A language exchange is when you meet up with someone who is learning your native language. You spend half the time chatting in the language you are learning and half the time chatting in the language they are learning – your native language. Learning a language on your own can be hard and motivation can drop every now and then. By having a language exchange partner to meet up with regularly or chat to over the internet or phone you encourage help each other to keep going and to stay motivated and positive.
1) You get to practise the most important skill – speaking with a native speaker. When learning a language you spend a lot of time reading about it, studying grammar rules, learning words and phrases but you need to use the language to really make it stick. Meeting up with a native speaker is the ideal opportunity.
2) You hear the language being spoken naturally – with all its informal expressions and slang. You can improve your accent by copying how your partners speaks. You also learn about different accents as your language exchange partner may speak a different language to your teacher or the CDs or podcasts that you listen to.
3) If the other person speaks your native language you can hear their mistakes – which are more than likely to be similar to your own – this is encouraging and helps you realise that everyone makes mistakes when learning languages.
4) You encourage each other – things you get right and correcting mistakes. You understand the frustrations and difficulties that people face when learning another language therefore you will be more sympathetic to each other, which is a great help.
5) Learn about the people and their culture – you get to know what the people are really like, how their society work learn about their main festivals and how they celebrate them. If you are interested in music, cooking, sport, literature you have a whole new culture to find out about.
6) Laughing with each other – if you can laugh about your mistakes and misunderstandings you gradually lose your anxiety about learning another language and you lose your fear of making mistakes.
7) It helps you put into practice what you are learning in your lessons or on your own. You get to use the new words you are learning and you can check you are using them in the right context.
8) You can ask questions and ask for examples of how to use verbs or phrases. If you are learning in a group environment you often don’t get the chance to ask all the questions you would like to. You don’t have to feel foolish about asking silly questions on a one-to-one basis.
All in all a language exchange partnership is the perfect way to link your classroom/individual learning with real life communication.
See the previous blog post “Top 5 language exchange websites” to find out where to find a language exchange partner.