I love the idea of italki to bring people from all over world to learn, to teach languages. How do you, guys, arrange your "session" with your languages partners, so that actually helps you both to learn the language? Simple chatting doesnt really work.
Send messages back & forth to get to know the person & get past the small chit chat like:
-how long have you practiced...
- where do you live?
- what's the weather like?
- do you have children? etc.
Then plan sessions at specific times where both parties plan to be available. Choose a topic, article on the net, movie, tv show, book, whatever & prepare yourself to talk about that topic. Realize that you're speaking with someone you don't know & possibly have little in common with. To bridge that gap it makes sense to have a specific topic to chat about. It lessens the gaps in time where no one speaks & allows you to build vocabulary on topics that you are interested in. Take turns with your language partner choosing topics for each session so each person gets the most out of it.
The biggest problem I've found is that people don't commit to meet at specific times. It's great to be spontaneous & chat when you have the time but the likelihood of finding others that have the same spontaneity & availability is pretty low.
I just add to Skype to everybody.
Some people don't like make appointments to exchange, and others say an hour and a day. I prefer this last option.
I would say I do better progress when a teacher repair my via chat. It's not possible every time, however, it works perfectly and I can see I just made a mistake. After a while you can realize you make less mistakes while you speak.
Then I would recommend to have one teacher for a long period of time. It's such important at least to me, because after we get to know each other I become more talkative and we both reveal more topics to discuss. A disadvantage might be you get accustomed to just one person and then you can fall in trouble when you speak to someone unknown.
And there are several other ways of improving your lessons. You probably can use a video during your lessons. And you don't need to just stare at each other faces, you can show some pictures to your teacher or some stuff to describe or to entitle.
And just a few more idea as my mind just started working:
*if your reading/pronunciation is not on level you want, you can read a book (rather e-book) with your teacher... you both are watching the very same book and when you make a mistake, your teacher can correct you.
*you can describe a picture... just gather some pictures from the internet, send them to your teacher and both of you can come up these pictures on a screen and you can talk about what you see and what feeling you have from these photos.
Ok, it might be all from me, I don't know what to add. But of course there are more great ways of improving your lessons. Maybe ask your teacher, he/she might be more experienced in this question. And finally, there was an article on iTalki about this just a couple of days ago, you should find it and get some thoughts from it for your better lessons.
In my case I got some partners here and we used scheduling a day to talk. Some of them prefer to have simple talks and others prefer to talk about some specific subject like an article or news.
I prefer both kinds of subject because the first one we change ideas about our routine, our dreams, work, day... The second one we discuss grammar, meanings and sometimes we give some assignments to each other. We use lyrics, short texts, podcasts, videos to talk about.
It depends on the partner you have. Some of them like to talk, others like to have "formal" classes.
Oh, and by the way, not all "sessions" are an exchange. For example, you may find that some will dedicate an hour to practicing the language that you wish to become fluent in.