Many Spanish learners complain about not having anyone to practice speaking Spanish with.
And when they try to chat with friends who are fluent in Spanish, they get frustrated because they can't keep up.
Without the opportunity to speak Spanish on a regular basis, it can be near impossible to reach fluency.
That's why finding ways to get in some conversation practice is critical. And that's where language exchanges come in.
What is a Language Exchange?
A language exchange is an arrangement between two language learners to communicate in each other’s target languages.
Some people think they are “not ready” for a language exchange.
If you are a beginner and can’t say 2 words in your target language, you might feel like a language exchange is premature or will be a waste of time.
It’s true, you should probably learn some basics before jumping into a language exchange. Remember, this person is NOT your tutor or teacher.
That said, all you need to know is some basic greetings and vocabulary in order to get started.
(Tip: You can find the basic phrases you need for your first conversation with anyone in this free guide: Bulletproof Guide to Your First Spanish Conversation)
No matter what your level, it will be necessary to complete your own study outside of your language exchange.
How to Adjust for Your Level
Find a conversation partner that is proficient in English (or another language you are proficient in).
If you’re just starting out, use English with your conversation partner and ask them to tell you how to say a few basic phrases or new vocabulary words.
This will help you identify your missing vocabulary and provide focus for your future study sessions.
If you are a higher level, you have to force yourself to use only your target language. To make sure this happens, as your language proficiency improves you should focus on finding conversation partners that do NOT speak English.
This will force you to use your target language and you won’t have the crutch of switching to English when you can’t think of a word. This on-the-spot creative thinking will improve your conversation skills and is the key to pushing you forward to higher levels of proficiency.
When to Use a Professional
There are some situations that call for talking to a skilled and experienced teacher, tutor, or coach instead of a casual language exchange partner.
Here are some cases where you might want to consider talking to a professional vs. a conversation partner:
1) You are a complete novice
If you have zero exposure to a language, you might want to start out with some basic instruction before talking to an exchange partner.
It’s important to remember that a language exchange partner is not your teacher. You must be prepared to have at least a basic conversation to start a language exchange.
This may also be frustrating to your conversation partner since they are only expecting to have a conversation with you.
2) You have specific questions about grammar or complex features of your target language
This is important, because an exchange partner is just someone like you that is learning a new language.
Even if your language exchange partner is knowledgeable, they may not offer the best explanation for specific, technical questions about the language.
3) Your time is extremely limited
If you have an extraordinarily busy lifestyle, a language exchange may not be worth it for you.
It takes time to find a language exchange partner, schedule sessions, and get into a flow that works for both of you.
If you are short on time, it may be more efficient to find a tutor on a site like iTalki or Verbling.
The advantages of this are increased reliability and the ability to talk to people according to your schedule.
Depending on your target language, you may be able to find a language exchange partner at a pretty inexpensive rate and according to your schedule.
When to Use a Language Exchange
So when is it a good idea to establish a language exchange?
Here are some good reasons to start looking for conversation partners in your target language:
1) You want to practice speaking your target language in an informal, non-academic setting
A language exchange is a great opportunity to speak your target language as much as possible and hear how it’s used in the real world.
You’ll be able to practice getting your words together and develop the valuable skill of thinking on your feet and having impromptu conversations.
You can also learn informal vocabulary that you may not have been exposed to in your formal learning.
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2) You want exposure to a variety of speakers
One of the best ways to improve your listening comprehension is to hear similar words and topics in different contexts.
Being exposed to people with different voices, pitches (high/low), accents, countries of origin, cultures, and genders can help you become better able to recognize words in the future.
Modern technology gives us the ability to talk to people that live virtually anywhere in the world.
3) You want feedback from someone who can point out your mistakes
When you are having social interactions in your target language, you don’t want to have a friend constantly pointing out and correcting your mistakes. It can make a normal conversation or interaction pretty awkward.
In a language exchange, your conversation partner knows your purpose is to learn and should be willing and able to provide constructive feedback that will help you improve and prepare for real social interactions.
Now that you know the benefits of a language exchange, it's time to get started.
So what's the next step? Do something right now to get your language exchange going.
Find 3 potential conversation partners and send them each a messed introducing yourself.
Don't know where to start? Check out this article 》 Best Sites and Apps for Finding Spanish Conversation Partner
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¡Hola! My name is Tamara Marie. I'm a language coach specializing in brain-friendly methods to learn foreign languages faster. I speak English (US native), Spanish (advanced), and Brazilian Portuguese (beginner). I'm a Latin music & dance addict and passionate about helping people learn languages.