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TalkAbroad: Utilizing Language Practically

In Villanova’s Language Department, communication knows no borders. Villanova University acknowledges that learning more about a culture and language involves not just intensive reading, projects and exams, but a hands-on approach that allows the student to experience full academic immersion. In select foreign language courses at Villanova, students are given this opportunity through a unique program called TalkAbroad.  

TalkAbroad is a web-based application that allows students of any proficiency level to speak with native speakers in their target language. 

After registering for those select classes, students have access to thousands of profiles including details such as the speaker’s name, origin, job title, favorite hobbies and levels of proficiency they work best with. On TalkAbroad, students are able to see Spanish being utilized for casual communication and forge meaningful connections with speakers throughout the world.  

These conversations not only vary by proficiency levels, but also by the contents of the conversation. Students are able to send their conversation partner a description of what they would like to discuss in their allotted time-slot, which can include but is certainly not limited to current events, sports, nationalities and origins of conversational participants, favorite foods and films.

It is truly a well-rounded program that allows students to take their casual, everyday interactions and use it to grow within their secondary language. 

In my Spanish course, my professor gives us a conversational topic and has us write out a “Pre-Task” worksheet, where we are able to plan ahead so we may have productive conversations. We have one audio call per chapter within the semester, and each call utilizes its respective chapter’s vocabulary. It is a great way to memorize key terms for exams and learn to use them within their appropriate context.  

Feedback from students currently enrolled in language courses utilizing TalkAbroad is overwhelmingly positive. 

“My speaker, Ximena, was excellent,” freshman Jack McHugh said. “She took the time to give me comprehensive feedback. Struggling isn’t a problem when you have Ximena.  I would recommend this platform to anyone regardless of their level.” 

Jack intends to minor in Spanish and believes this will be a great tool to utilize throughout his undergraduate career.  

“TalkAbroad has helped me feel more comfortable and confident in my Spanish-speaking skills by allowing me to practice with a native Spanish speaker,” freshman Kalyani Halsband said. “It’s also helped me learn more about other countries and cultures outside of my own and connect with a person who I otherwise would have never met.”  

It is clear that this application has reaped many positive rewards for its users. I have truly enjoyed my experiences with TalkAbroad. 

Most recently, I was privileged enough to have a conversation with Rosa from Cancun. She told me about her daily routine, the weather in Cancun, popular customs within Mexico and the food she cooks for her family. She asked me many questions about my life at Villanova, and was very helpful and patient with me as I took my time navigating my Pre-Task sheet and Spanish dictionary to look for words I was unsure of. She also offered me feedback on my mistakes and provided resources for me to further my vocabulary and reflexive pronoun usage.

By allowing students to have a holistic foreign language education, Villanova encourages taking twenty-first century tools and using them to further their speaking capabilities. 

“Learning is all about connections, and through our connections with unique people we are able to gain a true understanding of the world around us,” Professor Peter Senge said.

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