Everybody is aware that it is highly effective to immerse in language, communicate with a native speaker who uses natural language.But I am sure everybody has faced the problem of finding a native speaker who could either help you learn a language or simply practise it with you.
Anyway, there are several ways to start communicating in a foreign language with people instead of just leafing through articles on the internet.
Many people may know about such clubs of "language exchange" as palabea.net, livemocha.com, shareta.com. There you can sign up and communicate with native speakers of the language you have been learning in exchange for your help with Russian. But you need to remember about 2 things:
- Select a language partner carefully. I would not like to make the reader biased,but there are only several users who can offer real assistance in learning a language. For example, on Sharedtalk pay attention to "Mother Tongue". Sometimes it shows more than 2 languages. Some users tend to consider English and other languages their native languages just because they think they speak them quite fluently. But it does not mean they avoid the mistakes you make. You also need to pay attention to the number of languages. If you see too many of them (for example, 5), the users might be just interested in them. Think how seriously this person can learn them all simultaneously. Again, I would like the reader to remain objective. Indeed, such people are normally students of linguistics who learn several languages (the author even knows the people who learn 4 languages and keep them all at a decent level), but there are very few people like that. Try to be less demanding, just remember about this when you see users with 4 native languages and 5 foreign languages.
- Be proactive. There are not so many learners of Russian, and let me say it again, only a few users take learning seriously. Send your application and contact details to as many people as possible. Do not be afraid that you will not be able to keep in touch with them all. As a rule, one out of three or four contacts becomes active. The more people you write to, the more chances you have to find a language partner.
How to make communication more effective
As soon as you have found a language partner, it is important to make your communication effective for you both. One efficient way is to write in both the languages. You could write one half of the letter in English (if you learn this language), the other one - in Russian. But it is better to write each sentence in both the languages. For example,
Hello, how are you?
Привет, как поживаешь?
I had a birthday last week, so I'm totally happy.
У меня на прошлой неделе был день рождения, так что я абсолютно счастлив.
First, this method helps to compare the structure of sentences, ways to express ideas (it is not always word-for-word translation from a mother tongue, though the message of the sentences is the same). Besides, it is quite useful when you did not make up a foreign sentence accurately. After reading your sentence, your partner might understand the meaning and correct you.
It would be highly effective if you corrected each other's mistakes in every new letter. Also, remember to recommend new music and films, interesting blogs so that your language partner could find his or her bearings in your country's culture and language. From time to time use and explain colloquial phrases whose meaning can hardly be found in a dictionary (for example, "Аффтар жжoт!". Do not neglect it - when your partner sees your wish to help, he or she will do the same.
Communication in Forums and Chats
It is not always easy to start communicating in forums and chats. Imagine you and your friend are chatting in a private room when a stranger interrupts asking "Talk to me!".
It would be better to avoid this phrase and find people with common interests. For example, if you like a musician, find a forum or chat on his or her official website. Study the sections, read the messages. You can join the conversation by agreeing or disagreeing with a participant. Remember to pay attention to the phrases often used by the participants to express ideas (you can start with introductory phrases, words for agreeing-disagreeing, contrast, etc.), their favourite expressions, keep using them in your own speech.
One more useful way to find communication based on shared interests is foreign social networks. Besides the popular international Facebook and MySpace, there are also national networks. For example, Germany has schulervz.net (for school children), studivz.net (for students) and meinvz.net (for undergraduates). Of course, there are not so many users, the discussions are not that active as the Russian ones. Anyway, there is plenty of contemporary language and enough opportunities to communicate. You could join a group like "Sűchtig nach Sushi" ("Land Admirers") and express your opinion, expand your vocabulary on the topic, find people with common interests (suppose somebody does not like eels, nor do you, but there are no people but you who do not like this stuff :)).
You can read other tips about chatting in our article: Chat is the way to start speaking English
If you are not sure that you are able to participate in a discussion, make up complex sentences or have enough vocabulary, it does not mean refusing to communicate.
- Expanding Vocabulary.
A lot of groups and forums have different low-level games. For example, there is a classic game "Associations" or "What I Do Not Like About the Person Who Wrote a Message Before Mine". You could play the game using a dictionary and improve your vocabulary, but a native speaker can use a more up-to-date and natural expressions, colloquial words (for example, Ellis, "folks", instead of Eltern "parents", German) or play on words.
A very good game is "Letter Combinations". The author of the previous message gives a random combination of letters, the next participant is supposed to make up a phrase, in which the words start with these letters. For example,
K/T - a kind teacher :)
There is a great number of such games, you could suggest a theme yourself and offer to play your favourite game.
2. Communication at the Elementary Level
If you have some difficulty understanding and writing complex messages, try communicating and reading micro blogs on twitter.com. Posts are limited to 140 characters including spaces, so the texts there are quite easy to understand. The users normally omment on their everyday life and current mood. For example, "I'm tired and sleepy", "Going to Barcelona tomorrow! Hooray!", "Why is it so hard to buy a ticket to a football match, I have already been to all ticket offices", etc.
You could simply "follow" a user, i. e. add their blog to the "Favourites" (click "Follow"), and all their new messages (tweets) will be posted in your newsfeed. What is important is that you can comment on these messages and talk to this person directly by clicking on their nick. Even if the user does not follow your blog, your comments will appear in their newsfeed. There is a good chance that they will reply to your comment!
By the way, many micro blogs belong to famous people (e.g. Barack Obama), political parties, public organizations, cities and even languages! The "search" function is at your disposal.
Generally you can always find a partner for communication, you just need to be more active and enthusiastic!
Remember that you can always ask our native speaking teachers for professional help!