Peer-learning means, literally, learning from one’s peers, rather than from a teacher or an instituion. Peer learning is an important part of language education. It is generally recognised that the few hours of weekly contact with a language teacher in schools or universities is not enough to reach fluency – particularly in a language very distinct from one’s native language. It is also generally recognised that language learning requires direct, personal motivation – whether it is the necessity to use the langauge for a specific task, or the desire to exchange with someone from another place or culture.
The Marco Polo Project proposes to improve language (and cultural) competence through peer-learning. On our platform, users will be able to directly practice their skills, thus maintaining and improving them. No matter how little they know, they can contribute and be part of the project; and they will be able to directly see the result of their effort, as a translation available online. A tracking system will allow them to see what revisions are made to their translation, and learn from mistakes. Some users will also leave comments on the translation or the text; and these strings of edits and comments will also be an opportunity for them to learn how their language can be improved.
This learning aspect is a key component of our project. Unlike automatic translators, our purpose is not to increase the quantity of texts available in various langauges, but the number of people who read them and interact with them. The main beneficiaries of our program will be our translators, as it will offer them the possibility to use their langauge skills towards a concrete task, and learn from the feedback they will receive, in the form of comments or edits on their translation.
They may even meet people on the other side of the world – or in a city next to theirs – who share common interests with them. And they will be able to make friends with them, or just have a chat, using our internal emailing system.