites have developed. 

But to me, what’s most exciting about the combination of language education and social networking is the fostering of a global community. Even though with 650,000 members, Ebaby! is huge, it feels like a group of friends. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the most active users through seeing them commenting on the lessons every day. The light-hearted and current topics make for fun dialog that’s hard to get on a hardcore language-learning site.

I mean, I don’t think any other social network or language eduction site would attend the wedding of two of its members or host a game show for a half dozen others.

But the best part of Ebaby!’s community is the massive cultural exchange that’s enabled by people from all over the world learning a language together. Since Americans are lucky enough to have our native tongue as the global language, it’s great that there are opportunities online to learn a foreign language and become a better ambassador. But for a lot of people, English is what enables them to make friends outside of their home country and social networks are where they come to do so.

And since the vast majority of our members are not in the United States, the discussion of language learning and social networking is only beginning in the US. So once again, huzzah to Anne Eisenberg and the New York Times for bringing the discussion to the front line of American media.

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