If you don't have access to native speakers in your area, one of the best ways to practice your speaking skills is to connect with speakers from all over the world on the internet. Having online conversations is a fantastic way to improve your skills and it's accessible to anyone with a reliable internet connection.
As you speak to people across the globe, you will learn a lot about their culture and talk about things that you normally wouldn't with local people. For example, if you live in northern areas of the world, you may be fed up with all the snow you have to shovel out of your entry way and your pride may still hurt from that time you fell on the ice with your grocery bags, but these things could be fascinating for people who've never seen snow in their entire lives. Cold certainly doesn't have the same meaning for someone who lives close to the equator and someone who lives closer to Santa Claus. All these differences are fascinating and can spark great conversations. There are basically two main categories of websites to practice your speaking skills online; language exchange and personal teachers. Both options are great and have their pros and cons. In this post, we will talk about using language exchange websites to improve your speaking skills.
In previous posts, we briefly mentioned language exchange as a great way to learn languages. A quick Google search will give you several websites to choose from. One of the best things you can do is to find friends and also add them to a social network you both use often. After that, you can easily arrange video chat sessions whenever both of you have some free time. Truly becoming friends with them is ideal, you can learn each other's language and you can grow together. You should aim to improve the depth of the conversation every time. It's nice to find people who are at an equivalent skill level; this creates the best mutual exchange possible.
Starting from scratch with someone new every time can also work, but it's often more enjoyable and convenient to stay in touch with the people you connect with. Every time you find a new conversation partner, it's also an opportunity of making a new friend. Just keep in mind that you need to understand their skill level, know the way they like to learn, and get comfortable with this new person. Once you have great friends on your favorite social network, you can have many conversations a week with people you find interesting.
There are two main advantages to language exchange compared to personal teachers. First, most of them are completely free, and you can easily relate to the other person because they are in a similar situation. They are learning, and willing to help you. The mutual benefit is great, and helping someone else increases your confidence. You're an expert in your own language, and they are experts in their native tongue. Together, you can both become experts in your mutual languages.
Now, you might wonder: “But if we don't speak the same language, how can we have conversations together?”. Well, there are a few ways to go about it. In language exchange, you can decide to speak your new language, and they can reply in English. This is a valid option and it will get you the most spoken practice for your time, but it can be difficult for your mind to really switch to your target language. When someone speaks English to you, your instinct will be to reply in English. Try to avoid this. Remember the purpose of the exercise and do your best to only speak in your new language. If you are able to have good conversations by listening in one language and speaking in another, go for it.
The second option is to take turns; you can alternate the language of the sessions, or split the time in half. Both of you could speak English for a certain amount of time, and you can both switch to your new language the next time you speak together. This gives you the opportunity to practice listening at the same time and really lets your mind switch to the other language. Obviously, this has the downside of spending only half the time practicing your target language, but it can be gratifying to help someone else. There are no hard-and-fast rules for language exchange to work, but try to avoid each speaking your own language. This is not very effective to practice your speaking skills. Sure, it'll practice your listening skills, but there are a lot of easier and more convenient methods to train your ear to the language. Get as much spoken practice in your new language as you can get from each conversation. If you are not interested in exchanging time with someone and prefer to pay for the other person's time, there are also countless personal teachers available on the web. We will talk about this in detail in the next post.