Blind pen pals
A thousand pardons if this has been suggested before. I'm almost embarrassed writing this because its so simple an idea it surely has been thought of before. Now I don't know anything about computer science so I can't speak about the ease of implementation and/or maintaining, but I'm suggesting it on the assumption it is easy.
There has been a lot of periodic suggestions for a message board, chat room..... a means by which users can practice their learning language. Now again I know nothing of computer science, but I would think setting up a chat room and such is a lot of work and requires memory storage, in other words time and money. Well I suggest Duo implement, what I'll call a blind pen pal system.
What I envision is either through the website or through our email system. So I (an english speaking native) write to an unknown user (who is native to the language I want to learn and who wants to learn english), in the language I want to learn and he or she response to me in english. We both are anonymous (even our user names are anonymous) to each other and respond to and correct the email sent to us.
Duo doesn't need to keep storage of anything, they just receive an email and copy the subject and text and email it to our paired random anonymous pen pal and throw everything else away. A middle man if you will, to keep it anonymous. And you can open and close whenever you want, your communication line with whomever you have been randomly paired with, on the website. That way no stalking/pestering situation can arise. And some setting can be put in place where you can set how often you want emails sent to you, once every hour, day, two days, three, week,...... and of course you can have as many anonymous pen pals as you want, in as many languages as you want.
Whether it can be easily implemented here, I can't say; however, it is a good thought. Historically, on the Apollo-Soyuz mission, to deal with the differences in operating languages, it was decided that the American astronauts would speak Russian and Soviet cosmonauts would speak English to each other in orbit. The rationale was based on the thought that when speaking another's language, the speaker would tend to avoid idioms and be more careful in saying what he meant, and the burden of the listener to interpret what was being said would be reduced.
Your interesting anecdote reminds me of an idea I had wanted to include, but forgot. To have the idea be more successful, if in it gets implemented, we could select some parameters by which we could choose who to talk to. That way we can talk to people of our age groups and interests. That way astronauts have a better chance at talking to one another, if they so desire.
Are you familiar with Lang-8.com ? I heard about it through one of these discussion boards. It is similar, but not exactly what you describe. Basically you write in your target learning language, and native speakers correct your work. You can make friends on the site and be like pen-pals. I think it is a great companion to Duolingo.
I looked at Lang-8 and I may be wrong because I'm new, but all the post people leave are very short and very random. I wrote, in compassion a very long post (a paragraph) and it got reworded, parts were taken out, and I didn't feel a very good sense that I would get positive responses to question I had from corrections. I have to delve further to see if I can get a pen pal out of it, but since the system is set up in that whole post and correct fashion, i don't know if people will be willing to be pen pals, so you can have that individual attention. Also no system like I propose, is in place to either match up same level learners and/or common interest individuals. Lastly what I propose requires no searching for pen pals, you just automatically get paired with a like-minded individuals.
I looked at interpals and it seemed like a low level hookup place, where the intent is to meet new people you can possibly visit with and its more social in nature. Also it seem like the pen pals would be conversing in the same language. So my idea is separate in two respects, the intent although is social in nature, it's primarily to get paired up with someone who will correct your messages, so your there to learn first then socialize and the conversation is between two native speakers trying to learn each others language.
I never said, Duolingo was? Though learning in any form is inherently more boring than socializing. So in the same way learning in Duolingo is made fun by gamifing the process, it can continue to make learning fun by implementing a process by which people learn as they are socializing!
I said learning, not studying. It's semantics, but it really is important.
I said it sounded boring because you said "intent although is social in nature, it's primarily to get paired up with someone who will correct your messages," and, although correcting each other has it's place, it isn't necessarily helpful in language practice. It can be very discouraging. Also, if I have a penpal I'd prefer to be looking up the word for sewing to talk about my hobby then explaining English grammar.
What you and a minority of the population, so-call prefer, doesn't change the fact that the great majority of the population prefers socializing compared to learning. Therefore the point is learning can be made more fun by adding an element of socializing.
I guess you and me are different people. While on Lang-8, I found myself spending more time correcting people then posting in another language, because I felt I was helping someone. And I didn't mind because I was getting that help back. Instead of reading alone by myself trying aimlessly to find answers to language questions I might have, I could spend that time just asking my pen pal or have him or her correct me. Also you and I are different because I am not discouraged by someone correcting me, I mean they're helping me for gods sakes, its a gesture of kindness, I'm glad afterward because now I'm better informed. Its better than continuing on in a state of ignorance?