The Ultimate Guide To Language Exchange
So you want to learn a new language, huh? Great! Learning a new language is one of the best skills to have in your arsenal but we get that it can be pretty intimidating with all the different methods out there. From hiring a tutor to learning from an app the choices are endless (and pretty expensive).
One of the best ways to learn a new language in my humble opinion is (drumroll, please) Language exchange!
Learning new words is not the problem that most people face when trying to speak a new language. It's not knowing the right context for words and the lack of confidence that leads to hesitation and frustration.
You need to have a basic understanding of a language before participating in a language exchange (we recommend learning from a book or an app like Duolingo)
What is Language Exchange?
Language exchange is two or more people who know different languages practising each other's language through talking.
For eg - An English person who is learning Spanish will do a language exchange with a Spanish person who is learning English.
Language exchange can help break down the barrier of speaking and help you feel more confident with the language. We have created a list of the best things about language exchange to let you know the advantages of using this technique.
1. It's Fun!
Learning a language isn't the most exciting of activities but with language exchange, you can remedy that. Language exchange is about putting theory to practice as there are no textbooks involved. It teaches you phrases and colloquial expressions that you otherwise wouldn't get to learn in a classroom.
Language exchange is all about meeting new people and sharing your experiences and interests in a unique way. A language exchange can be incredibly exciting if you find the right people whose interests match yours.
Finding a good group that supports and encourages you is getting easier nowadays because of the internet.
2. It's Effective
Do you ever think about your words before talking in a language that you are familiar with? (I assume English is one of them). Here's a fun exercise, introduce yourself to the mirror and see how much effort it takes to think of the right words to say (probably not a lot).
Our brain is a vocabulary learning machine. When you hear or read something your brain doesn't take each word at face value, it's constantly taking statistics about which words appear together regularly so you can anticipate which words are coming next and process speech faster subconsciously.
Language exchange works on the same principle. The problem most people face while learning to speak a new language isn't what words to use but the order in which to use those words and fluency in speaking.
The best way to become proficient at speaking a language is by flooding our brains with information in the forms of conversations, books and shows with subtitles.
Language exchange provides your brain with a lot of information so you can learn which words to use in what context and the correct grammar. It's like knowing the difference between coffee with cream and coffee with crap. You know that coffee with cream go together because those words are often used together and coffee with crap don't because they aren't (unless you've got a really unique palate).
If you make a mistake a good language exchange partner will correct you on the spot.
3. It's Free
One of the biggest advantages of language exchange is that it's free (well, sort of) you might still have to pay for coffee, travelling costs or if you go to a language exchange event (which we recommend), the ticket. However, these expenses are pocket change when compared to the other popular methods like hiring a tutor or joining a class.
If you still don't want to spend a single pence on learning a new language, you can meet up with a person near you at a library and the cost will be nothing but your time and effort. It may be tedious to find someone who speaks the language you intend to learn and lives near you but it's definitely doable. Use apps like Reddit or Facebook to find out people living close to you who are interested in language exchange.
If you are interested in language exchange we recommend joining a group that hosts events regularly.
4. Meeting New People
"Every person is a new door to a different world"
(Yes, I got it from Pinterest)
What makes Language exchange fun is getting to meet new people who share the same interests as you and learning with them.
Studies show that people who feel like they're working as a team (Even if they're not physically together) accomplish more. The reasons for this are -
Social - We humans are social animals and sharing our experiences with others makes us feel positive about them and ourselves.
Accountability - Once your goals are out there for everyone to see, you're more likely to work towards them.
Support - There's no better motivation than a network of lovely people who encourage you to pursue your goals.
Language exchange done right after a few meetings will feel like catching up with a friend.
The kind of people that you participate in language exchange with can either make or break your experience. It can be pretty intimidating, not to mention tedious to find the right partner that supports and encourages you. That's where language exchange groups come in.
Language exchange groups are people who focus on a particular language and hold events on a regular basis. Most of these groups are run by professionals who make sure that the exchanges are done in a professional albeit friendly manner. You will have to buy a ticket to these events however it's usually pretty cheap and definitely worth it.
If you want to learn to speak Japanese by language exchange then click on this link! It's a great group run by wonderful people. These events are held online right now because of COVID-19 so you can join this event from any country.
Finding the right partner
The most important part of language exchange (if you don't join a group) is finding the right partner who is a good fit for you. I recommend finding someone with common interests, lifestyle and/or near your age. This will make your sessions a lot more interesting because you will have a lot to talk about.
The most important thing about finding the right partner is finding someone who is the same level as you in your respective languages. This makes your sessions way more challenging and fun.
If your partner is more proficient in the language they want to learn than you are in yours, there's a good chance that the conversation is going to be dominated in their language.
For eg - In a language exchange between an English and a Spanish person, if the Spanish person is better at English than the English person at Spanish, the conversation is mostly going to be in English (I know It's confusing but you get the point).
An exception to the rule above are teachers because most of the time they know how to balance language exchange sessions perfectly. You've hit the lottery if you get a teacher as your language exchange partner.
How to prepare for a Language Exchange
Here are some tips to prepare for your Language Exchange -
- Let your partner know what you're expecting to learn from the conversation. Whether you're looking for a casual conversation or you want them to correct your every mistake.
- Make sure to have proper arrangements for your session for eg - a cafe or a library. Because of Covid-19, we recommend having your sessions over apps like Skype or Zoom.
- Remember that your Language Exchange partner is not your teacher. The whole point of language exchange is to practise having an informal conversation with someone who is proficient.
- Be proactive. Make sure to give and receive feedback. Let them know that they can point out any mistakes in your speech or writing. Pointing out such things can make your sessions a lot more fun.
What if You're Shy
It's completely fine if You're Shy. You can still participate in language exchange. The most important tip in Language Exchange is to be prepared. Knowing what you're going to talk about before the session takes off A LOT of stress.
Here are some topics to talk about -
First Session - Probably the session that most people dread. The best thing to do in the first session is to introduce yourself, talk about why you want to learn the language and how you're doing it. Ask them the same questions.
Second Session - You'll feel a lot less nervous in the second session if the first session goes well. Talk about where you live. Ask them about their hobbies and interests and talk about yours. Plenty to talk about in your second session.
Third Session - By the third session, it's likely that you're going to be comfortable with talking to each other. Talk about your job or your studies and ask them about theirs.
Remember that you're not the only person in the session. Your partner is probably just as nervous as you.
Language Exchange is a great way to learn a new language while having fun. If you keep these tips in mind we can guarantee that you'll have a blast in your sessions.
If you do join a group or find a language exchange partner, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
The most important tip of all is to be excited have fun during your sessions.