An English-language school in Brazil has begun a program called “Speaking Exchange,” that uses online, real-time video chats to connect students with men and women living in retirement communities in the United States — simply to talk.

It is often expressed how youth can learn from the wisdom and experience of their elders. With their new language-refining program, the CNA language school network is taking this sentiment to heart.

“Not all of our students have the chance to travel abroad and to interact with native speakers of English,” pedagogical coordinator Vanessa Valença says in the program’s promotional video. “What our students really want is to speak English fluently, and we’re always asking ourselves, ‘how can we make it more real, more human?’”

CNA language school "Speaking Exchange"

Currently in its trial period, the main goal of the program is to give students a more interactive and realistic way to practice and improve their English. At the same time, it has the added benefit of giving some of the U.S.’s older citizens a chance to share their stories while forming new friendships.

A student uses the program by logging in on a computer with a webcam enabled and choosing a senior who is online. In the beginning, the conversation may be guided by topic suggestions, but then the senior and student can “chat freely,” the CNA website says. When the session is over, the video gets sent to a private YouTube channel where teachers at the school monitor and evaluate the student’s language progress.

The practical advantages of the program are clear. But as the video highlights, it goes beyond that: The program’s greatest strength is perhaps the very human, cross-cultural, cross-generational relationships that form.

The motto the CNA English school expresses at the end of their video says, “More than better students. Better people.”

For information on how to sign up a retirement community to participate once the trial period ends, visit

Hannah M. Brockhaus is an intern for OSV Newsweekly.