In a small Denver office on the corner of Kalamath Street and 7th Avenue, James Archer has an idea that he thinks will change the world.
“I want ShareLingo to be in every university, every high school, every church and every community center that has this crossover between the English and Spanish speaking communities,” Archer said.
ShareLingo is a program that is not only designed for people who want to learn another language, but it also provides ancillary benefits that enrich the lives of its students. It enables learners to expand their cultural awareness and acceptance by learning first-hand about cultures they probably haven’t been exposed to through its unique curriculum design.
It’s widely accepted that people learn languages foster through cultural immersion rather than institutional programs. Think back on stories told by people who have lived in a foreign country for a long time. They quickly become fluent in the language. Through this method, the learner not only learns the language itself but also the idioms, facial expressions, body language and other nuances that make a language unique to its culture.
ShareLingo achieves this type of learning domestically by pairing two users who want to learn the other’s language. For example, if a Spanish-speaking immigrant from Mexico wishes to speak English, and an English speaker from Denver wants to learn Spanish, the two can be paired together in person. By teaching each other the basics of their languages, with the help of the curriculum outlined in Archer’s book, “Beyond Words,” they can not only learn the language, but learn the culture too.
“The cultural lessons that people can give each other in an environment like this are every bit as important as the language sharing,” Archer said.
While the program is still in its infancy, it has already made an impact on many lives, including that of Monique Roberts. Roberts found ShareLingo after researching language learning programs that were different from the traditional English-speaker-teaching-another-English-speaker style.
“I don’t think I’ve ever delved so much into a language before. Then I met Saraí and a couple of other people here at ShareLingo and now I feel like I have a direction,” Roberts said. “The biggest thing is speaking with a native speaker.”
But English speakers aren’t the only beneficiaries to the program. Saraí Borunda, a Mexico native who recently moved to Denver, is currently using the program to enhance her English skills so she can feel comfortable traveling throughout the nation.
“It’s a different concept,” Borunda said. “It’s not a teacher telling us what’s right and wrong. I was teaching my partners and they were teaching me as well. We have the same objective. I feel like I’m doing something good for someone.”
That feeling of giving and receiving is an aspect of the program that Archer believes can transcend differences. He explained that when one is learning from another, they forget the petty differences that we often use to define ourselves. There are no race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religious issues when one’s simple goal is to gain knowledge that another has, and conversely, when one is simply trying to provide another with their own teachings.
That connection could mean the world to an immigrant who very well may be looking for an in-road to American culture. It could mean the world to a person who has fallen in love with a Spanish speaker but cannot communicate well with their significant other’s family. This is why ShareLingo’s mission statement is, “Connecting cultures through language.”
MSU Denver is also part of ShareLingo’s community outreach. Right now, the school’s public relations department has a relationship with ShareLingo that provides seniors the opportunity to get real world experience in a public relations setting. The current students, including Zac Cothern, are working on a variety of activities for the company including managing social media posts, event planning and book promotions.
“Working with James Archer and his company, ShareLingo has been an eye-opening experience,” Cothern said. “We’ve gained extensive knowledge of how working with a real client in a real-world scenario works and we’ve had to adapt to different challenges on the fly.”
The relationship between the university and ShareLingo is scheduled to continue into the spring semester.
As for the program, ShareLingo won’t be limited to Spanish and English, nor is it only going to be in Denver. The program has already held classes in Medellin, Colombia, and through its newly launched mobile platform, iShareLingo, Archer hopes to be able to provide access to speakers and the curriculum remotely, so geographical restraints are no inhibition to learning.
As for now, Archer plans to expand his 1,000 current users in the area, and has big dreams for the future.
“It should be in Mexico City. It should be in Spain and London,” Archer said, “And when we get to the other languages it should be in Brazil. It should be in Paris. It should be in so many places.”