Why you need a language partner
Speaking in another language can be terrifying, especially if your partner is a native speaker. But regular practice with a native speaker can accelerate your learning and help you stay motivated. There are many ways to connect with native speakers, especially if you are willing to spend some time speaking in your native language with someone trying to learn it. We’ve gathered some suggestions for finding and working with a language partner and created a list of question-and-answer sites and language-specific Google searches for each of the nineteen languages WordBrewery teaches. You can find that list at the bottom of this post.
Choosing a language partner: know what you are looking for
When searching for a partner, don’t just think about your language needs. Think about a person you would like to talk to on a regular basis regardless of their language. What might their age, gender, hobbies and motivation for learning English be? Don’t be afraid to keep looking for a better fit. Similarly, be straightforward in what you need from your partner and what you want to be able to discuss fluently in your target language — do you want to talk about movies or business, for example? Do you have an academic or occupational specialty that you want to be able to talk about?
Meeting with your language partner: Create structure and be prepared
It’s a good idea to list greetings and brainstorm questions before the meeting. Doing this will give you a starting point for the conversation. Try practicing in front of a mirror to gain confidence.
As you improve, keep challenging yourself to learn new vocabulary and grammatical constructions so you do not rely too heavily on particular words and sentence patterns. Challenge yourself by writing single keywords on index cards and using them to practice conversing with your partner or in front of a mirror.
Asking icebreaker questions
When you meet your partner for the first time, here are some questions and answers you might want to have prepared:
What is your hometown like?
What is your favorite __? (book, movie, superhero, music, food, soccer team, etc.)
What do you like to do in your free time?
How many siblings do you have? Do they go to school or work? What do they do?
What do you do as your job?
What is your daily routine like?
What are your hobbies and interests?
If you need more icebreaker questions, search Google for the phrase “conversation questions“or “conversation starters” in your target language. It’s possible that someone has already complied a list of interesting questions. If you are still unable to find a list of questions, try adding qualifiers to your search such as “interesting questions,” “dating questions,” or “school questions.” To help you, we’ve complied a list of question-and-answer sites and language-specific Google searches for each of the nineteen languages WordBrewery teaches. You can find this at the bottom of this post.
Communicate about the exchange and stick to your agreement
If you both decided to practice each language for 30 minutes then switch, be sure to set a timer and stick to that plan. Also, always be punctual when meeting your partner: any last minute cancellations or delays will make the next session more awkward, if it happens at all.
Let the conversation evolve naturally
We have mentioned structure several times because being prepared and structuring the conversation can make the difference between a language exchange session that is useful and one that is not. That said, if you start a conversation about The Godfather and eventually start talking about environmental conservation and climate change, don’t stop! Authentic native conversations evolve from one topic to another. Being too rigid about sticking to your theme will make conversations with your language partner sound stiff and unnatural. At the end of the day, you want to sound like a native, not a robot.
Ask lots of questions, and be sure to listen rather than just planning your next response
Asking how to say something is vital to learning. Part of language-learning is cultural exchange, so don’t be afraid to ask about your partner’s country, religion or politics. Just be polite! If you prepare beforehand, you can even ask these questions in your target language. And don’t forget to make a note of new phrases to review later.
Have you ever participated in a language exchange or partnership? What worked well and what didn’t? Send us a tweet at @WordBrewery and let us know. Also, be sure to try WordBrewery and sign up to get our latest blog posts by email.