In the past, many students could practice English with penpals - they could exchange letters with people from around the world. With the Internet, we now can have keypals - we can exchange emails with international friends from around the world.
Here is some advice to help you succeed with your online language exchanges:
1. How to start a conversation during a language exchange
When you do a language exchange, start by asking "Yes or No" questions. Use questions such as "Do you like to blah blah blah?" or "Can you blah blah blah?" or "Have you ever blah blah blahed?".
Remember your goal. You are trying to find the other person's interests. Think about things you enjoy and try to find some common ground with the person you chat with.
2. How to keep a conversation going during a language exchange
Listen carefully. In that way, you can get to know somebody as an individual, not just as a language exchange partner. When you know them well, you will have more to talk about.
Ask follow up questions. After you listen, use what you hear to learn more about that person. Especially use "open ended" questions, such as "What do you like most about blah blah blah?" or "What was the most interesting experience you've had while blah blah blahing?".
Share your own experiences to show you have similar interests and attitudes. If you only ask questions, you will sound a bit like a policeman! Let other people know about you, too.
3. Guidelines for Online Language Exchange
Be patient. Do not try to find one best friend right away. Instead, meet many people so that you can see who you really enjoy talking to and who enjoys talking to you. That way, you can really build a friendship that will last a long time.
Be polite. Avoid controversial topics, for example politics and religion, at least at the beginning. Later, when you know somebody better, you can start to ask about their opinions on such topics, but even after you know them, you should do it slowly and carefully!
Be careful. Don't give any personal information on the Internet, especially your address and telephone number, but even your real name. If somebody bothers you, do not respond to them. Most chat rooms even have an "ignore" button so that you don't have to listen to an annoying person. That "ignore" button is very useful, so use it!