The art of conversation? Less an art, more like a confounded mathematical puzzle at the moment.
Wedged firmly in the UK and initially knowing no Chinese speakers, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum from the immersion technique. Now I have both a Skype partner and a 'real world' partner that I can meet once a week or so, I am finding conversation (constructing sentances to say in real time, whilst still retaining enough brain cells to understand what they say) quite a different animal from listening.
Thankfully I am making a little progress and need to experiment a little more to find some way in which to speed up the progress. I have decided to finish the Pimsleur courses (I originally got bored at number 10). I think that the way Pimsleur keeps making you say things in a slightly different pattern and gives you only small pauses to speak helps excercise the conversation 'muscles' a little.
Chinesepod is helping a bit, sometimes I can just blurt out a whole chunk of stuff because I have become so familiar with listening to it
In the end though I don't see how any form of self-study is going to really provide you with all the skills required for conversation. I guess you just have to go out there and do it.
For the first time, I now understand how people can sometimes be very good at understanding a language but are incapable of speaking it. I really want to make sure that doesn't happen in my case.