The biggest problem I have at the moment is getting conversation practice, although I am quite forward in attempting to speak Chinese with people I encounter this kind of conversation gets stuck in a rut now because either I meet the people one time only (and cover the same/similar ground each time) or I meet them occasionally in a shop or something and conversations can only really go so far. A particular problem for me is that when younger I had a virtual phobia of phones, I get on fine with them now but to some extent this feeling comes back when I use Skype or similar to chat in Chinese. I think Skype is a wonderful tool and I have used it and received a lot of help but I find it so so much easier and natural to talk face to face.
Recently through a work colleague I came in touch with someone who could help me, we communicated by email and met one evening and now I have a new friend/teacher. I say friend/teacher as I intend to pay for a lesson now and again (the first time I have done this). Other times we may well be helping each other learn our respective languages (I have by far the most to learn ;)). I think that paying for the occasional lesson is an important point though, it delimits a period of time where the focus is on me using and developing Chinese skills and means I can't fool myself and sidestep into being lazy under the guise of teaching or explaining some English.
Now the problem, what is a lesson going to consist of, I managed to demonstrate that I don't need teaching as such and am making fine progress on my own, also both of us being busy one lesson a month or less is the likely frequency. What I need is a focus and conversation practice. I don't even really need my new found teacher to prepare anything before hand (apart from being aware of the kind of subject I would like to discuss and some of the materials I may have sourced).
It occurred to me that my last post regarding Kevin Rudd was an excellent starting point. There are two videos here that could be discussed in Chinese and some of my thoughts on "sounding native". I wanted some harder video dialogs to chew through so I found the following snippet on tudou (and put on youtube for easier access):
As Edwin pointed out I also have access to the the recent Media lesson on Kevin Rudd speaking Chinese at Chinesepod. This boosts the study potential somewhat, I have the three videos, the written comments on Chinesepod, the audio discussion in the Chinesepod mp3 and my own thoughts in English. My preparation will simply be to get comfortable with any new vocab. etc. in this lot and prepare to discuss around the subject. 好极了！