Language Partners: what is the most effective way to utilize time together?
I am looking for a "method to my madness", particularly when using Skype with German Language Partners. Has anyone found a way to get the most out of conversations? Should they be kept short? (15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc). What is your goal from Skype? What ways have you found to retain what you learn in a Skype conversation?
A few basic things that I have found and would like to share:
1) Each user should have a good headset, whether it costs $20 or $120, it should work well. The call should be just like calling your neighbor, and a good headset helps tremendously. Please do not use your computer's built-in microphone and speakers - your partners depend on hearing you clearly!
2) Though my internet connection is very fast, maybe some others are not so lucky. If so, close other programs that use the internet while using Skype, including E-Mail programs, which may check for mail during a call and cause a minor problem with Skype. If you have wireless internet in your home, make sure to plug in to the "wired" connection. This is much, much better than wireless (and again, your partners depend on hearing you clearly).
3) Skype video is rarely necessary, if at all.
4) For those who have a life-long love of learning, and who are not trying to practice only for a test, it makes sense to agree in advance on a day and time to talk, and to keep regular appointments.
5) If you only want to practice for a few weeks so you can pass a test, you should be honest and tell your language partner about it - this way, the language partner can decide if he wants to invest his time working with you, since you will most likely have no interest in continuing after you pass your test.
6) Partners should exchange email addresses, in case one of them can't keep an appointment, he/she can email the other to inform. (many of us have "push email" now, so we receive emails almost instantaneously - this is better than italki messages, which may go unnoticed for a few days)
7) Conversations should be an "equal trade of time", regardless of each person's level. ie, 10 minutes concentrating in one person's language, and 10 minutes in the other person's language.
8) It makes no sense to accept friendships on italki from people who have nothing to do with your own target language.
9) And, it makes no sense to request friendship from those who speak your target language but are not learning your own language.
10) Unless you are a polyglot (and few people are), it is wise to concentrate on one language at a time.
What are your thoughts? Beyond these basic tips, what ways have you found to get the best use out of your time with others on Skype?