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Modern foreign languages - In the spotlight

Mixing the melting pot

The Mixxer is a social-networking site designed to connect language learners via Skype. Learners can set up profiles, update blogs, accept friend requests, send messages or chat live with their new international friends. Once language partners are matched, meetings usually last for an hour, with the time divided equally between the two languages so both participants can practise.

Exchange visits are not always feasible for schools, particularly as language departments are now beginning to branch out of the typical tripartite of French, German and Spanish. Yet authentic listening and speaking experience is sorely needed. With The Mixxer, gone are the days of dodgy videoconferencing connections or feeling obliged to only communicate with your borough's "twinned" regions.

"Our students speak with native Japanese speakers every two weeks. It's so much easier now," says Akiko Meguro, a Japanese instructor at Dickinson College in Carlisle. Simon Ager, an independent learner, explains: "This is a great idea and seems to work well. Since I joined the site, I've practised my Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, and have learnt some more Russian and a bit of Bulgarian."

What else?

For more ICT ideas, try a video from TeachersTV. And rossod has shared a lesson on blogging in French. Discuss the pros and cons of the internet in Spanish with slaughtj's infinitive practice.

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