Question via email: The students in my Spanish I class would like to exchange emails with Spanish-speaking students. There are only eight students. They have had a half-year of Spanish and could talk about themselves, their family, school, school classes and activities. Can you give me some suggestions on how to find some online pen pals?
Answer: I remember when I was growing up (more years ago than I care to count!), and there was something exciting about having a pen pal in a foreign country. But our world has shrunk since then, and email certainly has made correspondence something more routine. But finding someone to write to may be less easy than it was then.
Even so, there are some organizations and services that help would-be pen pals get together. Although I can't personally vouch for any of these organizations or services, here are some that might be helpful for your or your students. Note that fees are involved with some of them:
- MyLanguageExchange.com is a Canadian-based service that encourages its members to correspond bilingually with each other using one of 115 languages.
- PenPalParty.com is designed to help people establish nonromantic email friendships with people in foreign countries. Those under 18 can correspond only with those under 18.
- Sincerely Yours Pen Pals promotes literacy for K-12 students and provides some services for multilingual students.
- EPals GlobalCommunity is an online K-12 learning program with students in 200 countries.
- Student Letter Exchange promotes student communication via snail mail and has been doing so since the mid-1900s.
You might also check the "Practice Spanish With Someone" section of the About Spanish Forum. The forum is free to participants and would also be useful for your students to ask questions about vocabulary and grammar.
Of course, if your students have the opportunity to get to know a Spanish-speaking exchange student at their school, they may be able to keep in touch with him or her at one of the popular social networking sites.
Finally, as I'm sure you're aware, your students should be told that even the most highly recommended of the websites should be used with caution. There are those, sadly, who take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet to harass children, or to do worse. Most of the above sites are set up so students don't have to share their personal contact information.