Featured Article from Conferencing

Skype Becomes a Powerful Tool for Learning Foreign Languages

August 02, 2013

An 80-year-old woman just topped her class in the MA Sanskrit course at Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) in Mysore, Karnataka, India.

T.P. Shantha Bai, of Bangalore, India, is the oldest person to receive a degree at the 13th convocation at KSOU, according to The Times of India. She won a certificate and a cash prize from Governor H. R. Bhardwaj for earning the highest marks in her class with an average of 62 percent. The university also awarded her a prize in recognition of her enthusiasm for knowledge.

Shanta Bai is no stranger to higher education. She completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Mysore in 1952, a Bachelor’s of Education from Osmania University in 1953 and an MA in mathematics from Banaras Hindu University in 1962. She also has two certificate courses in French.

T.P. Shantha Bai, of Bangalore, India, receiving her degree (image via The New Indian Express)

This time around, she has a new learning tool on her side: Skype. Her grandson Raghunandan (or great-grandson, depending on where you read) taught her how to use the Internet calling service.

Using Skype, or other video streaming services, as a method to learn languages is becoming increasingly popular – it’s cheaper than paying for courses or face-to-face, one-on-one lessons and is more effective than using programs. Websites like italki can help students connect with teachers (for a fee) or native speakers (for free). Since most students can’t afford to travel to countries native to their chosen language, video chatting is an effective way to learn, perfect or practice a language.

Using Skype, Shanta Bai was able to use to study with friends for several hours per day. These friends, half her age, were the ones who encouraged her to take the examination.

But she isn’t done yet. When the octogenarian was asked how she has the energy and concentration to focus on her studies, she replied, “I feel healthy when I am learning.” Next, she plans to take the Vidwath Uttama course in Sanskrit.

Edited by Alisen Downey