The best to learn a language is by speaking it.
Language exchange is the meeting of two people who are learning each other’s language and have agreed to practise it together. It is about finding someone who speaks the language you are learning and who is learning the language that you speak.
Language exchanges not only help you break the barrier of speaking but make you more confident with the language. And what’s better than practising with someone who is a native speaker?
Why should you participate in language exchange?
Language exchange can be motivating, informative and fun. Here are some of the reasons why you should participate in language exchange:
- It is fun and pleasant. Language exchange provides you with an opportunity to get pronunciation correct, learn colloquial expressions which you wouldn’t learn in the classroom, and it doesn’t involve textbooks. In its essence, it is putting to practice the theory you have learnt.
- The biggest advantage is that it is absolutely free. Well, you might have to pay for the coffee and the croissants at the cafe you’ll be meeting, but there is no fee that you need to pay.
- Language exchange meetings are fast and effective. You practise listening and speaking simultaneously. Also, if you wish to practise writing and reading, then your partner and you can decide to write emails to each other between meetings.
- You meet amazing people and make new friends. You can learn about different cultures of the world and teach your language partners about yours.
Click here to read about the benefits of joining a language exchange community.
How should one prepare for language exchange?
Here are some tips:
- State what you are looking for. In other words, let your partner know about your needs and wants from the beginning. Let your partner know what kind of exchange you want, your availability and your expectations. You can have a casual conversation exchange or you can ask your partner to check and correct your grammatical mistakes. It is all about what you need and what matches with your partner, really.
- Ensure that you have proper arrangements before you begin the exchange. If you are going to use Skype, then make sure the internet connection works. If your partner is in another time zone, ensure that the time is agreed upon.
- Let your partner know how would you like to receive feedback. Sometimes, we may not take upfront criticism nicely. In such a case, let your exchange partner know that they can comment and point out your mistakes in writing.
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Remember, mistakes are the stepping stones to success. It is impossible to learn a language without mistakes. Hence, your aim at such exchanges should be able to communicate rather than construct correct sentences. The more you speak and listen, the more structure you will be able to apply.
- Be proactive. Languages are give and take. The more you practise, the more you learn. Make time to revise the words you have learnt and use them the next time you speak to your partner.
- Most importantly, remember that your language exchange partners are not your teachers. The whole concept of such an exchange is to practise and have an informal conversation. The partner will, indeed, help you correct the pronunciation and vocabulary but do not expect them to be able to teach you the finer nuances of grammar.
What do I do if I am a shy person?
It is fine if you are a shy person. Language exchange is not a date or an interview- it is two people helping each other to learn the language. It is like friendly mutual tutoring. The best thing to do, if you are a shy person, is to have a plan in mind. Enlist your goals for the first few sessions. These could be:
- Session one- introduce yourself, talk about why you want to learn Spanish and how you are doing it. Ask your language partner why they are learning English/French and how they are doing it.
- Session two- talk about where you live, what you like about it and what you don’t like about it. Ask your language partner about where he/she lives. There’s usually lots of talk about the weather during session two.
- Session three- talk about your job or your studies, what you like about it and what you don’t like about it. Ask your language partner about their job as well.
Remember, language is all about communication. Communication takes place only when two people are exchanging ideas. Talking to people in language exchanges will sharpen your language skills, teach you about a culture and eventually, create great friendships.
Language exchange is as fun as is important. It is futile to learn a language and not use it. Language exchange is a melting pot of cultures, languages, fun and effectiveness. Encourage people to participate in such exchanges and master the language.
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Also published on Medium.