Speaking Exchange: Young Brazilians and American seniors connect via Web chats

If you want to learn a language, why not befriend someone who's been speaking it for their entire life — and would love someone to talk to?

That's exactly what FCB Brazil's "Speaking Exchange" project for CNA language schools does: Young Brazilians hoping to become more fluent in English practice their conversational skills by chatting with American seniors in retirement homes via Web chats.

Those conversations are recorded and uploaded as private YouTube videos for teachers to then evaluate the students' progress.

"The goal of the Speaking Exchange project is to transform lives," explained CNA’s marketing director, Luciana Fortuna. "Our students have the opportunity to practice English with people who are willing to listen. During the chat sessions, the students discuss ideas and information from their lives in Brazil with the American senior citizens, many of whom have never had contact with anyone from Brazil before."

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"The idea is simple and it's a win-win proposition for both the students and the American senior citizens. It's exciting to see their reactions and contentment. It truly benefits both sides," said Joanna Monteiro, executive creative director at FCB Brazil.

The pilot project, featured in the above video, has been implemented at a CNA school in Liberdade, Brazil, and the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago.

The seniors quickly adopted their exchange partners as surrogate grandchildren, some even ending their chats with a cyber-hug and an "I love you." Some of the students even invited their elderly friends to visit them in Brazil.

Clearly, something's working here.

Max Geraldo, FCB Brazil's executive director, put it this way: "The beauty of this project is in CNA's belief that we develop better students when we develop better people."