Language Exchange and Language Partners

I’ve been pretty busy this week exploring italki and My Language Exchange, trying to arrange Skype chats and meet-ups with French speakers. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to get talking to anybody properly yet but I hope to have spoken to a couple of people by the end of the coming week so I should have plenty to report back after that.

If anyone has any advice on how to make the most out of language exchanges, be they through Skype or face-to-face, I’d really appreciate some tips. Here’s just a couple of things I’ve been wondering about as I look for language partners online:

1. Should you avoid language exchanges with other learners and just stick to native speakers?

2. Is it a problem if the two partners are at very different levels in their respective new languages? For example, if I am starting from square one with my French and my partner is looking to fine tune their already impressive English could this lead to frustration on their part? Or is the level of my French of little concern so long as my English is good enough?

3. Is it best to stick with partners of the same dialect? i.e. as I am receiving lessons from a French person am I better off avoiding les Québécois, African, and even other European speakers when looking for language partners? Could a mix of dialects lead to any serious problems or confusion?

4. How structured/pre-planned should conversations be? Is it worth doing a lot of planning or is it better to simply go with the flow?

5. Is it better to conduct the conversation completely in one language and then switch over? I’ve had some people suggest one person speaking one language while the other speaks the second. Sounds a bit silly to me but what do I know?!

6. To what extent should language partners ‘teach’ each other? Is the role of a language partner to simply facilitate practice and answer questions or should they correct and instruct? Or is it a mixture of both?

Any thoughts on these or on anything else relating to language exchanges would be greatly appreciated in the comments section below.

À bientôt!

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4 thoughts on “Language Exchange and Language Partners

  1. Some thoughts below.

    1. In the early stages I’d stick with native speakers if you have the choice. You can pick up idiosyncratic speech habits from non-natives that could become fossiized.

    4. That depends largely on your personality, I would say! If you’re a gregarious type to whom chatting comes easily, I think you could safely leave things to chance. If you’re at all reserved or shy, I’d recommend having a list of topics or an outline of the desired conversation to hand so you don’t get stuck for ideas.

    5. Definitely. There has to be full immersion while the exchange lasts, with two-way communication in the same language.

    Just my two cents.

    Bon courage !

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    • Thanks for the input Aighne! That all seems to make a lot of sense to me. I think I will set a few goals for my Skype conversations though. Just set out a couple of bits of information I need to get from the other person over the course of the conversation. That way I’ll be able to say for definite afterwards that I am able to do X and ask for Y. Then everything else I pick up from the chat is a bonus! Thanks again for the advice, hope to hear from you again! – Ciarán

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  2. Using text while chatting can help to kick start: it boosts confidence, as it can be hard to connect the dots when hearing something, knowing you know what it means, but feeling you cannot get it out!

    Also, as regards “correcting”: the only acceptable way to correct, I believe, is simply by example. Using the correct form.

    No point in telling someone 10 times “Tá mé an Fhrainc mé” is “wrong”.
    As long as you understood the intent, I believe it best that unless they ask for suggestions, you simply use the correct form yourself, maybe repeating what they say in the correct form, and then saying it for yourself.
    In doubt (Did they mean they are from France? Or they are in France?), follow-up questions can clarify better than correcting.

    You do not want to turn into a grammar class 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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