Part of my rationale behind asking my students to blog sometimes has to do with the blogging platform itself. I want them to have the opportunity to see how a blog works, and more importantly perhaps, how commenting on a blog works. And then beyond that, I want them to see (hopefully before the semester ends) how blogs can help you create an informal network with others in the world who share your interests.
As part of their projects for my class, each student has to find a Spanish speaker with whom they can converse about the topic. This topic is meant to have importance in their lives…and the reason for which they want to improve their ability to speak in Spanish in the next 14 weeks. We have used the Mixxer and Lenguajero and students have had good success with finding general conversation partners there.
But what happens when the students’ interests become really specialized? For example, one of my students wants to talk to someone who speaks Spanish and has experience in Psychiatry. If someone did not write that in his or her profile in the Mixxer, chances are it is going to be hard to find that student the perfect conversation partner.
This is when being on a blog becomes useful. Another one of my students was just contacted by someone in Bolivia about his topic, but guess what? The Bolivian is a psychiatrist. This student blogs about it. Lo! The other student reads the post and voilá, our Bolivian psychiatrist now has TWO English conversation partners.
Another reason that I like to use blogs is that for those students who have very specialized (and passionate) interests, blogs often allow them to see that there are others out there that feel the same way. But finding those folks is not that easy.
Enter language specific Google blog search engines.
Color me clueless: I had forgotten that Google has created country-specific search tools. And after a little bit of exploring I found:
http://www.google.com.mx/ Google en México
http://www.google.com.ar/ Google in Argentina
http://www.google.es/ Google in España (in Castillian Spanish, Catalán and Basque)
http://www.google.com.pe/ Google in Perú (in Latin American Spanish and Quechua)
http://www.google.com.ec/ Google in Ecuador
http://www.google.com.sv/ Google in El Salvador
…the list goes on
The place where this becomes really interesting and helpful is when students need to find kindred spirits based upon their personal interests.
Take for example my student’s interest in Diego Maradona and his project: to be able to engage in an extended conversation about soccer in Spanish by the end of the semester with someone from Argentina.
This is what a Google blog search in English will generate when looking for blogs about Maradona: (click to enlarge)
The same timeperiod, only this time using Google blog search specific to Google in Argentina: (click to enlarge)
Dramatically different results, no?
And then there is Twitter. Even without an account you can search the public tweets and see if anyone is saying anything. And indeed, thanks to Twitter, I now know that today (3/17) was an important albeit sad anniversary in Maradona-land.
Why twitter? Well many twitterers are also bloggers, but more important still, they are real people. And, as I tell my students, if you are persistent, you can find good and generous and equally passionate souls via the intarwebs.
More on persistence in a bit…
If others who read here have found additional ways to find blogs in Spanish and other languages, please comment!!