So you have found yourself a native speaker of the language you are learning who also wants to improve their English. You have arranged a first meeting or have had your first meeting and are now wondering how to make the sessions work for both of you. What can you talk about? How often should you meet? How long should you talk for? Here are a few tips to help you get the maximum benefit out of your language exchange sessions:
Make sure you schedule frequent meetings to talk. Ideally once a week if possible. This is the best way to make any real progress so that you can remember what you learnt in the previous session, reinforce it and build upon it.
As you both want to improve the language you are learning, it is only fair to spend the same amount of time speaking in each language. So make sure you spend half the time chatting in one language, this may be 30 minutes or one hour, and then swap and chat in the other language.
At the end of each chat try to think of an interesting subject that you would like to talk about in the next session. Then between sessions you can research the key words and phrases on the topic that you will need. You have time to think how to express your opinions and come up with any questions to ask your partner. You could each talk about something in the news or describe a programme or film you have seen.
During the conversation jot down any new words, expressions, verbs that crop up. Then you can learn these before the next session and try to use them in the next chat.
Your partner will not think any less of you if you make mistakes. You will find that they make similar mistakes when they start chatting in the language they are learning. They are there to correct you and help you learn from mistakes. Often saying something wrong or out of context can be very funny, which helps reduce anxiety and put you more at ease.