It’s a simple idea: Kids learning English need hours of conversation with native English speakers; assisted living residents need new faces to chat with; and online chat technology can connect people who are miles – and generations – apart. So why not use videocam enabled computers to connect seniors in foreign high schools to seniors in American residences? Duh!
It took an ad agency working with a language school to see the beauty in the equation. Speaking Exchange – a project of the Brazilian school of English CNA and the agency CFB Brazil – pairs teen language students with residents of Chicago’s Windsor Park Retirement Community for twice-weekly face-to-face conversations.
Students log in to see who’s online in Chicago, and start the chat. Initially, the conversation is guided by a school staff member who might suggest topics, but pretty soon the elder-student pairs are able to talk freely.
The video below of Speaking Exchange clips was just published on May 7 and already has been widely shared on the Internet – a first for a language school commercial! Viewers have been touched by the virtual hugs, the christening of one teen by an elder as her “my new granddaughter”; one boy’s invitation to his older partner to visit Brazil and stay in his house; the sharing of family photos; even the carefully worded correction a senior offers a student – “Do you know, instead of saying ‘He has 23 years,’ you could say, ‘He is 23 years old.'” It’s not often that we get to witness the spark of cross-generational relationships in the making.
Watch: It will give you one more reason to love the Internet.
Speaking Exchange is currently in Beta – a testing period. CNA is inviting senior residences and communities to apply for the program. Click here for more information.