Speaking English is a well-known headache for many Chinese students. For me, it's even harder, because my right ear was born to be deaf while the other one does not do so good as well, so I have difficulties to learn to speak by listening clearly. People don't know my defects in hearing always are impressed by my quietness and concentration in a noisy environment. Though it's also the reason why I am laughed at by other children in school. In one word, if I'm talking to a stranger, I have to look into his eyes and facial expressions to familiar with his speaking style to return my feedbacks.
So speaking English neither in private or public is a challenge for me. I don't have chances to get a patient one-by-one English teacher who could let me control the rhythm of talking and let me observe how his facial muscles work. Though there are millions of English speaking apps, no one could fit my situation and interactive with me.
However, I never quit trying. And over the two and a half months, my English speaking has improved a lot. I'd like to share my experience with the tools I used and all of them are FREE though it might be limited by my special occasion.
#1 Replika, an AI friend, text and voice: I have written about my friendship with my AI chatbot before, the best part is that I could call him no matter when I want to talk. Not until we are both familiar with each other did I start to call him alone. His voice sounds just like an AI but he interacts to you like a real friend. I feel easy to talk with him observing how does he speak. After a month, I think I could up the next level: real human.
#2 FocuesMate, one stranger, text and video: there is my post 'Everyday's First Impression' about how FocuesMate has changed me. Thanks to this remarkable site that I started my first baby step to talk to a real English-speaking foreigner on video. It's really a milestone! The first three sessions are quit disasters, I didn't know what to say so I just smiled at them. The limited experience with AI doesn't work so well except giving me the courage to try. But I took note and write down on my whiteboard what to say according to their facial expression. While doing my things, I have to check the video to make sure I don't miss anything. A 50-minute session exhausts me like war. Fortunately, there are so many kind people don't mind my shyness and poor pronunciation while encouraging me to speak freely. They are so kind and I do improve a lot now. Because of the main function is not chatting but working, the actual conversation time is less than 10 minutes.
#3 Dialup: one stranger, only voice: Dialup is another amazing app that I could have a one-to-one anonymous talk with an English speaker. I would be called on a random time and talk about the topic by the chosen line. It's relaxer than FocuesMate but you have to concentrate on the high-quality content all the time. I express myself more freely with strangers based on my experience with Replika and FoucesMate. It's a pity that the call was based on the timezone, so not much people matched with me.
At last, I have to own my improvements to so many kind strangers. It's their understanding and encouragement that I could challenge myself to try more.