Useful Language Learning Techniques – Conversation Exchange

Useful Language Learning Techniques – Conversation Exchange

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Transcript: Hi there, Steve Kaufmann. Today I want to talk about conversation exchanges and language exchanges via the internet. It’s something available to us today that wasn’t available when I started learning languages. It’s amazing. By the way, do you like my Japanese T-shirt? We had a team of Old Timer Hockey players from Japan visit with us and we all got a nice T-shirt.

When I think back 50 years ago when I was studying Chinese the idea that I could just get online and talk to someone through some magic computer, I mean can you imagine? Fifty years ago it was just inconceivable that you could do this and nowadays there are a number of sites which offer the opportunity to connect with teachers. Some are free; in other words, just a pure language exchange or conversation exchange. Some of them you hire a teacher or someone to speak to. I can only talk about my experience which is limited to italki, which I have found to be very good. We have a similar function at LingQ, but we don’t have as many tutors as italki. In many ways, I don’t think we do it as well. Some parts of it I think we do better, but when I can find a tutor at LingQ I use a tutor at LingQ otherwise I’ll go to italki.

The idea that you can connect with people anywhere in the world who speak the language that you’re speaking, wow! Some words of caution. Personally, and I’ve said this before, until I have a certain level in the language I don’t enjoy the language exchange or conversation exchange because I want to make sure what the person is saying. That’s absolutely number one. Even if I can’t express myself well, I want to understand what the other person is saying and (B) I want to be able to say something in the language because it actually is quite stressful. Even when we’re speaking well, it’s a more stressful way to communicate with someone than sitting with them across a table. It is more stressful. I find that it’s a little bit more exhausting.

I should say I have been speaking now. I’ve started speaking with a Ukrainian tutor twice a week and I still have my Russian tutor that I speak to and at the end of an hour I’m kind of exhausted. Now, in order to speak for an hour you have to be at a certain level. Very often, I’ll start at 15 minutes or half an hour and then as I progress I’ll get up to an hour. As I say, it is a little bit stressful, but it’s certainly something to do. Even though I’m a proponent of input-based learning and I’ve spent most of my time and I still do. For example, with my Ukrainian I speak two hours a week, but I’m constantly reading. I’m reading now on Ukrainian history, listening to Ukrainian history, listening to Hora Más Que radio. So input is king, but the output is necessary and these conversation exchange and language exchange sites like italki and what we have at LingQ are a very good way of getting that output experience.

As an example of how that works, I’m going to follow this up with a video where I spoke to someone from Russia who commented on one of my YouTube videos that he’s learning Japanese and could we talk a bit about learning Japanese. So what follows here is a separate video. It’s quite long because it’s very difficult to keep these things short, but we speak in three languages, English, Russian and Japanese and we talk, mostly, about learning Japanese. The first 12-13 minutes are in English, then another seven-eight or however many minutes in Russian and we end up in Japanese.

What is very interesting in this video, if you have the patience to follow it, is I’ve been speaking Ukrainian and mostly listening to Ukrainian, then I had an hour of Russian with my Russian tutor, this then was followed by speaking to this Denny in Moscow and even though my Japanese is stronger than my Russian I couldn’t get my brain out of Russian. I really struggled to switch over to Japanese and it’s the first time I’ve had that difficulty. Normally, I can move quite easily. Maybe it’s because I’d just had that hour of Russian beforehand and because I find the language exchange via Skype on the computer is a little more stressful than just a casual conversation.

I will be interested in hearing from you, bye for now.