When you’re trying to learn a new language, mumbling mixed phrases to yourself on the metro isn’t the way to go.
This is true whether you’re learning English, Spanish, French, Russian, or any other language. The goal is to speak clearly, and for that, you need to speak with native speakers.
Practicing with yourself will only take you so far. Today, we’ll teach you how to find a language exchange partner!
A language exchange partner is a great addition to your practice:
The person speaks your target language, wants to learn your language, and agrees to exchange time practicing each!
Your language skills will grow, and so will theirs. Think of this as a sort of verbal pen pal — someone with whom to have a conversation exchange on a regular basis so that you both can practice the language skills you are working on in tandem.
So, in an hour of practicing with your partner, you’d normally spend half of the time speaking in your target language and the other half helping them with your native language.
If you’re looking for language partners online, there are websites and apps designed for this. Hellotalk is a great option for finding language exchange partners to speak with on your smartphone or online.
You can also find language exchange groups in your city by searching platforms like Facebook, Couchsurfing or Meetup.
But from my experience, you can’t just reach out to anyone and it expect it to work out. A Google search will turn up many options, from established platforms to people posting individual classified ads in different languages.
You’ll want to schedule a video chat in order to feel each other out a bit, and see how serious the other person is about their language practice. You’ll probably have some new friends after one or two lessons (and how many of your current friends can say they have a friend who speaks Mandarin or Portuguese?)
Once you’re established as conversation partners, try to meet at least once per week via social network, voice chat, or video conference to practice your language skills.
Here are a few things you’ll want to consider while you search:
It can be very difficult to maintain a successful language exchange if you are both true beginners. This is because teaching someone the foundational skills to use your language is just as hard as learning a new one!
Plus, if one partner is more advanced, you might find yourself spending more time using their target language since you’re both able to communicate more. This causes an imbalance in the exchange.
If you notice you’re not receiving enough time to practice your target language during the exchange and you need more direct help building up a foundation, don’t worry!
Find an online tutor to give you their undivided attention during one-to-one lessons so you can build up a foundation before practicing with a partner.
Make sure you speak upfront with your potential partner about the goals and conditions of the exchange:
Putting in the time upfront to answer these questions will save you from misunderstandings down the road.
It’s easier to vet someone through language exchange sites because the site will likely do some of the vetting for you – but ultimately, it’s on you to figure it out during your face-to-face time.
If your partner couldn’t show up for the first meeting on time, he deserves some slack:
Things come up, people forget, and technology works when it wants to.
But if your partner seems to make this a habit, she doesn’t take the exchange as seriously as you do. This is a waste of both of your time.
If he does show up but always seems distracted or distant, are you getting anything from your time spent together?
If not, start looking elsewhere! There are plenty of dedicated and focused people out there looking to exchange languages on a consistent basis.
Make sure you give what you expect to get in the exchange:
Come prepared, show up on time, and engage your partner!
You can also ask your partner questions to get a better idea of what they’re looking to practice and why. The reasons language-learners give will surprise you-from improving their chances at landing the perfect job to impressing a girl at their favorite cafe!
After each session, make sure to give thoughtful feedback to help your partner improve.
Once you’ve learned how to find a reliable language exchange partner, you’ll get the same from them in return!
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