I'm actually surprised I hadn't found this site MyHappyPlanet before. I was talking to someone I met through LiveMocha and they mentioned that they 'met' some people through MHP so I decided to check out the site. I haven't really gotten into it that much but what I noticed is that on some people's profiles they list their MSN, Skype or Yahoo details so you can add them straight away if you want. This site seems easy to use and it's easy to find people.
I found that with a lot of sites and with some people there was a lot of 'adding' going on but no actual conversing or messaging which was frustrating for me. So when I see someone's details I can cut to the chase. Of course this doesn't guarantee that they will talk to me but...
In less than 24 hours I was already chatting to several people. Last night I stayed up all night (boy am I tired this morning) chatting to 2 people back to back on Skype. By 'chat' I mean video/audio chat, not typing. It was really fun and I must've gotten lucky because both of them were nice and were interested in learning about me, Australia, and English of course, and were patient in teaching me French too.
Some really funny topics came up and I spent a lot of the time laughing. It was so amusing. I wished I could've met them in real life.
I asked the first person how to say 'snorkelling' in French and he told me that such a word didn't really exist. I looked it up in the dictionary and it said 'plongé avec tuba'. He told me that plongée means to dive, and tuba is the actual snorkel piece (ie the noun), but like in English, tuba could also mean the musical instrument. He said you could also say 'j'ai fais du tuba' or 'je nage avec de tuba' or 'j'ai plongé au tuba' or something like that. The phrase just cracked me up!
With the second person, at first I thought he seemed a bit sleazy... I have to go back a bit here and say that during my late high school and university years I spent a lot of time chatting online but over the past 6 years or so I've hardly done it at all. In fact, I got a bit sick of it and only started up recently because of my learning French. I'm usually a bit hesistant to speak to guys because I'm always afraid if they are single they're going to try to chat me up (as happened in the past.. ), or if they are in a relationship their girlfriend/wife might get upset or something.. still, I do find it easier to chat to guys and there are more of them on those language social networking sites.. so anyway, at first I didn't think this guy was that interested in the whole language exchange thing and I thought that after I sent my photo over he would lose interest but nope.. goes to show you that there are a lot of assumptions and prejudices when chatting (typing) to someone online! We soon took the conversation from MSN to Skype and talked for real and it was much much better. He was really nice, and spoke very slowly and clearly so I understood (almost) every word. He did have a girlfriend but I don't think it mattered*. I think I was probably just assuming and imagining and prejudicing (I know that's not a word) a bit too much at the start, due to my past (bad) experiences! I guess I should give people the benefit of the doubt, lesson learnt. :)
Another interesting this is that first person said that the American accent is easier to understand than the British one, but the second person said the opposite! They both said (as everyone does) that the Australian accent sounds British (of course no Australian ever thinks that though.. ;) )
I don't know when I'll talk to either of them again since I only seem to catch people when they have a day off from work... but it was very enjoyable and useful and I learnt not only new words but facts about the French culture and society and even geography (lots of geography)!
My Happy Planet's promo video:
Pretty cool, huh?
* I remember reading somewhere that in France it's far more acceptable for men and women to mingle and be (platonic) friends with one another. I guess it's something I'm not quite used to... yet. Maybe it's just me? Anyway, I'm writing this addendum a few days later and he did tell me that his girlfriend knows he talks to girls online and she doesn't care as she is also learning a foreign language and talking to various people online (and knows that he isn't talking about taboo topics with us!!)