If you don’t have Skype, and you don’t know what I am talking about? Please watch this tutorial:
After you have installed the program, you need to find others who also have Skype installed on their computers.
As you can see from the video above, if you wish to be added by someone, to their Skype contact list, you simply have to tell them your user name or phone number.
If you have Skype, you already know how powerful a tool it is, especially for language learners. Imagine calling someone on the other side of the planet, and holding a video phone call with them, for free.
Normally, I first correspond using e-mail with my future language partner and establish how we are going to approach a Skype language exchange session.
I’ve learned that you must at a minium:
- Prepare a list of questions in the language you will be using. If you will be speaking in more than one language, have the translations prepared so that you can easily reverse the question.
- Prepare your answers to the questions in both languages, so that you feel comfortable having the question asked back to you, and each of the participants can hear how a native speaker answers the question in their native language.
- Have agreements in place with your Skype language partner about how you are going to approach a session, i.e. which language you/they will mostly use, who will be the lead, what to do first, second, etc. and the expected length of the video chat.
I’ve found that since I use my laptop to Skype, having my desktop or my other laptop nearby is essential. I can use this other computer to connect to Google Translate, so that I can type in a word or expression (when I get stuck), and have Google translate not only give me the translation, but also say it out loud. My computer speakers are always close enough to my video chat laptop for my Skype partner to clearly hear the translation spoken. This set-up has helped unstick many of my video conversations, allowing us to keep going, and that’s the key….to keep going.
A Skype session can be extremely uncomfortable if one or both of the participants loses confidence in their language skills, and begins to withdraw from the session.
I have also found that when you agree to read a certain book or script to each other, with breaks for corrections, and pronunciation reviews, you can get a lot of language feedback, without feeling personally affected. Having your words or feelings criticized, is a difficult experience, but less so when you are simply attempting to convey written information in a new language.
Many language programs attempt to prepare their students for table-top sessions, with material like the one linked below. The students sit around a table and hold a discussion in a foreign language, with a native speaker or instructor present
There are even websites that collect material for these types of sessions:
The participants may:
- Agree to hold a formal job interview in their adopted language.
- Conduct a role playing exercise where someone pretends to play tourist, ask for directions, rent a car, get a hotel room, work with a travel agent, check in to the airport and deal with luggage and gate search.
One of the often overlooked challenges of Skyping is the time zone each of the callers resides in. My time zone (Pacific Coast Time) is nine hours behind my language partners in France. It is very difficult to find native French speakers in my area of the country, so my sessions are limited.
As I begin to Skype in Spanish, I am sure that I will find an endless supply of Skype language partners to hold sessions with. In fact, since I work with a template that I developed in Powerpoint, I simply have to copy the slides that contain my questions and answers in French, and paste them in the back of the Powerpoint, then translate these new slides into Spanish. My Powerpoint also has an English version of these same slides, in case my language partner wishes to use the same template during the session, and reverse the language for their benefit.
There is a main page that allows you to select English, French or Spanish, and once you land on the Greetings slide (below), you can select buttons on each slide, to move you to another slide containing questions in that topic. You do have an area to the right of the question, where you can prepare your answers.
For Spanish, it has been recommended that one use: