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Language Conversation Practice on Skype

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I have some conversation partners on Skype I talk with regularly. We usually just chat freely, nothing structured. However, when I started, I had huge problems. I could only say a few things, and it ended up being awkward and embarrassing haha. Some structure in the beginning would have helped me immensely.

The first person I talked to was a middle-aged lady. It was both our first time chatting on Skype, she was middle-aged, there was a language barrier, and we didn't exactly know how to practice conversing... there was enough ice in that conversation to build a skating rink. It was torture. It also took us a few conversations to get comfortable. Some things that would have helped:

- Know the age of the person beforehand. She didn't tell me she was 40ish (or anything about her because she found me through my blog and added me on Skype). It was awkward as hell when her face popped up on the skype call. It's hard enough talking smoothly with someone in a different age group... but a Japanese housewife that speaks little English? Kill me please.

- Memorize how to say key phrases beforehand. This is the most helpful thing you can do probably... It's funny, I thought I would know how to say these things... until I didn't, then I froze up and had to endure extremely uncomfortable silence where both people are staring at the screen not knowing what's going on... LOL

"How do you say____?"

"What is the meaning of ____?"

"Can you repeat the last thing you said? No, before that."

"I'm sorry, I didn't understand the last sentence."

"Could you repeat what you just said in different words?"

"Can you speak a little slower?"

"Let me look up this word really quick."

"Let me write that down so I remember it."

"I'll write that down."

"I'm sorry, let me restart Skype, it's not working well, I'll be back in a minute."

"I'm sorry, can I restart my computer? I'll be back in 5 minutes."

"Yes I (can) understand you (now)."

"Can you type what you said into chat?"

"I'm not sure how to respond, it's hard to explain."

"I don't know how to say it in _____. I will type it."

"Let's try talking about something else."

"I can't hear you well."

"If you don't understand me, please interrupt me immediately."

"Can you hear me fine?"

"Should I turn my microphone up? Should I turn my microphone down?"

"Do you want to talk in _____ now?"

"It was good talking to you, thank you."

"When do you want to talk again?"

"When should we talk again?"

"I'm busy during that time, how about?"

"I'm sorry I can't say much, but I understand what you're saying and it's very helpful. I don't have anyone to listen to."

"This might be a strange request, but can you warn me before you ask a question? It's hard for me to tell the difference between questions and statements. Always say, 'Question' and pause for 1 second." (It is INCREDIBLY awkward when someone asks you a question, and you thought they made a statement, so you say, "Oh really." or something. HAHAHA holy shit...)

"Thank you for your patience. I'm sorry I do not speak ____ well. I am learning a lot from you."

"It's been ____ minutes, shall we speak in ____ now?"


- Have a list of topics prepared beforehand, and initial statements/questions to begin the conversation. Role playing is a good idea. It's awkward at first if you role play, but it ends up being an amusing (and very helpful) exercise. Good way to break the ice. Don't try to talk freely in the beginning (unless you're well-acquainted with each other).

IMO, chat a little before doing a video call and tell them, "Ok, here's what I planned for today. I'll speak in _____ first, then we'll switch to _____: role play introductions, talk about what we did today, I had a grammar question, I have some miscellaneous questions for you, then we'll role play waiter/customer. We'll go over your list after that. We can talk freely at the end if you want."

BOTH people should have their own list of things they want to do. If you try to do the same thing, it won't work because it's likely that both of you are in very different stages of learning.

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