Connecting with authentic speakers is the ideal way for students to communicate meaningfully in the target language. Much of this post was inspired by the recent #langchat on Twitter. I have credited the ideas to the teachers on Twitter; their handles on Twitter are listed below with the "@" sign. I highly recommend you follow them if you are not already!
To begin: How do you find authentic speakers? Contact with your local French resource center or your chamber of commerce to find local native speakers, like @profecochran did for a recent project. @CatherineKU72 recommends "cold emails" to principals of schools from the target countries. Use Twitter. A number of the sites listed below also have ways for teachers to connect to the target culture.
Here eleven ideas for connecting to authentic speakers:
1. SKYPE or Google hangouts. Classrooms can SKYPE or do Google hangouts with other classrooms, teachers, or professionals in the target culture (the Google idea isfrom @CatherineKU72). With schools, students can swap languages in each or every other chat. With guest speakers, ask students to prepare questions in the target language or create a listening sheet for students to record their learning. Choose the topic in advance (idea from @cecilelaine). @Cforchini created a SKYPE exchange using @SKYPEclassroom.
2. E-pals/video exchanges. This type of asynchronous exchange would enable students to communicate with other classrooms when it is convenient for the class. Many sites allow teachers to monitor the communication or to act as intermediaries. Two favorites: Pikifriends or E-Pals are for written communication. Or find a school in the target country and do a "video" exchange where students prepare videos for each other.
3. Quadblogging. What is it? Four classes around the world take turn hosting a blog that the other classes comment on. When you sign in, the site makes it easy to connect to other schools in desired areas and languages. Follow the founder on Twitter: @DeputyMitchell.
4. Local brochures. Contact your local chamber of commerce, and ask to create brochures or websites in the target language for visitors from other countries, as recommended by @AHSblaz.
5. Connect to native speakers on Twitter. Ask questions of celebrities, academics, athletes, or students from other countries. Share questions and responses with students, or ask them to do the writing and sharing. This idea from @AHSblaz and @frenchteacher11.
6. Community service component. Connect with local native speakers and require students to do a service project. Thank you @BPort_Modlangs for this idea! Is there a local society dedicated to the language you teach? Contact them to create ideas to connect students to the target-language-speakers in your community.
7. Edmodo/wikis. Create a closed and safe place for students from the target culture and your classroom to interact online. @crwmsteach requested a native classroom through Edmodo. You could also create a wiki (my favorite is from PBworks). I created wikis for student exchanges, and was able to share the materials with all of my classes (including those who did not participate in the experience).
8. Collaborate on publications or projects. @AHSblaz recommends finding a class with which to create an online magazine. The common creation of content would be powerful, especially with the expanded audience of the public forum. Online magazine sites: Joomag, Issuu, Yudu. Or, as @nico1e shared, schools could complete a film project shared across a theme.
9. Connect with students who are studying abroad. After about five years of teaching, I was lucky to have a few students who were studying in France and were still in touch with me, and thus my students were able to share in the experience. With one class, we wrote questions to that the college student who responded in French. Stay in touch with former students, or contact a local college to find a student who is studying in a target country.
10. Voicethread. When you have class connection in the target culture, ask them to contribute to a voicethread created by you or your students.
11. Student exchange. Create an exchange where students from the target culture stay in your community, then you and your students travel to visit them. This experience is very rewarding (I participated in and helped to organizes five cycles), and worth the effort.
These are some ideas for classrooms to connect with authentic speakers of the target language. How many have you used in your own classrooms? Which ideas are your favorite? What are other ideas do you have to share?