Students in the United States have a reputation for lacking knowledge in geography compared with their peers around the world. What about the readers of this blog? Many readers are academics or educators who work with English-language learners in the United States and have more interaction with people born in other countries than do many people in the U.S.
You can get a sense for your own skills in geography through the Web site, freepoverty.com. The computer feeds you the names of cities and other places from around the world and it’s your job to put each one on a world map that shows boundaries between countries but isn’t labeled. The site gives you some credit if you are close to correct. It’s similar to the vocabulary quiz site, freerice.com, where rice is donated for every correct answer. With freepoverty.com, it’s cups of water that are donated. The levels of “easy,” “medium,” and “hard” seem to be built upon the creators’ perceptions of the places that a Westerner is familiar with (questions about places in Italy and France frequently pop up at the easy level, for instance), but because I’ve traveled widely in Latin America and Asia, but not much in Europe, some of the “hard” questions were easier for me than the “easy” ones.
I first saw freepoverty.com mentioned on The English blog. The site’s biggest sponsor is Mobatar, an advertising company based in Rome that was co-founded by the two creators of freepoverty.com. I can’t vouch for where the donated “cups of water” end up, but the geography game is still challenging and fun.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.