What's The Secret To The Greatest Language Exchange Ever?

language exchange podcast

Everyone and their dog knows that language learning is easier, faster, and more fun when you have found a great language partner.

In this show, Lindsay and I brought on language exchange expert Jonathan Huggins, who runs several community challenges and groups for language learners.

Thanks to our sponsor, Clozemaster!

To warm up, we chatted about travel love, dream trips, and appreciation of home.

How to Find The Perfect Language Exchange

The most rewarding way of practicing your language is by connecting with people on a 1-to-1 basis. It takes commitment to make any language exchange successful.

Approach Exchanges With The Right Mindset

No matter who you are speaking to in your target language, remember that a little consideration can go a long way. It is easy to add an exchange partner to your checklist right next to "app" and "coursebook", but harder to remember that they're a person with a life to live too.

Give something, and consider how you can help the other learners instead of simply seeing them as a resource. It's important to respect your partner's life so you can build up a relationship that keeps on giving.

Before you start an exchange:

It's important to feel like you're going to both give and get something out of your language exchange, but there is so much you can do

  • Consider whether you will benefit most from finding a native speaker, a teacher, a good explainer, or simply a buddy who can help you progress.
  • Look for people who you have something in common with. Find out if you'll be on your partner's wavelength by checking out their profile, hobbies, location, and more.
  • Send more than just a "hello", and try asking questions and connecting based on something you saw in your potential partner's profile.
  • Consider your expectations. Being someone's language learning partner is a commitment to be taken seriously, and it is your partner's decision whether they will be ready to join you.
  • Have a chat and agree on how your exchange is going to work:*
    • When will you practice which language?
    • Who's going to arrange the timeslots?
    • Will you send recordings, chat, focus on specific language points like grammar topics or vocab?
    • What will you talk about each week?
  • Finally, consider what level you are at in your target language and how this will impact the kinds of things that you can say and understand.
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Once your exchange is underway:

A language exchange is like a plant: If you don't look after it, it's going to die. - Jonathan Huggins

  • Prepare something to talk about in each session and make sure you don't let each other down and spend the whole session asking superficial questions. For example, find a news item and explain what it means in your local context, or select a conversation starter question.
  • Don't expect a miracle. If you are shy and you don't establish what you have in common with another person, your language exchange will be just as uncomfortable as it would be in a monolingual environment.
  • Find consistent people to talk to so you can establish common ground and start going beyond the repetitive topics that happen at the start of creating a new relationship.
  • Try alternative ways of making your exchange work, for example recording yourself so you can send a "message in a bottle" and still stay in touch even when life gets busy. Just like the meaning of studying, the meaning of *language

How Do You Find People To Talk To?

Do you reply to every message you get on language exchange apps? Do you send carefully crafted introductions or casual "hello"s?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or connect with us on Twitter.