How to Learn English with a Language Partner

Having a language partner is a great way to improve your English, especially your speaking skills. A language partner can:

  • Help build your confidence

  • Tell you what you need to improve

  • Teach you new vocabulary

  • Help improve your pronunciation

Finding a language partner is a great way to make new friends. There are many websites that can help you find one. It's important, though, to make good use of your time with your partner. Here are a few ways to help make your language exchange more effective.

Learn more about your partner

Getting to know your language partner is the first step

Getting to know your partner is actually the most important first step in building your language partnership. Particularly in your first session, I would recommend you take as much time as you can to ask questions about your language partner. Learning things like their favorite music, where they would like to travel and how many people are in their family can help you better understand your partner. Here are some topics you can ask about:

  • Family

  • Friends

  • Hobbies and interests

  • Music, movies, books, and TV

  • Travel

There are more areas you can cover but the above list is a good start. Make sure you ask a few questions for details, too. Remember to always be respectful and avoid asking questions that may make your partner uncomfortable.

Set a language exchange schedule

Whatever you schedule, gets done!

Language exchanges often fail because a regular schedule wasn't set. Before going into a language exchange, it's important to keep a steady time and day for you and your language partner to meet. Having a schedule also makes the language exchange more meaningful. It might be a little difficult to create this new habit but after a few sessions, you will get used to it.

Be sure to give your partner at least 1-2 days notice if you can't participate in a session. Remember that they are setting aside time to cooperate with you. Respecting their time is just as important as your own.

Decide on a topic before each session

News and current events are a good place to start

Another reason I've noticed why language exchanges fail is that language partners start a session and have nothing to talk about. The reason is that they treat the language exchange like meeting with a friend. While you should try to be friends with your partner, it's important to remember that you are both limited in your language skills.

Deciding on a topic before each session gives you and your partner time to prepare. Preparation can come from many places:

  • Reading an article

  • Watching a video (e.g. TED Talks)

  • Watching an episode of a TV show

  • Reading a short passage or even a book

  • Listening to a podcast

  • Photographs

After doing these things, you can prepare questions you want to ask, vocabulary you don't understand, pronunciation you want to practice, and grammar points you need help with. Preparation is important for building a good relationship with your language partner. It will help ensure the language exchange becomes more consistent.

Keep the partnership equal

Be on the same team

The biggest reason I feel language exchanges fail is that at least one partner treats the other like a teacher. A language exchange isn't like a class with a tutor or teacher. Your partner is probably neither trained nor is being paid to teach you. Avoid doing all of the following:

  • Taking away from your partner's part of the session

  • Using a textbook (unless you have a specific question)

  • Expecting your partner to know grammar rules

  • Asking your partner to prepare material for you

  • Having your partner do too many exercises with you

It's also important to remember that you are doing a language EXCHANGE. That means that your partner is supposed to learn from the experience as well. If you have one hour for your session, then 30 minutes should be dedicated to your partner's learning. Preparation helps keep things focused so that both you and your partner get what you expected.

Well-organized language exchanges are great for improving your English. You get to work with a native English speaker who can help you improve. In order for language exchange to be successful, you need to keep it organized and consistent. Prepare yourself before each session, respect your partner's time, and keep a steady schedule for your sessions.

There you have it! I hope this has been useful. If so, share this article with someone who wants to learn English, follow us on Instagram and try making some examples in the comments below!

See you in the next lesson!

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