I learned about Amikumu and Duolingo through the Esperanto community. All Esperanto speakers also speak at least one–sometimes two or more–other languages, and many are language-learning enthusiasts. Studies demonstrate that:
- Esperanto is a gateway to other languages, and makes it much easier and faster to learn a third language (I learned it before I took French in college and it made French feel very easy for me), and
- Learning other languages is great intellectual exercise that actually changes the brain, making its neural network more efficient at any age.
Phone apps are contributing to how easy and fun language-learning can be. Duolingo makes learning (or practicing) a language easy and feel like a game, while Amikumu uses the GPS feature of the phone to look for people studying, practicing, tutoring or willing to speak one of our languages in our vicinity. Also, language tutors can find clients through the app, speakers of a minority language can find each other (the language has found many supporters among Yiddish speakers who wish to preserve their language), and it’s being used heavily by the mute-deaf community to find other sign-language speakers in their area.
I’ve taken to learning bits of other languages on Duolingo and to practice my French and expand my knowledge of vocabulary, and have used Amikumu for finding other Esperantists (particularly to stay abreast of the activities and meetups in my city), and when I went to Puerto Rico I chatted in the language with people from PR and the Dominican Republic–which seems to have a much bigger Esperanto community than PR.
Amikumu does more than identify people in our vicinity who want to speak or tutor a language we’re learning. In the Amikumu app, we are able to choose as many languages as we wish to practice, and the app has both a private message feature (an in-app “Messenger”) and a public flow, which is somewhat like scrolling through Facebook, except that it focuses on the speakers of the chosen language. From time to time, these public comments include book reviews, information about either current or language-learning events, links to webpages and resources (even songs) for learners of the language in question, and other bits of useful advice.
Amikumu would be a good way to practice a language, find tutors, or to find others who speak our native language when we travel. A Spanish speaker visiting Tokyo would be able to find other Spanish speakers, and maybe even find someone to guide them in their own language through the city, or make new friends. This may help the visitor feel safer and more comfortable, by hearing a familiar tongue, and maybe even find a friend or translator for an important event.
My verdict: I love Amikumu. The app horizontalizes language-learning and makes it easy to experience peer-to-peer teaching, practicing and learning. It’s also potentially a way to make new friends with similar interests. By the way, the name of the app means something like “to befriend“, or “to hang out with friends” in Esperanto: it’s a verb form of the concept of friendship.
Amikumu (like Duolingo) works with android or iphones.