How to Find a Language Partner In-person and Online? (And Make The Most of It)
The clearest path to fluency is finding a language exchange partner.
Read on and I’ll explain the benefits of language exchange, tips on how to get the most out of your language exchange sessions and, of course, how to find partners both online and offline.
- How to Find a Language Exchange Partner?
- Benefits of Having a Language Exchange Partner
- Getting the Most out of Your Language Exchange Sessions
- Multiple Language Partners: Double Your Learning
- And One More Thing...
How to Find a Language Exchange Partner?
We live in a multicultural era, with people of all ethnicities, nationalities and languages traversing the world for globalized opportunities. Chances are that there are people in your community or city who speak the language you want to learn, and would be interested in having the chance to improve their English through language exchange.
If not, there is an alternative: a virtual language exchange partner. Though tools like Skype, you can reap most of the benefits of an in-person exchange through many online resources, accessible wherever you have an internet connection!
How to Find a Language Partner In-person?
1. Post a request for a language partner on Craigslist
Craigslist, the world’s top classified site, has a section for “Activity Partners” where you can post a request for a language exchange partner.
2. Put up an ad at University Message Boards
Do you live near a university? Most American universities, no matter how big, small or remote, have international students from all around the world. Post an ad at the university either online or on bulletin boards on campus.
3. Search posts on forums
Does your town or city have a forum on a site like InterNations? If so, do a search or put up a post.
4. Attend language exchange meetings on Meetup
Meetup is a website dedicated to organizing small group get-togethers around shared or common interests. They have numerous language exchange meetups in cities all across the world.
This is especially useful for popular languages—like Chinese, Spanish, French, German, or Japanese—but may not be as useful if you are learning a more obscure or less popular language.
5. Check out local language centers
Similarly, there might be a local cultural center that offers language courses, or provides a venue for language learning, in your community. Alliance Francais (French) and Goethe Institute (German) are two common ones. Google is your friend!
6. Search for locals in your area with Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is the world’s largest travel social network. Though its focus is getting locals with extra space in their homes to host travelers, the site also has a wide host of events in cities all around the world. The best part about Couchsurfing is, after you register and create an account, you can search for locals in your area by the language they speak. This is fantastic way to find language partners in more obscure or less spoken languages.
In my experience, a friendly introduction message to a Couchsurfer, with an offer to meet over coffee and exchange language, will usually work (though you might have to send messages to a few profiles to get a response). I, for one, was able to use Couchsurfing to find an Indonesian language exchange partner, a language for which there are nearly no exchange groups in the United States.
How to Find a Language Partner Online?
We live in an interconnected world, where distance no longer matters as it once did. The web is connecting people all around the world, and there are several sites where you can set up a profile and find a virtual language exchange partner and gain nearly all the benefits of in-person exchange from the comfort of your home.
Here are a few of the most popular ones with recommendations to help you decide which is best for you!
7. Find a teacher on italki
italki is my pick for the best overall language exchange site. It is large, well designed, easy to use and has a good diversity of languages and members. You can log in directly using your Facebook account, which will save you time as you won’t have to fill in as many details, and then you can search for a “teacher” based on your language level and which conversation skills you want to improve.
8. Make friends with native speakers on MyLanguageExchange.com
Though not quite as user-friendly as italki, MyLanguageExchange.com tends to have more members who speak European languages. The registration process is fairly straightforward, but be careful when searching through profiles that the user you are contacting has logged into his or her account recently.
9. Exchange messages with members on Conversation Exchange
Although Conversation Exchange has an older layout, it is still very reliable with an active community. You make a profile and write about yourself, then you can browse the profiles of other users based on their target and native languages.
There are three possible modes of interaction that you can look for: face-to-face conversation, correspondence (pen pal) and text/voice chat. I recommend checking this site out if you are learning an Asian language, as they have a large number of profiles from people in East Asia.
10. Have Skype sessions with The Mixxer
For those of you specifically looking for Skype video exchange partners, the Mixxer is a great option. It is a free educational site for language learners hosted by Dickinson College, and is designed specifically to connect language learners around the world to have video exchanges. They also have lessons plans and other resources that you can use to improve language skills and plan out your exchange sessions.
11. Exchange languages with Livemocha
Livemocha blends language lessons with the ability to find language partners. After you register and put your native language and the language you want to learn onto your profile, LiveMocha will automatically give you a list of potential partners that match your needs.
This is a great option for those of you who want a more comprehensive option.
12. Join chat forums on Reddit
For those of you who love message boards and chat forums and don’t mind a bit of mess, check out Reddit. There are subreddits for nearly every language in the world, making it a great place to post and find a partner, especially for obscure or less popular Asian and African languages.
Registration is simple and forums are open to all, as long as you don’t post spam.
13. Use Location-specific Sites
Many cities have their own regular language exchange events or partner-finding sites, like GoLingo in Montpellier, France. Use Google and Facebook to find out if your city (or a city/country you plan to visit) has its own site for finding language exchange partners, or its own weekly language exchange event.
Benefits of Having a Language Exchange Partner
- Positive Social Motivation: Learning a language on your own can be tough. As hard as you try to listen to audio lessons online, use flashcards or take advantage of online resources, it can be hard to keep your motivation high. Traditional courses, with their focus on exams and grades, aren’t exactly a low-pressure solution.
So here’s a fun, positive option: a language exchange partner. Meeting up with a friendly face—someone who only wants to see you succeed and can provide a barometer on your language learning progress—is a great way to not only reduce the loneliness of language learning, but provide some positive momentum as well.
- Training Your Ear: One of the biggest challenges facing new language learners is training your ear to hear the nuances of language and accent. Sitting over a textbook or listening to audio tapes is just not the same as living and breathing a language. Since you can’t just go to the country where the language is spoken, why not find someone in your town or community to speak with?
- Non-verbal Language: Something you’ll quickly find out is that there’s more to language than just words. Facial expressions, hand gestures and inflections are all unwritten parts of a language, and there is no better way to learn these than one-on-one with a language exchange partner. Moreover, understanding these aspects of a language can make learning vocabulary easier.
So we know that the benefits of having a language exchange partner are huge. But how can you make the most of your meetings?
Getting the Most out of Your Language Exchange Sessions
Here are some tips on how to get the most of your language exchange sessions, and have fun doing it:
- Warm Up Beforehand: To get your mind thinking in your target language before you meet with your language exchange partner, spend five to 10 minutes on a language program or authentic videos.
- Stay on Schedule: You should definitely have some time to get to know each other, and have friendly conversation in your mutual, best language. But then, get down to business. Set up a reasonable schedule: 30 minutes in the language you’re trying to learn, 30 minutes in English (or whatever language your partner wants to learn) is a common and great way to divide the time. It’s easy to get off topic and waste time–don’t let that happen!
- Meet Regularly: The longer you wait between meetings, the less likely you are to remember what you learned. I recommend meeting once a week, with once every two weeks the bare minimum. Anything less and you won’t have time to train your ear and learn.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes: Remember, you’re not being graded! Mistakes are part of learning—in fact, they are the best way to learn. Can’t think of a word? Try to describe it using the language you’re learning. Your partner doesn’t understand you? Try speaking it out slowly. Here’s a tip: Smile when you make a mistake, and begin turning failure into laughter. Then your fears will fade and your mind will open to the trial and error necessary for deep language learning. Like the saying goes, it’s better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all.
- Practice Between Meetups: I recommend bringing a notebook with you and, without distracting too much from the conversation, jotting down any difficulties you’re having or new words you’re learning. Then, when you’re back home, practice whatever you found most difficult. It could be pronunciation, or maybe a challenging verb tense or conjugation.
- Use Additional Material Between Meetups: Another thing you can do is use a language learning program to keep your skills fresh and so that you can keep practicing. A good one for this could be FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Multiple Language Partners: Double Your Learning
If one partner is so great, why not have two? Or more? Here I urge you to move with caution, as sometimes more is not necessarily better.
Meeting in groups of three can mean less pressure, and you can train your ear to distinguish between multiple accents. The downside is that there’s less time for you to speak, and the conversation tends to go to the level of the one who speaks the worst of the language, which can limit your ability to improve.
So think carefully about what you want to gain from a language exchange. If you feel that just meeting with one person would be best, then go for it. If you think that meeting in a group is better, then follow that path!
Here’s another option: meeting two people separately, one-on-one. This will allow you to have more exposure, perhaps learn different accents, but also means more commitment on your part.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, find a language partner, and fast-track your language skills!
And One More Thing...
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