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Armchair evangelism

Technology | Clubs bring new opportunities to speak with foreign English learners

Issue: "2012 Books Issue," July 14, 2012

Skype, an internet-based phone service, breaks down barriers of distance by allowing anyone in the world to join an online conference call for free, using a computer and microphone-and missionary Janine Rembas is using Skype to break down barriers of language and culture.

She's doing it by launching Skype English clubs, where an English-speaking volunteer can help five to seven foreigners improve their English skills simply by talking with them online. The idea grew out of mission field discouragement in Ecuador, where Rembas found herself spending all her time with people who spoke English.

Then she heard about the popularity of Spotlight, a 15-minute radio news and features program that uses slowly spoken English and a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words to inform foreign English learners. Rembas volunteered to lead a "listeners' club" at a local church for Spotlight fans who wanted to practice English skills in a group setting, with conversation centered on Spotlight program topics.

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The first club had 23 attendees, grew, and revealed Rembas' calling: Since then she's helped plant 47 local Spotlight English clubs (spotlightenglishclubs.com) in countries from Bolivia to Thailand. Using Skype, English speakers can do outreach from their homes using downloadable Spotlight programs that serve as conversation fodder and sometimes delve into Christian themes. If a participant seems open to developing a friendship, the leader can interact with him or her one-on-one.

Wrong address

Associated Press/Photo by Tim Hales

Next year internet addresses may become more whimsical-or smutty. The organization that governs web addresses, ICANN, is reviewing proposals from companies for nearly 2,000 new top-level domain names (the ".com" portion of an address), including ".shop," ".bank," and ".kids." Google has applied to operate ".Google," ".YouTube," and ".LOL"-texting shorthand for "laughing out loud." But ICM Registry, which last year won the right to license ".XXX" websites, now hopes to peddle ".sex," ".porn," and ".adult." -Daniel James Devine

Manly pin board

For men weary of scrolling through photos of pink cupcakes and lavender bridesmaid dresses on Pinterest, a social networking site popular among women, there's an alternative: Gentlemint (gentlemint.com) bills itself as a "mint of manly things," and like Pinterest, allows users to post pictures and links to items or web pages of (male) interest.

As you'd expect, the virtual pin board at Gentlemint is crowded with topics guys might discuss at a backyard barbecue: beer cheeseburgers, 9 mm pistols, a snakeskin wallet, Jack Black shaving cream, Ferraris, instructions on building a brick fire pit, and outlandish gadgetry ranging from a wireless grilling thermometer to a cell phone-charging umbrella. No crocheted crafts around here. -Daniel James Devine

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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