The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #3 May / June 2013
Sections
Language Exchange
by Erik Zidowecki
May / June 2013 | 

Sections is a regular column about different parts of Paleremo, explaining their purpose and how to use them.


A language exchange will help you find someone among the millions of people who are online everyday.

A very popular method of using the internet to learn languages is the language exchange. Because there are people from all over the world on the internet daily, and potentially millions of them wanting to learn a new language, then connecting them directly with other language learners benefits everyone.

Basically, you want to match up two people who each want to learn the other persons native language. For example, a Frenchmen that wants to learn German would become a partner to a German woman wanting to learn French. They could then work together to help the other person with their own native language.

Of course, finding a partner is the hard part, and that is where the language exchange programs are used. Essentially, a person signs up for one, telling what their native or fluent languages are as well as what language or languages they want to learn. Along with their name and languages, they might give more personal data, like age, gender and location along with some description of themselves, their lives and their interests. Each person's information becomes part of a large searchable database so that anyone can find a potential partner easily and contact the person.

Entire web sites are devoted to this method of language study, and they vary greatly in the method of communication between partners. Everything from simply giving out email addresses to creating elaborate discussion areas and exchange formats is possible.

Parleremo Language Exchange

There are people from all over the world on the internet daily and potentially millions of them wanting to learn a new language.

Since Parleremo is already a collection of people wanting to learn new languages, we naturally built in our own exchange system. A few things have to be different from dedicated exchange sites. Since not all members on Parleremo will want to be involved in an exchange, a member must create a profile for the exchange program in order to participate in it. This takes some information from their existing Parleremo profile and gives them places for extra details.

On the introduction exchange page is basic description of the program. Options are given to create a new profile or edit an existing profile (if the member has already signed up for one) and to search among the potential partners. Below that is a list of recently added members as well as members that are online at the moment, if any.

Creating a Profile


When a member creates a new profile, some basic information is copied from their existing site profile. These include a few of their native or fluent languages, a few of the languages they are studying, birthdate, gender, country and location. Any information that is changed here will not be altered in the site profile, since this profile is meant to be just for finding an exchange partner.

There is also a place for a member to put in something about themselves. This can be anything they want to share and helps a potential partner see how much they might have in common with each other. For example, if a member likes Bollywood movies, they might mention that, in the hopes of finding a partner that also likes them. Having similar likes can help create a closer bond between partners as well as giving them something to discuss while practising their languages.

A member can also select the preferences they would like for communicating. Since the main purpose of the exchange system is to help people find others, how those people actually communicate and practise together is completely for them to decide. These options are to help further refine a search. If a member wants to only communicate via email, they should select that, and when they search for a partner, they can search for those that also want to use email.

There is an option to have this profile in the search or not as well. This might seem odd, since why would someone create a profile that they didn't want listed? The purpose of this is so once a person finds a partner (or partners), they can remove themselves from the search without deleting their profile. Then when they are ready for a new partner, they can change this so they are listed again. It's like changing a status from "single" to "married".

The member should then save or delete their profile. Deleting a profile here is permanent, but it only deletes the exchange profile. The site profile will remain unchanged.

Finding the One


Once the new or edited profile is saved, the person can then search for a partner. It isn't necessary to join the exchange to search for a partner. Joining just makes it possible for others to know a member is interested.

The search contains blanks for various parts of the profile. By filling in the appropriate blanks or selecting certain boxes, the search becomes refined to people matching those selections. For example, if a member wants to find a partner that knows Japanese, they would select "Japanese" in the "Knows" box. Since the optimal exchange is finding a partner who is a native speaker in the language for the language being studied and also studying the a language the searcher knows, a language should also be put in the "Studying" box which the searcher is native or fluent in. That is, if the searcher is a native Spanish speaker and wants to learn Japanese, they should put "Japanese" in the "Knows" box and "Spanish" in studying. The information in the search should be about the potential partner, not the searcher.

The language selections are the most vital, since that is the purpose of the exchange. Other information that can be used to filter through potential partners are age, gender, country, and keywords. The keywords are used to search the personal interests information, and a match can be found on either all the words or any of them. That is, if keywords "dog" and "cat" are given and the "any" option is selected, then people that have either "dog" and "cat" in their profiles are listed. If "all" is selected, then only those that have both will be found.

To limit a selection based on the preferred communication methods (email, voice chat, etc), checkboxes are given for those options. Note that the more of these that are selected, the more limited the results will be. If someone selects just the email option, only those that want to use email will be listed. If email and voice chat are selected, then only those that want to use _both_ of those options will be listed. They might want to use other methods as well, but anyone that only has one of those in their profile options will not be listed in the results.

Lastly, to limit results to more active members, a search can performed on just those that are online. The results can also be sorted based upon when a member was last logged in, last edited their profile, or the date they joined the exchange. This can be critical, since a person that has not been on in over a year will probably not be available for the exchange, having signed up at one time and forgotten about it.

Results


Meeting people in a language exchange is a bit like a party, only online.

Once all the information for the search is submitted, the matches are listed. Each entry shows the basic details of the profile, including their avatar and whether they are online at the moment or not. If they have provided further information about themselves in a language the searcher doesn't understand, there is an option to translate it.

When the searcher finds someone they would like to connect with, they can select one of the options that are displayed as icons. They can see the members site profile, email the person using the site email system (personal emails are _not_ displayed. Partners can exchange those privately if they wish), or send them a private message (PM). Viewing their site profile will give more details about the person as well as several other ways to contact the person, such as Facebook, email, Skype, etc., depending on what that person has added.

Finally, there is a way to report a profile to an administrator if the viewer thinks someone is abusing the system. Such an abuse might be posting something obscene in the personal information or using the exchange system as a dating service. Selecting this option will give the viewer a report form to fill out and submit. This reporting system should not itself be abused. People should not report someone they are angry about just to get them into trouble.

Statistics

For those obsessed with numbers, there is a statistics section that lists countries, languages known and languages studied, sorted from most to least, of the exchange members. Age range and average is also given, along with the number of males and females.

We hope that the language exchange section is beneficial for members. We are always looking for ways to improve our members experience, so let us know anytime of suggestions on how we can make things better.


 
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Sections - Language Exchange
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
Images:
Karoly Czifra: people gathering
kris krüg: women meeting

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.

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