I’ve posted previously on how to find a language exchange partner from Brasil (see , ). Assuming you and your partner are internet savvy, here are a few ideas… (the suggestions get more interesting further down)
1. Choosing the right parter.
Before we begin, let’s discuss your choice of partner. I had many different people to choose from. In fact, too many. There were several people I began talking to and simply don’t have time to speak with anymore. So, think long-term, wait for someone that you get along with.
2. Simple Exchanges – Email & Online Chatting
The skill level of your partner isn’t too important here. Usually, the intent of what your partner wants to say is clear. I’ve found that the best way to go about making corrections is as follows…
Suppose your parter writes:
I went to the mall to buy a gift to my sister. I think she’ll receive some friends here today.
A good way to correct them is as follows:
I went to the mall to buy a gift [to](for ) my sister. I think she’ll [receive some friends here](ou: have some friends come over here / meet some friends here) today.
 – See this site on use of prepositions…
The original text is preserved in square brackets. Bold font helps to identify the corrections. For common mistakes, like regarding the use of prepositions, you can reference them to an internet site or try to explain in more detail yourself. By using “ou:“, I am making it clear that the mistake is not a grammar error, we would simply say the phrase differently. Giving them more than one option also helps, especially when it helps to clarify the meaning of a phrasal verb, etc.
3. Voice Over Internet.
Again, this is pretty straightforward. Use Skype, Yahoo, MSN, AIM, etc. Try to split the conversation 50/50.
If you run out of things to talk about, have you parter read from an English book. You can help them on their pronunciation while they test you on your translation abilities.
You can have them watch your favorite TV show or movie. Even though the sound quality across the internet is poor, you can probably understand it well enough to answer any “What did they just say?”-type questions.
Also, if you purchase credits on Skype, you can call each other’s cell phone. For example, it might be fun to talk with your partner while you’re in the supermarket or at the mall. Basically, anyplace that would spark new conversation and new words.
4. Help Your Partner Help You: Log Your Questions.
As you study Portuguese or read on the internet, you’ll come across little things that bother the heck out of you. These are perfect questions for your partner to answer. Sometimes this requires a complicated grammar explanation. But usually, a few additional examples is all you’ll need. I find that grammar explanations are only needed to explain improper usage of grammar.
Google Notebook is a great tool for logging your questions or phrases you find interesting. Or simply log them by hand or in Word.
5. Start a Shared (Private) Blog
Most blogging sites allow you to share a blog with someone. The blog can also be made private so that nobody else can see it.
Basically, the blog serves as an online collaboration website. You can host files (mp3′s, pictures, videos, etc). Or, simply post your questions and allow your partner to comment. The additional ideas below are well suited for a blog.
6. Exchange Mp3 Recordings
One of the best ways to learn something is by listening over and over. This is why mp3 lessons (together with an iPod) work so well.
For example, you can give your partner a few paragraphs to read and record. Be sure to highlight any words or phrases that you found confusing; your partner can provide an explanation or translation at the end of the recording.
Or, if you have some Brazilian music you like, post the mp3 and lyrics. Work together with your partner to understand the meaning of the lyrics. This also works for poems, etc.
Or, perhaps you have some good translations that you’d like to share with your partner to help them study. They can follow this up by posting a correction to your pronunciation.
By the way, if you’re hosting your files on Box.net, they have a nice feature which makes it very easy to post mp3′s to your blog.
7. Make a Video Quiz
There is a site (www.bubbleply.com) which allows you to add “bubbles” (basically subtitles) to any video from YouTube, Google Video, etc. And they make it easy to post the video to your blog. Using such a site you can pose questions to your partner, or help them by spelling out the words you think they’ll have trouble with. It’s a nice way to check their comprehension skills.
Or, you can quiz your partner on song lyrics, play hangman, etc. Fun games like this keep it interesting.