I'm curious as to when some of you guys try holding a language exchange with a native Chinese speaker. How early in your learning journey did you try to do it? It is very scary to me because I just think Chinese people can speak English 1000 times better than English speakers can speak Chinese. The most I've ever done is record my voice saying simple sentences to a Chinese native speaker and asking if they can understand me. I was very pleased because they responded by writing in Chinese characters exactly what I was trying to say.
It is still a scary thought to me. I do weekly language exchanges in French and German and have held hour long conversations in both of those languages, so language exchange is nothing new to me, but Chinese just seems another thing all together.
When? As soon as one is brave enough? It's scary to me too. One of the reasons I have been wanting to take Chinese at a local Junior College is so that I would have access to other students that are learning Chinese. I could go to a local Chinese restaurant or food store or China Town, but I can't get started on it.
Well, I was introduced to opportunities to (attempt to) speak in Chinese very early, before I would've considered myself ready for them. And having that experience, and after learning for two years, I can tell you that feeling you're having isn't going to go away anytime soon. So you're going to want to accept that you'll have to overcome it.
I can also assure you, most Chinese people feel just as awful about their English. For the younger generations, they'll have had a massive edge on you just from having years of formal training in English, but generally most of them wouldn't have been able to get a lot of high quality real practice in English. So, they might be be better than you relatively, but that's because they might have 10 years on you. They're better, but not 10 years better - not anywhere near where they'd be if they'd had access to decent quality practice for 10 years. A lot of the Chinese people I've talked to are very aware, and frankly self-conscious of that.
I can only imagine, it's just as hard for Chinese people to learn English, if not harder.