So, I've been on italki for quite a while. And yea, it's a great tool.
I've met many "partners" here. Occassionally, I'll get altruistic and take a partner who is learning English but doesn't speak the language I am trying to learn.
Now understand, I'm the type of person who will not disappear on you. I'm serious, and I will be your partner until you stop calling me on Skype. That being said, I must admit that THIS is hard. The reason why: Some of you don't have anything to say. ...Nothing interesting .
I noticed some people haven't mastered the art of conversation. Which means, they don't know how to hold the other person's interest; or in laymen's terms, ...they are boring.
I realise that many people are learning and can not articulate their deepest thoughts. But still, this is no excuse. Anyone can tell a personal story, anyone can talk about their family, anyone can speak about their personal experiences. And this is what I recommend every partner to do.
Please, open up. Please, don't ask me about the weather. Instead, tell me about the first person you feel in love with, or your first fist-fight, your most embarrassing moment, or talk about that inspirational teacher you had in high school. Everybody has had these experiences, and they are very interesting to any listener. So please, share with your partner! Talk away. But talk about something interesting. ...Not just the weather and grammar (so boring).
But seriously, in my experience of learning a language, I've discovered that telling a personal anecdote is a great exercise. In order to finish your story, you are forced to search for adequate translations. Also, you monopolize the conversation. Essentially, you are forced to speak and learn at the same time.
...So go ahead, tell your story. ...To your partner, that is.
<em>"....Everybody has had these experiences..."</em>
Derrick, I agree with you on that; but does everyone want to speak about them?
What I want to say is: some of us aren't even talkative in our native languages :) This is exactly why
I never looked for language partners because I would probably bore them; I'm very quiet and most of the times I'm on the silent mode. I write way more than I speak, so I'm thinking it's not just the language barrier that stops language partners from saying much, but it's their nature as human beings.
In order for anyone to have a good experience with their language partner, they must be the talkative type who are willing to talk and share their experiences even in their native languages.
It's indeed a good idea to talk about your experiences instead of the weather, in most cases. But you can't expect people to have mastered the art of anything without them practising a lot. And those people are practising at that very time, by talking to you. So to say there is no excuse is a little silly to me, to be honest. If people don't spontaneously tell a lot of stories, then as a master of the art of conversation, ask them a lot of questions!
Just my two cents here, but "you can't get to home plate if you don't touch first base first (American baseball anaolgy); " In terms of this discussion there's greater things to discover about an individual before we get to the point where you " tell me about the first person you feel in love with, or your first fist-fight, your most embarrassing moment, or talk about that inspirational teacher you had in high school."
I haven't had too many language exchanges but when I did we talked about cultural similarities and differences, or misconceptions we had about this and that.(Surprisingly, almost never was the subject of geo-politics ever mentioned). Quite often I would mention a personal anecdote to emphasize something that was being discussed, but I also realized that in many places outside of the Western world, cultural imperatives make it difficult to talk about certain aspects of one's personal life. Therefore, I did not expect my language exchange partner(s) to reciprocate as such. So, yes "talking about something interesting" is an anathema for some, even in this day an age of the World Wide Web.
The intimacy of conversation involves a very high degree of trust, and familiarity between the the individuals engaged, but only when mutual understanding of each other's culture occurs will a language exchange (my opinion) flourish, and possibly a budding friendship as well.
One factor that hasn't been mentioned is ones language level. If you or you're partner's language level is beginner, the conversation is going to be about grammar, expressions, a bit about life and of course the weather. You may even have the yes or no answers to questions.
I see a language exchange partner as a friend who speaks another language I speak or try to speak. All friends are different with different expectations and we have to respect that. So we shouldn't impose what we think a friendship should be or what a language exchange should be.
I appreciate your feedback and comments