Boomalang Gets Students Speaking

thinkstockphotos-470520510Who knew that sharing a coffee with a local Tico in Heredia, Costa Rica, would change the life of 26-year-old American and low-intermediate Spanish-speaker Chris?

It was the first intercambio, or language exchange, for both learners, and they couldn’t help but share anxiety. Speaking with a stranger in a foreign language is naturally beyond comfort zone at first—which is exactly the point.
A minute later, they settled into a fairly fluid dialogue, communicating pretty effectively. Was it grammatically perfect? Of course not. Did they understand each other? More often than expected. Were they paying attention deeply, racking their brains to access vocabulary or verb tenses they had learned in class to convey or comprehend an idea? Yes.
Determined to bring similar experiences to others, Chris led a team to create Boomalang, a language-exchange platform focused entirely on speaking.
An accelerator program, competitions, pilots, and first paying customers later, Boomalang is now bringing language learners together with the shared goal of speaking Spanish and English. After testing with universities the past two semesters, the technology service will now be available to the public this fall.
“Boomalang is an absolute treat,” says Dr. Lisa Merschel, Spanish professor at Duke University. “My students were challenged and rewarded from their conversations with native speakers from Latin America on Boomalang. It was simple and effective for me to incorporate into my curriculum.”
To date, average conversation length has been 34 minutes. The video platform offers game-like conversation guidance, as well as a timer that switches between English and Español every 15 minutes—both of which provide needed structure missing from other virtual exchange products. Additionally, teachers are provided statistics that allow them to track their students’ usage.
“We aren’t replacing what educators do,” says founder, Chris Gerding. “Adding Boomalang simply lets them and their students realize more motivation and mileage out of the classroom work. Students can experience the joy of successfully communicating in a target language, and teachers don’t need to adjust their planning to make it happen.”

November 7th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Student Feedback on Travel in Germany

daad081916ya168x168callaway6-2“I loved my time in Germany and will always look back at it with fond memories. I studied abroad at the Goethe Institut Mannheim and Universitaet Stuttgart for my Junior year as a DAAD Undergraduate Scholarship recipient. During my time in Germany, I improved my command of the language through intensive language courses and completing coursework in my major. The staff at the DAAD was tremendously helpful in providing me with information about handling bureaucratic details, applying to other prestigious scholarship programs, and connecting me with other students and fellow scholars in my field of study and area.”
–Callaway Tyra
guy_bonin_languagemagazine_oct-2016-fuu“We had a very enjoyable stay at F+U Academy of Languages in Heidelberg. The transfer to the student residence offered by the school went well according to the information provided about the meeting point. The student residence was very well located in the Old Town and we appreciated that we could easily get to school by foot. I took a B2 German intensive course, while Benoit was in an A1 class. We both liked the German courses we have taken and we were impressed by the quality of the teaching as well as the good organization of the school. It was my partner’s first experience with a German language course and I feel this experience gave him the will to keep on learning this language.” –Guy Bonin & Benoit Yergeau

jesus-nietto-dialogue“It takes so little time to feel like home here. There’s some kind of magic about Lindau that got me right away from the very first time I visited. I knew from the start that I wanted to walk its streets and see its people for a lot longer than just a few days. Then I discovered the dialoge Sprachinstitut. It was just like finding vanilla ice cream for your apple strudel. Lindau was already great, but finding dialoge made it even better. From the very first day your amazing teachers and staff will guide you through every single step you need to take. You will never feel lost. Students come from so many different places and with such different stories that you’ll never stop learning, and before you even realize, you will be part of a new family.” –Jesús Nieto Torres.

daad081916ya168x168mohtasham1-2“I’m a Comparative Literature major with a concentration in German language and literature. My year as a short-term student at the University of Heidelberg was thus invaluable to my academic career. Through the DAAD undergraduate scholarship, I was able to learn German in an immersive environment and study original German texts at a prestigious university. My experience abroad was important both to my intellectual and personal growth. It was an ideal situation made possible for me by the generous support of DAAD.” –Atussa Mohtasham

jordan-caillet-2-eurocentres“I had heard good things about Eurocentres Berlin, which is why I’ve decided to go to this school. Moreover, my mother, my father and my sister had been in Berlin with Eurocentres as well. I like the teaching methods at the school in Berlin. You can see that the teachers enjoy what they are doing and the fun is transmitted to students too. The school offers many leisure activities in the afternoon or evening, where we can get to know our classmates and further practice our German. The school is visited by students from many different countries and you cannot not only get to know various cultures but also make friends with people from all over the world.” –Jordan Caillet

daad081916ya168x168viney3-2“Studying in Germany has been the most transformative event in my life thus far. While studying in Germany, I was able to vastly improve my German language skills, a personal goal of mine. However, my study abroad experiences extended far beyond the classroom. My initial perspectives and thoughts were challenged in the changing social climate in Europe. I forged many lifelong friendships that will surely last a lifetime. My own future aspirations shifted while I was in Germany. Upon my graduation, I plan to return to Germany to complete my master’s and stay on a permanent basis.” –Matthew Viney

“While pursuing undergraduate degrees in Visual Arts and Education, studying abroad in this small German culture city daad081916ya168x168park2-2called Weimar that is just about the size of my home university community was the most unique and inspiring experience in my personal and educational career. While overcoming the language barrier was one of the most challenging aspects of this experience, in the end, it has come to be the greatest accomplishment from studying abroad. I learned new approaches to art, different values in teaching, and gained immeasurable life skills for my personal growth. DAAD has helped me to lengthen my stay in Germany where it provided greater access and stability to allow this valuable experience come to fruition.”
–Christina Park

November 7th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Biergärten Be Gone

SONY DSCLeanna Robinson checks out the alt side of Germany

Post-internet art, technicolor hair, LGBTQ scenes, 24-hour clubs, underground performance art, postmodern paintings, tiny art galleries, avant-garde parties, electro music…travelers can find this and more when they stray from the beaten path in Germany. What better way to learn German than by being forced to yell over thumping music in the wee hours of the night to ask where the music is going to be the next night? What could be more fun than to chat with a German artist about the influence of their work?
There’s no denying that Germany has become an epicenter of cool, and at the very center of that is Berlin. From artistic Americans to European expats to and the cool kids of Germany, Berlin is one of the most sought-after cities for those looking for something a little different.
If Berlin is the center of cool for Europe, then Kreuzberg is the center for Berlin. Those who live in or travel to this neighborhood may be shaking their head that I am doing the ultimate uncool thing of writing about the place, but the rest of the world deserves to know! Stretching from Bergmannstraße to the river at Oberbaumbrücke, Kreuzberg is home to exciting sights for visitors.
Those who are into nightlife should check out Vögelchen—a cozy hangout bar for artists, actors, and musicians, which is decorated like your favorite nutty aunt’s house. For those looking for live-like-an-alt-local vibes check out Clash—the kind of punk dive bar you would expect to find in Berlin with cheap drinks, live music, and a closing time of 5:30 a.m. Prinzipal Kreuzberg lies in the heart of Kreuzberg on the popular Oranienstraße strip, feels like a secret speakeasy, and features acclaimed burlesque shows. The ultimate Berlin night spot, where you can be sure to find hundreds of alternative, artistic, fashionable people of dreams and nightmares, is Berghain. The nightclub recently won a legal ruling to be considered a ‘high art’ institution. The humongous, sprawling space is like the Holy Grail for young, artsy, party people in Berlin. The club is a mecca for dancing and partying, among other things, and has winding hallways, dark side rooms, and a no-photography no-mirrors rule that lets people party well past tea-time into the next day without worrying if their mascara is running.
Aside from nightlife, another place sure to find kindred spirits and have a good time is at none other than art galleries. While Germany boasts impressive museums such as Alte Pinakothek and Lenbachhaus in Munich, Kunsthalle in Hamburg, and Altes Museum in Berlin, these spaces tend to honor and house works by artists who are mostly male and mostly dead. In comparison to the oft-stuffy museums, galleries tend to host shows by artists who are currently creating work, making them great breeding grounds for discussion, and meeting new people. Some notable galleries are Berlinische Galerie, Pool Gallery, me Collectors Room, Carlier Gebauer, and Henrik Springmannn Gallery in Berlin; Ruttkowski 68 and Galerie Artclub in Cologne; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Heliumcowboy Artspace, and Deichtorhallen in Hamburg; Kunstraum, Lothringer 13, and Weltraum in Munich; Ostrale and Galerie Baer in Dresden; and Arty Farty in Cologne.
There are more attractions than venues, bars, and art galleries that those of the subculture like to frequent. Another destination that is loved by trendsetters (Sh! Don’t tell anyone.) is the RAW Flohmarket in Berlin. Many people say that the flea market at Maurpark is the best place to find unique threads, which means that word is out and tourists are flocking there. This makes RAW one of the best places to find unique clothes that the crowds are missing.
Berlin also hosts an alternative Berlin free walking tour that showcases underground sights of the subculture like artist squats, skate parks, street art, art projects and graffiti culture. If that sounds like a little too much, try out BonAppetour—an app that lets you live like a local by linking travelers to locals who host dinners at their homes.
Culture, like language, is best absorbed not by learning about it in books, (although having previous knowledge and context absolutely helps) but through immersion. If you visit any city in Germany and want to find the best thrift store to find a good gem, or find what shows are going on the upcoming weekend you can certainly try and find out online, but the best way to discover new things is to talk to people. Travelers and tourists are often intimidated to talk to locals because of language and cultural differences. Cast those fears aside, and try your hand at talking to a stranger at a pub, or chatting up the cashier at a café about what kind of things are going on. You’d most likely be surprised by their enthusiasm to show a tourist the underground things that are happening in the city that they live in.

Leanna Robinson is a writer, artist, and creative director for Language Magazine. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in Creative Writing and currently lives in Los Angeles.

November 7th, 2016 | Leave your comments

U.S. Senate Moves to Promote Study Abroad

Senators Say Study Abroad Prepares U.S. Students to Compete Globally

U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have re-introduced legislation that creates a competitive grant program for colleges and universities to expand study abroad opportunities for American college students and encourage more minority, low-income, and non-traditional students to spend part of their undergraduate experience abroad. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act would help to improve young Americans’ language skills and cultural competency. Named after the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon, a champion of multilingualism who campaigned to extend the benefits of study abroad, this bill aims to increase the number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to one million within ten years. Currently, less than two percent of all enrolled post-secondary students in the U.S. study abroad.

“Our nation benefits in the long run when students have the opportunity to study abroad,” Senator Wicker said. “No one can predict what the world will look like in 10, 20, or 30 years. A better understanding of global issues and the global economy helps prepare our young leaders to succeed, regardless of what the future holds.” continue reading

September 23rd, 2016 | Leave your comments

5 “Très Bon” Independent French Bookstores You Can Only Find in the U.S.


5 “Très Bon” Independent French Bookstores You Can Only Find in the U.S.


For French students and francophiles alike, Language Magazine’s list of great French bookstores in the U.S. is sure to get readers excited to explore some new cities in search of that perfect bookstore. While, unfortunately, many bookstores have closed their doors, instead of being sad readers can say c’est la vie and celebrate these independent businesses are still living in thriving across the U.S.


Albertine Interior. Photo courtesy of Yelp.

Albertine Interior. Photo courtesy of Yelp.

Albertine, NY, NY

A project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Albertine is the only bookstore in New York to carry solely French and English titles. This dreamy bookstore is located in the official landmark Payne Whitney mansion in Manhattan on fifth avenue, and features a stellar hand-painted ceiling, busts of Voltaire and other French and French-American figures, and a replica of Michelangelo’s Young Archer. The scenery is just the beginning, though. The bookstore holds a diverse selection of titles: from literature to sci-fi, to self-help, cooking, social science, and everything in-between. The store holds events which can be viewed here.


Schoenhof's Exterior. Photo Courtesy of Shoenhof's.

Schoenhof’s Exterior. Photo courtesy of Shoenhof’s.

Schoenhof’s Foreign Books, Cambridge, MA

This bookstore is not only quite old (founded it 1856) it also boasts the largest selection of foreign books in North America. While Schoenhof’s carries a plethora of language books—be it Latin, Japanese, African languages, Asian language, among many others—One of the languages most extensively covered is French. The website lists over seven thousand French titles, and has quite the range from literary classics like The Little Price, to translations of an obscure Biography of Brigitte Bardot. This quaint Harvard Square bookstore is sure to please any inner francophile.

Tempo Bookstore. Photo courtesy of Yelp.

Tempo Bookstore. Photo courtesy of Yelp.

Tempo Bookstore, Washington, DC

This unassuming bookstore in the heart of Tenleytown could appear like a mini-mart or magazine stand. Inside, though, one can find resources for many languages—French being one of them. Packed inside the cozy store are French-language dictionaries, novels, language learning tools, children’s books, and more. Not quite your quaint old Parisian bookstore, Tempo is still a gem for language books, and the cashiers will even order books that aren’t currently in stock in the shop for customers.





European Books and Media Interior. Photo courtesy EB&M.

European Books and Media Interior. Photo courtesy EB&M.

European Books and Media, Oakland, CA

This quaint Oakland bookstore is an independent book company (librairie francaise) carrying French literature, textbooks, comic books, and more. European Books and Media (formerly European Book Company) imports directly from France and supplies schools, school districts, libraries and individuals. This Bay Area staple is a resource for French speakers wanting to find new novels to sink into, and students seeking textbooks alike.


Bonjour Mama exterior. Photo Courtesy Bonjour Mama.

Bonjour Mama exterior. Photo Courtesy Bonjour Mama.

Bonjour Mama, Kensington, MD

The small town of Kensington may seem like an unlikely place for an independent French bookstore, but given that many of its residents commute to Washington, DC and return to the suburban town, Bonjour Mama has plenty of customers for its exclusively French fare. This charming bookstore, located in the back of Kensington Row Bookshop, packs a punch in a small space with loads of French titles. The bookstore’s highlight is the vast collection of French children’s books. Bonjour Mama has translated popular titles like The Hobbit along with nature guides, and language resource books. Not to worry if children’s books aren’t of particular interest; this retailer has literary and genre fiction for the adult reader too.

June 7th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Spanish Teachers: Free Trip to Castilla Leon



The Tourist Office of Spain in Los Angeles is coordinating a trip to the autonomous region of Castilla Leon, birthplace of the Castilian language, aimed at teachers, heads of modern languages departments, or administrative staff in charge of coordinating student travel abroad.

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May 18th, 2016 | 7 Comments

Touring With Class (in Mind)

 Kristal Bivona sets her mind on turning tourism into professional development

Teaching, in general, is a profession that demands ongoing professional development, be it learning about cutting-edge pedagogical approaches, new classroom technology, or new teaching standards. As language teachers, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to travel abroad for our professional development and spend time immersed in the cultures that we teach. Even seasoned teachers with a lot of experience or natives of the target languages they teach return from trips abroad with fresh ideas for the classroom. The most mundane experiences overseas have the potential to teach a language teacher about the current events and cultural phenomena of today. continue reading

May 12th, 2016 | 1 Comment

Top Tips for Students Planning to Study in the U.S.


American stadium with confettiThe Institute for International Education’s new book offers insight to students, educators, advisors, and parents.

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May 12th, 2016 | 1 Comment

English is Great

IMG_0042 (Edited)The UK is an exciting place to live too, with a rich mix of history, culture, global influences, and opportunities to learn and progress in any chosen career. This year is particularly exciting politically, thanks to the “Brexit” referendum in June, which will decide whether or not Britain remains in the European Union. One advantage for international students is that the uncertainty has weakened the UK’s perennially strong currency—the pound.

In Brazil, there’s also a new campaign to attract even more students. English is GREAT: Speak to the World is a major, multichannel English UK campaign to promote the UK to Brazilians as the world’s premier English-language-learning destination. Funded by the GREAT UK Challenge Fund, this campaign aims to reach more than 17 million people through traveling classrooms, two video competitions, social media, and a digital video wall of current and prospective Brazilian students sharing “what English means to me.”

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May 12th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Familiarization Trip to Spain

Beautiful Valencia

Beautiful Valencia

The Tourist Office of Spain in Los Angeles, along with the Valencia Tourism Board and Fedele (Spanish Federation of Associations of Schools of Spanish as a Foreign Language) are looking for 8 U.S. agents that sell Spanish language courses in the U.S. or U.S. study abroad advisors to join a complimentary familiarization trip to Valencia, Spain from May 22nd thru May 28th, 2016.
Accommodation, food, and land transfers in Valencia are fully covered. Participants will receive a $500 voucher to cover part of the cost for the round trip flight to Valencia. The remaining cost of the flight will have to be covered by the participant.
Here is the tentative itinerary:

· Sunday 5/22: US-Valencia outbound flight.
· Monday 5/23: Arrivals in Valencia
· Tuesday 5/24: Guided tour of the city of Valencia. Visit to the City of Arts and Science and the Turia Gardens.
· Wednesday 5/25: Workshop with Fedele “Spanish Federation of Associations of Schools of Spanish as a Foreign Language).
· Thursday 5/26: Day trip to a town outside Valencia and/or visits to language schools (TD).
· Friday 5/27: Day trip to another town outside Valencia (TD)
· Saturday 5/28: Return to the US.INBOUND FLIGHT VALENCIA-US

Should you or any decision maker in your company/institution be interested, please email


May 9th, 2016 | 1 Comment

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