August 22, 2008

Portuguese perfection with Teleconferencing

Many agree that one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to spend time speaking it with native speakers. Yet, going to a foreign country every week to meet a native speaker to would be almost impossible... Not if the trip is virtual. By introducing videoconferencing software into the curriculum, Department of Spanish & Portuguese professor Ana Williams has allowed her students to regularly communicate with Brazilian students in a rich and immersive experience that is personal and real.

Through the efforts of Professor Williams, Northwestern's Portuguese program joined the TeletandemBrasil Project <> which has allowed matching NU Portuguese students with UNESP (São Paulo State University) English students.
The students meet independently with their partners once or twice a week in real time, using the technology provided by the MMLC, with individual use of camera and microphones. Using the same technology, regular class sessions are also teleconferenced with remote classes in Brazil.

Portuguese student Katherine Grafton converses with her Brazilian peer.

Professor Williams describes the Teletandem project as one that brings the intercultural experience to the students while they are learning Portuguese. Students' conversations with their remote partners help them to better understand how Brazilians communicate while also learning their language.

"Through this program and with the support of the MMLC, we bring Brazil to the students, before they go in person to Brazil," says Williams.

Portuguese student Katherine Grafton uses Wikipedia to find information about Memorial Day, while using Skype to explain unique American holidays to her partner, in Portuguese.

To facilitate the videoconferencing needs, the MMLC has installed two freely available mainstream communication applications on its lab computers, in addition to the already installed iChat software: ooVoo <> and Skype <>.

To know more about the TeletandemBrazil project, contact Professor Ana Williams (

To know more about the ways the MMLC can infuse videoconferencing capabilities into classroom pedagogy, contact MMLC Director, Janine Spencer (

Posted by matt at August 22, 2008 12:47 PM