The (super) long weekend last January was supposed to be spent in doing the things I couldn’t do when there is school. I had a list in my head of what to do, such as to catch up on the dramas I’ve watched, study 中文, write some diary entries (I have this habit of recording important events on my phone’s calendar and just writing about them on my diary when I have time) and to cook this random foreign food I dumped on the cart when we were at the supermarket. Somehow, I am pretty thankful I wasn’t able to do any of these that time, if not, I wouldn’t be doing what I have been recently spending most of my weekends on (heh, even on school days).
I signed-up for a language-learning website back in 2009 for the purpose of learning Spanish (which was the result of boredom). Thinking I didn’t really have a “use” for it, I kind of neglected my account on the website and would only log-in when I would see a notification on my e-mail. Early this year, I started using it again when a user messaged me that he was interested in talking to me since he was learning Tagalog and he knew Chinese. (Wow, isn’t it perfect?) So I became “active” on the website again — I started adding native Chinese speakers and fellow Chinese learners to my friends list and people who were learning English and Tagalog so that I could help them as well. Talking = learning. After a few weeks, I got “bored” with the website because there was nothing “new” — same people on my friends list who I’ve never even had a conversation with, even if they were online. I thought it was just like a “popularity contest” — paramihan ng friends, hindi mo naman nakakausap? Also, some were plain disturbing… which I’d rather not talk about. Wanting something new and different, I googled for a website similar to it.
End of January — I ended up on this language-learning website, whose main use was simple — chatting. Chatting with native speakers. I liked its idea — it was pretty simple. You log-in, enter the chatroom, and see all the connected members. It was so organized and it seemed like a safer, more-friendly and fun environment (hah, compared to the one I was talking about). There was more anonymity.
I’ve talked to many different people because of the website — fellow Filipinos here and there, a few Europeans, but mostly Chinese. Beyond the purpose of learning a language and helping others learn a language, I developed great friendships with these people. It feels great that I’m actually “reminiscing” my penpal days — talking to people around the world about culture, hobbies and just getting to know them. Biro mo, nakakapag-usap ako ng taga-Mongolia!
Though I’ve talked to quite a lot, a few have remained as if they were like my real friends — these people, when I log-in my Skype and QQ, are the people I’m actually looking forward to chat with and to simply have a good conversation. Hah, parang sila yung mga penpal ko na nag-level up. Lol.
Some of the coolest and most unforgettable things that happened: a Chinese guy took a picture of his dessert, and on the side was a handwritten note written on tissue because he knew how much I loved 奶茶 or milk tea (it was seriously the nicest thing ever!), a Croat helping me with my Algebra and Trigonometry homework (he’s really awesome :)), someone singing and playing the guitar through voice chat — never did I imagine I would encounter such thing, and people singing 周杰论’s songs, which really made me smile. One time, on voice chat, I put the laptop beside the TV, channel-scanned foreign channels, and asked a language partner to guess what languages they were, and got them right.
I am so grateful for the friends and language partners I’ve made. They’ve been so patient in helping me with my Chinese (believe me, I am seriously the most annoying Chinese learner out there… you should ask them why! :p) even if it’s just a regular conversation or what. And of course, in my part, I am more than willing to help others with their English and Tagalog (Wow, learning Tagalog? Grabe… such perseverance they have, I’m telling you. It’s seriously amazing!)
I believe that talking to native speakers is the most effective way of learning a language. Not only do you get to learn from them, but they also get to learn from you. 🙂