Practicing English with a native speaker or another ESL student is a great way for international students to improve reading, writing, and speaking skills. There are many different sites that make it easy for students and other ESL learners to connect online. Here are a few sites to try:
MyHappyPlanet - This online language learning community allows members to message native speakers from around the world. The site can also be used to learn about the English language and culture through videos and member-created lessons.
italki - italki is a great place to find ESL partners. Members hail from more than 200 countries and are always eager to discuss and practice English reading, writing, speaking/listening, grammar, pronunciation, and more.
MyLanguageExchange - More than one million people practice their language skills on MyLanguageExchange. The site employs the Cormier method of language exchange which groups native speakers of two languages so that they can spend half their time speaking in one language and half their time in the other language.
Busuu - Busuu offers a worldwide community of native English speakers. You can practice speaking with other members by using the site's interactive video chat. If you need writing practice, you can also write a short amount of text and request that other users correct it for you.
Palabea - Palabea is an international community of language learners. You can use the site to talk to native English speakers in an online exchange, share content, or practice writing and grammar skills.
Unilang - In addition to providing many free language learning resources, Unilang offers an online forum and web chat where you can discuss and practice English writing and speaking skills.
SharedTalk - SharedTalk is a language exchange network with members from all over the world. You can practice with native English speakers using the site's voice chat and text chat features.
Livemocha - One of the world's most popular language learning sites, Livemocha provides ESL learners with the opportunity to teach and learn from other members of the community. You can either practice a structured conversation exercise with a native speaker or submit a writing or audio sample for feedback and correction.
PhraseBase - PhraseBase is a social network for language learners. The site makes it easy to connect with a native English speaker who is interested in learning your language and willing to trade knowledge.
Huitalk.com - Huitalk.com is an online community that allows members to easily meet and practice English and other languages online. The site also provides book recommendations, reviews of language schools, and other useful resources for ESL learners.
Lang-8 - Lan-8 is a multi-language community with members from around the world. After joining the site, you can write in English and send your work to native speakers who are willing to correct it for you.
LingQ - Language learners who sign up for a free account on LingQ can join live conversations, have their writing corrected, and communicate with other members of the community.
AddLang - AddLang makes it easy to find native English speakers and practice chatting online via Skype, MSN Messenger, AOL Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. The site also offers a forum for members who want to discuss anything relating to the English language.
English as a 2nd Language Forum - The English as a 2nd Language Forum is a good place to meet and chat with ESL learners and teachers. Forum topics include homework help, learner's discussion, teacher's discussion, pen pals, word games, and exercises for learners.
Dave's ESL Cafe - The student discussion forums at Dave's ESL Cafe has nearly 80,000 members. These forums are a good place to practice your English writing skills and receive help from ESL and EFL teachers.
UsingEnglish.com - The online forum at UsingEnglish.com is perfect for ESL students who don't necessarily need a formal language partner but do need advice on writing, pronunciation, English phrases and slang, or aspects of speech and accents.
Parapal - Parapal offers a virtual reality chat room and chat library for ESL and EFL students. The chats can be used to practice language skills or ask questions about English writing, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about pharmacy technician certification for PharmacyTechnicianCertification.com.