Last year I began Project I-586 because I believe opportunities to learn other languages, and especially English, should be available to everyone in the world, not just those who have money. Through this project I plan on having The Guide to Getting Started, my other guides and The Ten Week Journey translated into other languages. I’ll then give the translated versions away for free.
It is because of my heart for justice and opportunity that I was extremely excited when Tobias Lorenz contacted me about Glovico. Glovico is a fair trade language school matching teachers in developing countries with language learners across the globe for online language lessons.
At a price of about 8.00 Euros per lesson, it is both an affordable learning opportunity for students and chance to add some much needed income to teachers livelihoods in places like Africa, Asia and South America.
The 2012 recipient of the Underdog Award and featured in places like Frankfurter & Allgemeine, the BBC, NDR and the Financial Times, Glovico is set to become a world leader in offering both great lessons for learners and great opportunities for teachers.
I am excited that Tobias agreed to answer a few questions about Glovico for the EDLL community.
In 200 words or less, what exactly is Glovico?
Glovico is a Fair Trade Language School where people from Latin America, Africa and Asia can teach their native tongues via Skype. In that way we can offer affordable personal language instruction to students in North America and Europe as well as create additional income opportunities in less developed countries.
Can you explain what is meant by “Fair Trade Language School”?
Yes, happily. We are not yet reaching out to small hold farmers in rural areas as Fair Trade coffee or chocolate does but we follow the definition of the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA). According to it Fair Trade is: ”a trading partnership that seeks greater equity in international trade”. It offers “better trading conditions to, and secures the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.” We fulfill these criteria by providing all our employees with a fair and transparent wage – in fact they decide upon their price per lesson themselves. And while our teachers are generally less marginalized than smallholder farmers, in the future we want to hire such groups as well. They could get a microcredit for a smartphone, some teacher training as well as English instruction, and then start to teach. Yet, that is two or three years down the road. Nonetheless already now, we make sure to reach out to less privileged teachers.
So, how does Glovico select the teachers who are part of the team?
We have a rather extensive selection process. Particularly for smaller languages like Tagalog, Wolof or Swahili it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. We collaborate with various NGOs in that respect. A potential teacher is asked to supply us with a brief CV and fill in a survey on his demographic background (as we consider also issues like current income, kids, household members earning an income, etc.). Then we ask the applicants to meet us on Skype where we make sure that the internet connection carries a video stream, that the applicant can speak English fluently and is a good teacher (every applicant gives us a demo lesson in the language he or she would later teach on Glovico).
What is the number one benefit a language learner will gain from using Glovico?
Affordable language instruction tailored to its needs by a native speaker. We think that it is particularly the immersion right into the language to be learnt which helps to advance quickly. The lessons aren’t only conversational, there are various exercises as well but our approach is about speaking in the foreign language as much as possible. Yet, the teachers also speak English in order to explain difficult grammar or vocabulary issues.
Do you really offer a free lesson to anyone who signs up? What does that entail?
Yes, definitely. Once you sign up, you can book your first lesson with the teacher of your choice straightaway. It will be a full 55 minute lesson with the content you decide upon before. Apart from that the teacher will assess your level and discuss your learning goals with you so that you can decide upon a curriculum together.
What excites you about the future of Glovico?
My grand vision is to have teachers out in rural Africa who teach via smart phones. Meeting such a potential teacher, then equipping him or her with a microcredit as well as giving him or her some training and seeing that teacher again giving lessons to students in Europe is most exciting to me. It is about seeing people grow through Glovico and peacefully communicatig with others from around the planet. And if we manage to be the largest Fair Trade Language School in the world five years down the road, I’d be completely thrilled.
Outside of Glovico, what is the number one thing the everyday language learner can do to help themselves learn another language?
Apart from watching movies or reading news in the foreign language online which I always enjoyed, I hold old-fashioned flashcards in high honor, also in their online version. Regularly practicing vocabulary might be less fun than having a chat with a native speaker but is also very effective in making the words stick.
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