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Language Exchange: First Contact


#1

I’d love to hear stories about people’s initial experiences with finding language exchange partners. It’s something that I’ve been putting off, and I hope that hearing other people’s stories will bolster my own confidence. How did it go? What level student were you? What platform did you use (or was it IRL)? What advice would you give to someone who’s new at it?


#2

@psamet I’ve never used an official language exchange, I was lucky enough to know some people that already could speak English but were willing to speak to me in Chinese to help me practice. Language exchanges would be a great way to improve your speaking if you don’t have the environment or know anybody that can practice with you IRL.

ChinesePod did a blog post about an app called HelloTalk, but I could never get the app to work as I could never create an account.

I also heard that iTalki.com is a good site for online language exchange.


#3

I started seeking language exchange partners after a few months of studying mandarin. It was and still is a great experience for me. I have made many good friends from language meet ups. I use this website www.conversationexchange.com , its free and you can use it for any language and any location in the world.

At first it was a bit nerve wracking because I was a beginner and didn’t have much to say beyond the basic formalities. As I progressed and still am, it has gotten much better. The best language partners force you to speak your target language. If I could give any advice, I would say just start contacting people. The reality is, you will most likely have to meet a few people before you find someone who has a schedule that works with yours and that you get along well with.

When I traveled to Taiwan earlier this year, I used this same site to meet people there. I made a good amount of friends that to this day I still am in contact with. If you ever decide to travel to China, Taiwan, or anywhere for that matter, I also recommend using this site to meet people. Not only will you get language practice, but they will be the best tour guides!


#4

@psamet My first language experience happened when I met a group of foreign exchange students who were in Brazil. We had a brief conversation, my English was poor, and I was nervous. But that short experience already got me curious to learn a new language.

After that, I started studying English and went to the US to study engineering, where I could meet people from all over the world.
At first it was tough because I felt like I wasn’t able to communicate properly. That fact kept me from speaking a lot in the first days. After some time I felt more confident and started risking more, which made me realize that risking and practicing are the base of learning a new language.

My first thought when I got more comfortable communicating with people was: “It’s interesting to see how people express themselves differently in English depending on where they come from.” There’s this saying: “When you learn a new language you acquire a new soul.” I completely agree.
After I became fluent, I came back to Brazil, and met my German girlfriend. Getting in touch was only possible because I had thrown myself out there and learned English, and I’m really glad I did :slight_smile:

What I’m saying is: you should get started somewhere. It will take time, it will be frustrating, and may not be fun in the beginning. But I call tell you, being able to communicate with someone who has a completely different culture, language, background, and “soul” is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced.

This amazing article will give you some tips to get started with language exchange. It explains why engaging in conversation adds to your learning process and even helps you to find native speakers to practice with.

What if I tell you there is an app making the process even easier and more fun?
Bilingua is an app that is currently in beta testing and is becoming the most exciting language exchange app of this year. It features a cute bot to guide you in your language exchange and uses advanced algorithms to find your best language partner!
We would love your help in testing and improving our product which we believe will revolutionise language exchange and learning.


#6

I also found language exchanges tremendously useful. If you are in China, try to find a locally based website for the city that you are in (like since I live in Kunming I use gokunming.com, an ex pat run site, to find language partners in its classified section- I post an ad and people respond usually). If you are an American in the US, if you are close to a university or college, chances are there will be a significant population of Chinese students and visiting scholars so post an ad to reach out to them (either online or on the campus) to set up an exchange. I have found they are eager to do those kinds of exchanges in the US to meet other Americans.

It’s invaluable practice and helps you get past typical chit-chat to more interesting in depth discussions about topics. Though you may not mesh well with every partner so you might have to find more than one. I’m pretty strict about distinguishing between time when you just speak Mandarin and when you just speak English because you get the most benefit out of it that way.