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Episode 05: 5 Steps to Get Effective Spanish Conversation Practice for Free

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    Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

    Episode 05

    5 Steps to Get Effective Spanish Conversation Practice for Free

    Learn how to find reliable conversation partners to improve your Spanish speaking skills for free.  In this episode, we’ll review how to determine if you’re ready for a language exchange, its benefits and challenges,and how to get the most out of the language exchange by following 5 simple steps.

    Want to prepare so you’ll know *exactly* what to say when you meet someone for the first time? Check out the Quick Guide to Your First Spanish Conversation. Click here to download free.


    Time Transcript
    00:32 Hola y bienvenidos. Welcome to episode five of the Learn Spanish Con Salsa podcast. In this episode, we’re going to talk all about language exchanges and how you can really use them to improve your Spanish conversation. Now, if this is the first time you’ve heard that term, a language exchange is just an informal arrangement between two language learners to communicate in each other’s target languages. So in this case, if you’re an English speaker that’s learning Spanish, you would find a Spanish speaker that’s learning English to have a language exchange, and the way this usually works is you’ll spend about half the time communicating in English and half the time communicating in Spanish. That way you both get to practice the language that you’re learning. That’s just a rough guideline. It’s not strictly 50/50, but for the language exchange to be useful for both people involved you want to make sure there’s enough time spent communicating in both languages.
    01:30 So before I talk about how to get the most out of a language exchange, I want to give you a few scenarios where a language exchange might not be ideal for you. So first, let’s make sure this is the right strategy for you and then we’ll talk about how to make your language exchanges effective. Now, a language exchange may not work if you’re a complete newbie to Spanish. It’s important to remember that a language exchange partner is not your teacher. They really aren’t qualified to teach you the language from scratch, so you should be prepared to have a least a basic conversation to start a language exchange. That could mean that you just know a few basic greetings and how to ask and answer a few questions, but it’s really difficult to start a language exchange from scratch if you don’t know any Spanish at all.
    02:21 A language exchange is also not ideal if you have some very specific questions about grammar or some of the more complex features of the target language.  So even if you find a language exchange partner that’s very knowledgeable, they might not give you the best explanations because as native speakers, they’ll often tell you, “this is just how we say things.” Think about it in English.  If someone asks you how to say something, you can tell them how to say it correctly, but you probably can’t tell them why. Right? You’re probably not going to get into, oh, this is irregular verb or this is a phrasal verb, and that’s why say ‘get up’ or ‘get out’, right? You’re not going to know that level of grammar detail, so if you’re looking for that type of explanation, a language exchange is probably not the best. And also if your time is extremely limited, if you have a very busy schedule, a language exchange may not be ideal.
    03:18 Not only does it take time to find a language exchange partner, but remember you will also be spending some of that time in English and if you want to maximize your Spanish conversation practice time, it might be difficult for you to maintain a language exchange because you’ll have to give that person the opportunity to also speak English. So keep that in mind if you have a limited schedule. If any of these things apply to you, you might want to first start out with a language course or booking a private session with a language tutor. Okay, so now that that’s out of the way and you’ve decided, yes, I want to start a language exchange, I want to find someone to talk to in Spanish, first you need to find a language exchange partner.  And I’m going to put a link in the show notes to my favorite websites and apps for finding language exchange partners. You can access the show notes at learnspanishconsalsa.com/languageexchange.
    04:15 That’s learnspanishconsalsa.com/languageexchange. You’ll be able to access the show notes and get a link to some of my favorite resources for finding free Spanish conversation partners. So let’s talk about some of the issues that you might run into when trying to establish a language exchange and then I’ll give you some best practices for how you can combat those issues and start a successful language exchange from the beginning. So here are a few common issues that people experience when trying to establish a language exchange. You have to find times on a regular basis that are convenient for both of you to communicate so you can have scheduling conflicts and sometimes that’s due to your work and school schedule and family obligations and other times it can be due to time zone differences. So if you have a language exchange partner that’s in Spain for example, there’s a pretty big time difference there.
    05:12 So it might be hard to link up your schedules. There can also be no shows, right? You can decide we’re going to meet every Thursday at 2:00 PM and we’re going to chat via Skype. But because neither one of you have any skin in the game so to speak, you’re both volunteering to help each other. It can be hard to find a reliable language partner. So no shows can be a big concern. There can also just be misunderstandings and personality conflicts so you’re not going to click with everybody that you meet, so keep that in mind. Then you could end up speaking too much English and that really depends on the conversation partner that you have. Again, it’s a language exchange so you should have time to speak Spanish and they should have time to speak English, but some people really just want you to teach them English, right?
    05:58 And you have to explain that’s not what the language exchanges for. I can help you and give you advice, but I can’t teach you English the same way you’re expecting to have conversation in Spanish and yes, you’ll want them to give you some advice on how to improve, but you don’t expect them to teach you Spanish from scratch. So those are some common issues that come up with language exchanges. Now, some of the benefits of a language exchange is that you can practice and an informal and nonacademic setting. So you get to talk to real people that speak Spanish without being filtered by a teacher or a textbook. You can also get exposure to a variety of different speakers. So one thing that really helps with your conversation skills and even your listening comprehension is being exposed to people with different voices, high and low pitch voices, different accents, people from different countries and cultures, and even getting used to male and female voices, that can be difficult if you’re not used to speaking to both genders.
    06:56 So language exchange is a great way to meet people from a lot of different places and to get more comfortable with your Spanish conversation. You can have someone pay attention to you as you’re speaking Spanish and point out any mistakes that you’re making. And that feedback can be very valuable, especially because when you’re in a social situation, you probably don’t want to ask your friends to correct your grammar. So language exchange is a perfect opportunity to do that. So a successful language exchange has some give and take. You get adequate practice in Spanish and you’re helping your conversation partner with their English. So now let’s look at the five steps to get the most out of your language exchange to really make it effective and a good use of your Spanish practice time.
    07:41 Your first step is, you want to determine the goals for your language exchange and I have a worksheet that I’ll include in the show notes that will help you really identify your goals. The key here is to just be specific about what you want to get out of the language exchange. Step two is identify the characteristics of your ideal language exchange. And this is good to do before you start looking for conversation partners. You need to think about ideally, how would you like the language exchange to go? So for example, do you want to have conversations once a week, twice a week? Do you want to focus on specific conversation topics? Do you prefer chatting on Skype or Facetime or would you prefer just sending invoice notes on an App like Whatsapp? Do you want to also communicate with your conversation partner through social media or email or text in between your conversation sessions? It’s also good to identify how you would like to receive feedback.
    08:38 Some people don’t mind being interrupted while they’re speaking so that they can catch a mistake as soon as they make it and correct it right away, but a lot of people find that to be pretty annoying and you’ll want the person to wait until you finish speaking to then provide that feedback. So you want to think about what works best for you and you also might want them to write out the feedback or tell it to you verbally. So think about those things before you start looking for language exchange partners.
    09:07 You also want to think about your ideal conversation partner’s English proficiency level, and there’s a few reasons why I bring this up. Now, if you are a beginner, you might be more comfortable with talking to someone who has a fairly high level of English proficiency. The reason for that is even though you’re practicing Spanish, it can be a very painful conversation if you know very little Spanish and they know very little English. It can turn into a situation where you just can’t communicate at all, so I always recommend for beginners to look for someone that’s fairly comfortable with speaking English that will still encourage you to speak Spanish. But if you are out of the beginner phase and you’re more of an intermediate learner, I want to challenge you to find a conversation partner who has a pretty low level of English proficiency. If you’re talking to someone who’s very comfortable speaking English, it makes it way too easy for you to fall back on your English when you get stuck or you can’t think of a word. You’ll tend to just ask your conversation partner to translate it for you. But if you look for conversation partners that are not very comfortable with speaking English, then you can help that person more with the Spanish that you know and you’ll be less likely to fall back on your English because you know they won’t be able to help you. So again, I would base this on your level, but think about your ideal conversation partner’s English proficiency.
    10:34 So after you’ve determined the goals for your language exchange and you’ve identified the characteristics of your ideal language exchange, then you’ll want to go look for a language exchange partner. So there are a couple of free websites. My Language Exchange is one that’s been around for awhile. You can also try Meetup.com. That’s another free site you can join, but with Meetup you can find local events for Spanish conversation practice. So if you just search for ‘speak Spanish’ or ‘learning Spanish’ in your metro area on the meetup website, you can see if there’s any upcoming meetups in your area for people who want to do a language exchange or just practice speaking Spanish. Now there’s also apps like HelloTalk and Tandem and those are also completely free and you can think of them sort of like the Tinder of language learners.
    11:25 Okay. Maybe that’s not the best analogy. Although I will say I have heard from many female language learners that they do sometimes get some questionable messages from some of the guys on those platforms. So just kind of be aware that some people do try to use them as a Tinder site, so just be aware to be a little bit cautious like you are anytime you meet someone online. Don’t give out too much personal information. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t respond. Okay, so just use your common sense, but these are great apps for finding people who are genuinely interested in learning English and Spanish and other languages and you can find some pretty interesting people using some of these resources and also make some friends while you’re practicing your Spanish. It’s good to find someone that you have some similar interests with, but it’s not necessary.
    12:16 You can have good conversations with almost anyone and the idea again is that you’re practicing your Spanish and one quick tip before you commit to the language exchange. You might want to schedule a getting-to-know you chat. That way you can both feel each other out and then see if you want to follow up and continue to establish a language exchange. Step four is to schedule your conversations with your new language exchange partner. Try to set up a regular time to speak, whether that’s once a week, a few times a week, every other week, whatever works for both of your schedules on a consistent basis, that way you get it on your calendar and you don’t have to figure out the next time you’re going to talk after every conversation, so this just saves you some time. And then finally, step five is evaluate your progress.
    13:03 So after you’ve had a few conversations, think about if the language exchange is really meeting your needs. Is your partner providing you with useful feedback? Do you feel comfortable talking to them? Are you getting enough time to talk or is that person dominating the conversation? Are there some new topics that you can explore that you haven’t talked about yet? So really pay attention and evaluate if the language is change is working for you and as your Spanish improves, you may want to expand and have different conversation partners as well. So those are your five steps to get the most out of your language exchange. Step one, identify your goals for the language exchange. Step two, map out your ideal language exchange. Step three, find a language exchange partner that meets those ideals. Step four, schedule conversation practice sessions with your language exchange partner on a regular basis. And step five, continuously monitor and evaluate your progress.
    14:05 So I hope you found those tips on how to get the most out of your language exchange useful. And again, check out the show notes at learnspanishconsalsa.com/languageexchange to download the worksheet that will help you map out your goals for your language exchange. If you’re looking for more best practices and specifics on how to establish an effective language exchange, you can download the Ebook, How to Have an Effective Language Exchange, and I’ll include a link to that as well in the Show Notes. Now, if you want the audio book version, you can get it for free from Audible using the link in the show notes, learnspanishconsalsa/languageexchange, and you can download the Ebook or the audio book: How to Run an Effective Language Exchange.  That goes into a lot more detail and also provides some worksheets and some scripts that you can use when you’re reaching out to a language exchange partner for the first time and some tools that you can use to help you schedule sessions that take into account the different time zones around the world.
    15:11 So feel free to check out that book if you want to go further on this topic. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Learn Spanish Con Salsa. We will continue to talk about language exchanges next week when we interview one of the co-founders of one of the most popular language exchange apps and he’s going to give us some detailed tips and pointers on how we can really have effective language exchanges and find a language exchange partner that we click with. So you definitely don’t want to miss next week’s show. If you heard something you found useful today, share this episode with a friend. Even if they’re not learning Spanish, but they’re learning another language, these tips really apply to any language exchange. So make sure you share this with your language learning bestie. So I hope this episode has helped you get one step closer from being beginner to bilingual. Until next week…adios!

    dccb Download Episode 05 Transcript

    Links and Resources

    If you’re looking for more best practices and specifics on how to establish an effective language exchange, you can download the e-book or audiobook: Guide to Successful Language Exchanges. It includes worksheets and scripts you can use when you’re reaching out to a language exchange partner for the first time, and some tools that you can use to help you schedule sessions that take into account the different time zones around the world.

    Guide to Successful Language Exchanges data-lazy-src=

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