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Learning Spanish via webcam a fair trade for all

Lisa Monforton, Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hablas espanol? I can’t count the number of times of I’ve gone to Mexico and vow the next time I return, I’ll be able to converse with a cabbie or utter more than “Cerveza, por favor.”

Night classes or Spanish for Dummies DVDs can be helpful but it doesn’t compare to learning one on one with a tutor.

Clay Cooper, CEO and founder of discovered this in 1998 when he went to Antigua, Guatemala, and took private Spanish lessons from a tutor.

Web exchange spreads language, and good will

Lowell Sun, January 24, 2009
By Bridge Scrimenti

The sound of Spanish vocabulary and laughter echo around Kerri Piette’s kitchen table.

Each week Piette takes Spanish lessons from Leonor Chivichón. However, Piette lives in Carlisle and Chivichón in Guatemala.

The two women connect through Speak Shop, a business that offers Spanish lessons from native speakers via the Web.

“We laugh a lot and compare notes about culture and current events,” said Piette, who uses a Web cam to talk face to face with Chivichón.

Next week, Piette will put her Spanish-speaking skills to the test, when she returns

Startup: Vital signs of a young regional company


By Amy Hsuan, Oregonian

December 30, 2008, 1:46PM

The company:, Northeast Portland

The product: A Web site that connects foreign-language students with Spanish tutors in Guatemala and Nicaragua via webcam.

Created: August 2004

Suggested retail price: Tutors charge $7 to $10 an hour. collects a membership fee from users ranging from $9.99 to $39.99 a month, depending on the number of lessons received.m
What stage: Up and running

Employees: Two in Portland, with 10 contracted tutors worldwide

Where they work: Out of their homes

The founders:

Speak Shop Named a Finalist for Oregon Ethics in Business Award

The Oregon Ethics in Business Awards honor those organizations and individuals who have demonstrated ethical business practice in its broadest interpretation: in the workplace, the marketplace, the environment, and the community. The recipients of these awards will have, by act and example, gone beyond the expected to achieve excellence in ethical business practices.

The Samaritan Counseling Center, whose mission is to promote psychological health and wholeness, is convinced that a society that honors integrity and ethical behavior will foster healthy individuals, families, and communities.

15 Fascinating Oregonians

BrainstormNW, April 2008
By Lisa Baker


Those who have seen it with their own eyes return home chastened by the experience but can think of no earthly way to make a dent in the misery.

After all, what can one person, one family, one couple do by themselves against such a monstrous enemy?

BrainstormNW, April 2008

The obvious answer is to write a check. Maybe it’s not a Bill Gates-sized check, but giving something – anything at all – seems right.

Even so, while gifts of money salve our conscience, they seem to disappear, without having the

Word Up: Bring the World’s Languages to Your Classroom

Edutopia, March 11, 2008
By Laila Weir

Here are four steps to adding that je ne sais quoi to your language lessons via free Internet resources.

One of the biggest challenges for foreign language teachers is to expose their students to authentic speech by native speakers. Another is to immerse them in the culture of the language they’re studying when that culture may be half a world away. But in our expanding digital age, it’s increasingly easy to connect live with overseas students, find related videos and audio clips, and discover examples of living language online — all free.

“The Internet

‘Speak Shop’ Explores New Way To Foreign Language Learning

OPB – News Radio

Portland, OR  October 29, 2007 3:35 p.m.

This article was originally posted at

Listen to radio broadcast.

Starting a new business is difficult at the best of times. But if you’re also trying to make that business altruistic, the job can be doubly difficult.

One Oregon couple is using their computer — and friends in Guatemala — to help people learn a second language.

As Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, the couple is revolutionizing the way Americans learn a second

Local start-up named a finalist in PBS NOW Project Enterprise Contest

Speak Shop, a local company based in Beaverton, Oregon, has been selected as one of four finalists in a contest that recognizes emerging social entrepreneurs using business practices to solve major world problems. The winner will be decided by public online vote.

Speak Shop offers fair trade Spanish lessons via webcam with tutors in Latin America.

Fair Trade Spanish

Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2007
By Laila Weir

How Speak Shop uses the Web to help teachers earn more and students pay less.

When Michael Parker sits down to his private Spanish tutoring sessions, he pays his teacher $8 per hour, which is much less than the $25 per hour he was previously paying to his teacher in Iowa.  But his new teacher, Yesenia Mateu Grave lives in Guatemala, where wages are a fraction of those paid in Iowa.

Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2007 - Fair Trade Spanish

Thanks to Web conferencing, Mateu Grave teaches students around the world via a