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6 Things I’ve Learnt From Language Exchange (Guest: Lindsay Does Languages)

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

Practice makes perfect. We’ve heard this said about everything from cooking to riding a bike and learning a musical instrument to learning a language. But how do you practise a language?

One of the best ways is language exchange. But hey, you’re already on the uTandem blog! You know this!

In this post, I’m sharing 6 things I’ve learnt from language exchange.

1. Speak sooner

The first thing I’ve learnt from my language learning in recent years is to speak sooner. Language exchange is a great way to make this happen. You can find someone and get chatting to see just how well you get on before asking them if they fancy chatting on Skype and before you know it you’re speaking that language. The best thing to do here is to set a rough schedule and stick to it so you’re both on the same page. The most common solution seems to be 1 hour a week during which you spend 30 minutes speaking one language and the other 30 speaking the other. Everyone’s happy! One thing I like about uTandem is how you can organise potential language partners by distance, making it even easier to meet up and speak in real life.

2. Emoji are good for filling in gaps

I’m going to throw it out there. We’re so lucky to live in a world with emoji. Who doesn’t love their happy little faces?! I even find myself sending an emoji to express something that I don’t know how I’d say in words. For example, ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji. How do you express that feeling in words?!

So let’s use this for language learning. Just like we can’t always think of the perfect words in our native language, it’s going to happen (probably even more) when we’re using other languages. Fill those gaps with emoji. That way, everyone understands.

3. You’re better than you think

It’s very easy to be completely oblivious to your progress when you’re studying a language alone. It’s like when you watch a puppy or a baby grow up in your home. You see it every day, it doesn’t seem to change until one day you suddenly notice how much it’s grown. WOAH! I always recommend documenting the process of language learning and language exchange can be a great way to show yourself just how good you are – and even document it if you want to record your sessions for reference. When people understand you speaking a new language, that feeling of reward is just too awesome.

4. It’s ok not to know a word

Woohoo! Probably one of the most important things to remember when learning a new language: you can’t be expected to know everything. And that’s ok. You know how I said earlier that emojis fill a gap when words fail me even when I’m communicating in English? Well, I’m sure that those gaps happen to you too in your native language. But we forget this happens. And we need to remember it. One of the best things you can do when learning a language is to develop the skill of working around a word we don’t know and still express ourselves completely in the target language.

5. People are just as nervous and awkward as you are

If the thought of language exchange brings up awkward memories of the inevitable…



‘how are you?’

‘good thanks. you?’

…early conversations, as frustrating as they are, they’re a nice reminder that everyone else is probably feeling just as awkward or nervous as you when it comes to finding the perfect language partner. Not only are you having to meet someone new, you’re also having to decide if you have enough in common to talk, and figure all of this out in different languages. It’s ok if that’s a bit awkward.

6. Digital and face to face are just as valuable

One of the major concerns people get in touch with me about is not having enough practice of their target language. This is normally because they don’t live in a country that speaks that language and they haven’t found any native speakers (that they also have enough in common with) in their local area.  Totally understandable.  Well, the good news is that language exchange is going digital. Which means we now have no excuse.  Apps like uTandem are opening up the world to us to even more speakers and potential language exchange partners. And that can only be a good thing. Yay!

What’s the best thing you’ve learnt from language exchange? Share in the comments!


Lindsay Dow is a dedicated language tutor, blogger, and video maker from Milton Keynes, England. When she’s not teaching languages, she’s learning them herself and documenting the process of lindsaydoeslanguages.com and her YouTube channel. When she’s not doing that, she’s playing with her tortoise Gonzo who speaks a grand total of zero languages.

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Remember to download uTandem right now (iOS or Android) and practise your favourite language with other awesome native speakers like yourself for free. Oh, and don’t forget to review us on the App Store and Google Play! 🙂


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