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How to do a language exchange successfully

If you were wondering how to do a language exchange succesfully, this is the article for you!

Exchanging languages with native speakers is one of the most useful resources when it comes to practicing your target language and using it in real life.

First, you need to sign up for an app or a website especially created for that purpose, such as HelloTalk or Conversation Exchange.

Then, you set your profile up, you start looking for native speakers to chat with, and that’s all!

The problem is to find a good language partner. And once you find a good one, the question is how to do a language exchange succesfully.

So today, I will give you three essential tips to make the most of it!

How to do a language exchange successfully

You can really make a lot of friends around the world and improve your language skills at the same time.

Unfortunately, when students are new to this, they don’t know how it works and they do what they can.

Their potential partners also do what they can, and that’s why those exchanges are bound to fail.

Then, students feel discouraged because they thought it would be a productive experience, but it turned out to be a waste of time!

I was lucky enough that one of my first language partners taught me how to do it properly from the start, so that we would both benefit from it.

That language partner is still my friend three years later! And we have learned a lot of English and Spanish together.

If you follow these three tips, you can find a good language partner, too!

1) Use your native language, too – it’s a language exchange!

Sometimes students would speak only in their target language because they want to become better.

That’s great, but the other partner also needs to practice the language they are studying!

Let’s imagine you are learning Spanish and you just met someone from a Hispanic country. You have a conversation that goes like this:

—¡Hola, amigo! ¿Cómo estás?
—I’m great. What about you?
—Estoy muy bien, ¡gracias! ¿Qué hay de nuevo?
—Not much. Just hanging out with some friends and watching Netflix. And you?
—¡Ah, qué bueno! Yo estoy en la oficina, jaja. ¿Te gustaría intercambiar idiomas?
—Sure! I really need to improve my English.

How could you improve your Spanish if the other person wouldn’t use it at all?

You really need to read and hear natives using their language: grammar structures, word selection, intonation, etc.

Personally, initially I just stick to the language my potential partner is learning to show my good will (and because I like to help!).

You can do it too, but at some point, the conversations needs to switch to your target language.

—¡Genial! ¿De dónde eres?
—Soy de Buenos, Aires, Argentina. ¿Conocés?
—No mucho en realidad, jaja. Solo sé que está en Sudamérica. ¿Cómo es?
—Jaja, ¡sí! Es un país muy grande, hay muchos escenarios naturales muy lindos…

If a person constantly refuses to use their native language, probably their potential partner will just cut them loose.

Ideally it should be a 50/50 exchange. That is, 50% in your target language, and 50% in your partner’s.

You can suggest some sort of plan, like switching languages every 10 interactions. Each interaction can involve as many lines or voice notes as necessary for the conversation to flow at that moment.

Another option is to switch languages every day. One day Spanish, the following day English, and so on.

Whatever works for you!

A girl doing a language exchange on her phone
Una chica intercambiando idiomas en su teléfono. Foto de Andrea Piacquadio en Pexels

2) Correct your partner’s mistakes

This is one of the main advantages of having a language partner who is a native in your target language!

Besides a professional teacher (native or not), nobody will know better when you are making a mistake or when a certain word or grammar construction doesn’t sound completly right.

So be willing to correct your partner’s mistakes and ask them to correct yours, too.

We learn from our mistakes!

—Todo bien. Mi gato es en el sofá y yo soy escuchando música.
—*está en el sofá
*estoy escuchando
¡Bien! ¿Y qué estás escuchando?
—¡Muchas gracias por la corrección! Estoy escuchando salsa. ¿Te gusta la salsa?
—¡De nada! Y me gusta, pero solo un poco.

Even if sometimes you (or your partner) can´t explain exactly why something is wrong, it’s still useful to detect those mistakes and then search the internet for a deeper explanation or something.

However, keep in mind that not everyone likes to be corrected all the time.

So, just to be sure, you can ask your partner if they would like you to correct every single thing, or just certain mistakes they keep making.

In most cases, they won’t have a problem with it and they will thank you for your effort and dedication!

3) Keep the conversation going

Some people get bored easily with typical questions such as where are you from?, how old are you?, what do you do?, etc.

They even make it clear on their profiles!

I don’t agree with that view because depending on the student’s current level, those basic phrases could be pretty much everything they have learned so far.

What is actually much worse than that is not asking questions and not showing interest at all!

I have had language exchanges going like this:

—So what are you up to?
—Watching Netflix.
—Nice! What are you watching?
—Cobra Kai.
—I don’t know it! What is it about?
—About karate.

—Oh, I see! And why do you like it?
—It’s fun.

Like, what? Did you think it was a interview or what?

And I hadn’t even messaged that person first, but the opposite! Obviously I cut them loose right away.

Our time is valuable and we can’t waste it with people who don’t show a genuine interest in us.

So remember: ask questions and show interest. Even a simple what about you? works!

Do you want to learn more Spanish?

I hope you have enjoyed this article about how to do a language exchange successfully!

Language exchanges are great, and if you make the most of them, you will improve a lot.

But it’s not easy to find a good language partner! So when you finally find one, you’d better take care of them.

Do you want to learn more Spanish? Subscribe to my newsletter for free! You will get notifications of new posts by email, as well as a copy of my ebook, the Definitive Guide to Learn Conjugations in Spanish.

Do you want to boost your vocabulary in Spanish? Follow me on social media! I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Every day I post typical words and expressions from Argentina and the Hispanic world.

And if you are looking for a native Spanish teacher to have some Skype Spanish lessons (or whatever platform you prefer), book a lesson with me!

Thank you very much and until next time,

Kevin.

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