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Language Exchange: 12 Great Benefits

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

Nowadays, many language learners are talking about language exchange. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this topic, language exchange, also called language learning tandem, is a way of learning languages in which two people (language partners) with different mother tongues meet to teach each other their own language. So if you speak Spanish and want to learn English, you would meet with someone who speaks English and wants to learn Spanish. Ideally, during the language exchange, you would spend some time speaking Spanish and some speaking English. Although you can do other things besides speaking, the essence of language exchange lies within the oral practice. So now we’re going to see 12 cool benefits of language exchange. I’m sure there are some that you hadn’t even thought of!

1. Oral practice

As I mentioned in the introduction, oral practice is probably one of the most acclaimed benefits of language exchange. Normally, when two people meet to have a language exchange session, they meet at a café, bar, restaurant, or even a park. For this reason, the easiest thing to do is to speak. Besides, the most difficult skill to improve is probably speaking. This is due to several reasons; for instance, it’s not easy to find someone who speaks the language you want to learn. Also, it’s a skill that requires a great deal of practice if you want to sound natural, and it’s a skill that requires someone else to speak to! I mean, you can perform monologues at home, but that’s not real communication, is it?

Well, the easiest way to overcome these problems is language exchange sessions.

2. Individual attention

There are times when one does not feel comfortable with learning a language surrounded by other people whom we don’t know well. This can happen in a language school, for instance. While learning within a group has many advantages, sometimes we can feel uncomfortable or that we need more attention from the teacher in order to improve faster.

Most language exchanges take place on a one-on-one basis, which is great if you feel you need individual attention of your own. This way, the other person can focus only on what you have to say and how you say it, rather than switching from one person to another as a teacher would have to do.

3. Instant feedback

One of the best things about language exchange sessions is that you know if you’re doing well or not. The good thing about having a native speaker in front of you with you to speak is that he or she will know instantly if you’re making mistakes, and will know a correct alternative to teach you. Besides, one of the things everyone asks themselves when learning a language is “Will native speakers understand me?”. Well, a language exchange session is enough to answer this question! Get instant feedback.

4. Live practice

Traditional learning can be great, but it certainly has its drawbacks. When we hear the words “learning” or “studying”, we see ourselves in a classroom or at home, sitting at our desks with open books in front of us, trying to memorise endless lists of concepts. There’s nothing wrong with that unless that’s the only way you do it. In a language exchange session, you can forget about books and about drilling concepts into your brain. During a language learning tandem, you and your partner are there in the flesh, to practice live, there and then. There’s no exam to take and no pressure to study; simply you and your partner. Isn’t it great?

5. Natural practice

When you study at home or in school, unfortunately, everything seems to be a simulation of real-life events. At times, this makes learning less natural and more artificial. With language exchange, this doesn’t have to happen. You are actually talking to someone, not role-playing or acting. Being live practice means that you benefit from natural situations, from real settings, from natural conversations that you would have with a real person in a real setting.

6. Real language practice

While learning from books can also have many advantages, in order to learn a language effectively, you need to be in touch with the real language, which can differ greatly from textbook language. Many proficient speakers of foreign languages often mention how difficult it was for them to understand people the first time they spoke to someone in real life, even though they were already advanced learners. This is completely normal and is owed to the fact that textbook language is usually “ideal” or “utopic”; there’s no background noise, no strong regional accents, there are instructions, etc. With language exchange, you can cut straight to the chase and be in touch with real language all the time, as you will meet with a native speaker of the language you are learning. This will make it easier for you to travel and understand people better.

Moreover, when meeting with a native speaker, you will be able to learn really up-to-date, idiomatic expressions. This means that you will learn words that don’t appear in textbooks; this can be because textbooks are not fully updated or because those expressions are slightly inappropriate, which doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth learning!

7. Real meaningful topics

We keep coming back to how real language exchange sessions can be. Aren’t you fed up with talking about “protecting the environment”, “outdoor activities”, “endangered animals”, “technology and the Internet”, etc. Why not talk about the latest war conflicts around the world, or about the upcoming elections in your country? Why not talk about your plans for this year, or about the latest gossip involving worldwide celebrities? Language exchange allows you to pick and choose what you want to talk about and it doesn’t have to be the good old textbook topic. Be yourself and speak about meaningful things!

8. Flexible location

One of the best things about language exchange is that you can choose where to hold the session. Do you feel like going to a café? Go for it! Are you in the mood for a little bit of sunshine while you chatting in a different language? Sure! You name the place and arrange it with your language exchange partner. It’s just perfect. By changing the place, you can also change what you are learning. Maybe you’d like to learn to order a meal in a bar; well, go to bar and practice! Want to learn some vocabulary of the city? Go for a walk with your partner and ask him or her whatever you want to know.

9. Meet new people

If there’s something that makes language exchange special, apart from all the previous advantages (duh!), is the chance to meet new people. This is especially true when our friends have moved elsewhere or we have, and we’re finding it hard to make new ones. Why not meet someone completely new for a coffee while you learn your favourite foreign language? You’re bound to find someone who you share interests with and with whom you like spending time. You may just find a language partner for life! Who knows? You may even find the love of your life and have bilingual or trilingual children! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and simply remember that language exchange sessions are great to meet great new people!

10. Dynamic activities

Learning a language doesn’t have to happen always in a classroom, with a teacher, a textbook and some classmates sitting next to you. If you set up your own language exchange session, you can plan fun things to do while you practise the language.  Why not go for a walk with your dog and your language partner? How about going to a bar with your partner to watch a sports game? There are endless possibilities, seriously. Simply think about how, what and where you’d like to meet up, and discuss it with your exchange partner.

Learning a language in a genuine context doing real-life activities is probably the most authentic way to learn a language.

11. Group practice

Up to now, we’ve been talking about language partner as in one person, but maybe you and your potential language partner have friends who would also like to learn a language. If so, go ahead and set up a group exchange. This might reduce the stress of meeting someone new for the first time, and 4 or 5 heads will probably come up with more conversation topics than just the 2.

The idea of group practice also affects some of the advantages mentioned above. For instance, you could set up a language exchange session while playing a board game with a group of people, and you will meet more people at the same time, which can be truly positive for your social life, don’t you think?

12. Language exchange sessions are FREE

Last but definitely not least, as we mentioned in a previous post, language exchange can be completely free. Yes, that’s right, no money at all involved. I mean, you can decide to have the exchange in a café, bar, restaurant or somewhere else, but you don’t literally have to. So if you’re running low on cash, simply make sure you meet your language partner somewhere you don’t need to pay for anything. So remember, lack of money does not stop you from learning a new language, so don’t make it an excuse!

If you’re still not convinced about the benefits of language exchange, well, that’s impossible, so nevermind! If you liked this post, don’t forget comment and share. And if you have any questions, ask them below!


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