I’ll try my best!
Yesterday I used Skype to talk with a native Japanese speaker who I met on italki (a great site I definitely recommend). It was my first time doing something like this, and my first time speaking face to face in Japanese. Because my level is still very low, I couldn’t manage much of a proper back-and-forth, but I was able to ask some questions and respond to others. I had the advantage of my exchange partner being very fluent in English, so she could understand my sometimes half-English, half-Japanese dialogue, and give me explanations.
I definitely learned a lot. I know some more phrases, and have some more understanding of the grammar. I now also know what words and phrases, in retrospect, would have been really helpful to know, and what will be important to look up.
The experience of having somebody speak to me in another language and to have to understand on the spot is obviously miles away from reading it and having the time to look up the words to understand, and then the words to respond, and getting the tenses right and all of that. I was making mistakes I wouldn’t have made if I was writing because I was under pressure to just say something, even if it was wrong. But, at the same time, I got immediate validation or correction when I made those mistakes, and it will ultimately make my speaking smoother.
That was great, and what made the conversation especially deep was the cultural exchange. One thing I didn’t know is that most Japanese people are apparently atheist. According to these statistics almost 80% of Americans are Christian of one affiliation or another, and even though that doesn’t account for the drastic differences in regions in the US, it’s still something that I’m sure makes a difference in the overall culture between our countries. For one thing I imagine Japan doesn’t have as many problems with people trying to impose biblical laws on state law, but that’s another conversation.
In short it was an amazing experience I hope to continue, with others as well.