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An Innovative Way to Practice Conversations January 10, 2008

Posted by Edwin in Mandarin, Speaking.

Today, I have accidentally discovered an innovative way to practice conversations. This approach has the following advantages:

  1. It is free
  2. It is purposeful (you don’t carry out a conversation just for the sake of carrying out a conversation)
  3. There is potentially unlimited number of topics to talk about
  4. You can converse with different partners all the time
  5. The other party is always interested in talking to you
  6. There is no need to actively seek out for partners. They will come to you.

A few days ago, I tried to post an classified ad online. I posted my ads on some popular classifieds websites such as the Craig’s List and Kijiji. Then I thought it might be a good idea to target some specific communities. So yesterday I tried 51.ca, probably the most popular one for the Canadian Mandarin-speaking communities. I always avoid revealing my personal information except my email address. But this one, unlike the others, made the contact phone number a mandatory field. So I put in my mobile phone number, thinking that nothing bad could happen.

To my surprise, I received 2 cold calls this morning, one from an air-duct cleaner and the other from a banker. They started right off in Mandarin. Apparently, they got my number from the Mandarin classifieds website. Where else?! Unfortunately, I had to cut short the conversations because I was at work. Otherwise, I would be more than happy to practice my Mandarin with them.

After this experience, I was thinking if I could develop a systematic way to set-up and engage in conversational practices using this channel. Here are some points I have in mind:

  • Find some decent classifieds websites for a specific language community
  • Post an ad or reply to one
  • For local communities, try to find some bargains or sell your junks
  • For international communities, look for outsourceable services such as translation and proof-reading
  • Insist on contact by phone only
  • Use Skype In/Out if international calls are required

Of course, this approach only works provided you can communicate in the target language in some sense, though you can still be far from fluent. Somehow when we talk business, we can usually communicate more than words can express.



1. chris(mandarin_student) - January 17, 2008

I have had thoughts along similar lines although only so far as using Skype out to talk to companies / services in China.

My primary targets being some of the junk mail perpetrators (I could perhaps pretend I really was interested in buying X amount of Y). It seems that becasue one of my email address (an unclean one) got associated with Chinese somewhere, I now receive advertising spam in Chinese.

I haven’t tried this yet though.

2. Keith - January 23, 2008

Good post! I have always thought about calling the toll-free numbers that are listed on consumer products here in Japan. But, of course if I call, I would need to have some questions ready to ask. But your idea is really good because they call you and they do all the asking. All you have to do is answer.

So, what should one advertise? A product or a service? Please write a follow up post and give us some advice/ideas. Thanks!

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