To move from book knowledge to intuitive know-how* as a language learner, opportunities for spoken practice of the language are essential. There are a host of reasons why: moving toward that point where a learner doesn’t having to think about each grammar point, for example, before they use it (automaticity), getting to know the ins and outs of how speakers use the language (pragmatics) and gaining confidence to use the target language, to name just a few.
If you’re learning or teaching English in a country where English is an official or widely used language, it’s not a huge stretch to find conversation opportunities outside the classroom. If someone is learning English in a place where it’s not widely used, or living in an English-dominant country and trying to learn another language, it’s not so easy. While most learners would love to drop everything and move to a country where the language they’re learning (aka target language) is spoken for some real-life practice, reality often dictates otherwise.
Speaking Practice Online
Here are some resources for learners to practice speaking their target language online. These sites vary widely in interface, type of community, features (and price, in some cases). Anyone planning to get involved in one of these communities should check out a few and find the best one for their needs.
- Conversation Exchange
- Easy Language Exchange
- The Mixxer
- My Language Exchange
- Polyglot Club
If you live in a city with a multicultural population or a community with a large university, you can tap into international networks to try and track down a language exchange partner. It could involve putting up a posters at the university or posting an ad on a service like Craigslist or Kijiji (or your local equivalent), keeping an eye out for programs at the local public library, joining a Meetup group or perhaps getting involved with the local group of Couchsurfers.
What are you recommendation for speaking practice outside the classroom? Have you used any of these online communities?
*…or from learning to acquisition, or input to output, or to gain opportunities for interaction or be posed with problems to solve and thereby learn through, etc…according to whichever theory of second/additional language acquisition you subscribe to…