Meaningful content

Achab   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 03:15 GMT
What about talking into chatrooms?
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 04:58 GMT
Mostly a waste of time. Chatrooms are filled with a very specific type of slang that is used in ... chatrooms. It developed to minimize the number of characters typed in communication, for people who aren't touch-typists. It often bears very little resemblance to the standard language, and it's useless outside of the chatroom. It has no spoken equivalent, either.

So unless you're in a very unusual sort of chatroom where normal written English is used exclusively, you gain virtually nothing in chat.
Achab   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 06:56 GMT
I think that chatrooms are indeed filled with some slang used by many people only when they are in them, and spelling is actually often bad there, but otherwise I regard the language and the discussion topics (except in some highly specialized chatrooms) as resembling quite a lot those of everyday real life conversations.

Plus, even if the content of the material one is dealing with is very important, it is also very important to have a good time when practising a second language in an effort to learn it. Hence the advantage of chatrooms: scores of people like to chat.
Mi5 Mick   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 07:10 GMT
The chatroom can be an excellent way of learning from native speakers provided you don't look on passively. It is spontaneous communication in practice and so you need to be actively analysing how and why people write things. Eventually, you come to terms with abbreviations, which are not necessarily slang, but just that: simplification to facilitate typing. In any case, this is of little concern as the use of standard English is predominant, else it would be impossible for natives to understand one another! Likewise, the slang is fairly universal and you can easily find sources on the web if it gives you any problem. If you're serious about it, arm yourself with Google and a dictionary on hand.

If you are able to interact as well, it's a bonus as it accelerates familiarisation, depending on your proficiency of course. And so the more you write, the more you echo what you see and the more you reinforce what you learn. As you mentioned previously, having fun is the best motivator which provides the best conditions for learning.
Easterner   Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 09:09 GMT
I have only recently started to chat actively and regularly (mostly in English, but also German and French, to a lesser extent), and I can say I have become more confident in using German and French as a result (this has never really been a problem with English). I don't really bother about the special "chatroom spelling": as I have said in another thread, I take it as a type of shorthand, and I try to find fun in deciphering curious ways of spelling (though I almost never use them myself). The best thing about chatrooms is that you have immediate feedback as to whether the other person understands you correctly or not, or whether you use the language in a correct way.
Mxsmanic   Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 17:21 GMT
A lot of people who frequent chatrooms wouldn't know correct language if it fell on them. Chatrooms do not attract the high end of the bell curve.
Easterner   Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 18:52 GMT
Maybe, but I have different experience with instant messaging chat, which is face-to-face (with a particular user). And by "correctly" I don't necessarily mean grammatical correctness, but rather the extent of native-like usage (although I have also received feedback on being grammatically correct). So there is a difference between various types of "real-time" communication online. It certainly helps you if you have nobody to use a language with in your neighbourhood, so why not take this opportunity.