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Reach Out and Teach Someone

Clever language schools from Beijing to Cairo have discovered a powerful tool: Internet telephony. Voice-over-Internet services allow language schools in even the most remote corners of the globe to exploit their comparative advantage — native speakers and rock-bottom prices. In cities such as London or New York, an hour of private, one-on-one language instruction can ...

Clever language schools from Beijing to Cairo have discovered a powerful tool: Internet telephony. Voice-over-Internet services allow language schools in even the most remote corners of the globe to exploit their comparative advantage — native speakers and rock-bottom prices. In cities such as London or New York, an hour of private, one-on-one language instruction can cost more than $30. But at Web sites like eChineseLearning.com, private classes with a native Mandarin speaker cost as little as $5 per hour using online voice and video services such as Skype or Yahoo! Messenger. Sanaa Ghanem of ArabAcademy.com, an online Arabic-language school based in Cairo, says her business is booming thanks to the "better quality" of the technology, not to mention the fact that "everyone in America knows about it." Whether discount prices are enough to overcome Americans’ infamous aversion to learning foreign languages remains to be seen.

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