How can I have a more effective language exchange?

A language exchange should be more than just a nice talk with a stranger about anything in any way. Thus, you want to make sure that you develop a balanced curriculum that fits the needs and goals of both sides. To help you build your curriculum, you may consider these basic steps:

1. Follow a Structure

A good structure might include the following steps:


Know your current language level

You may already know what level of student you are. If you aren’t sure, you can use the chart on the wikipedia article “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages” to determine whether you are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, or C2. This is the same language level system that italki uses for our users’ profiles.

There also are plenty of quick language tests on the Internet. If you want to test your English Level, you can find information about that on the italki support forum here: “What is the Oxford Online Placement Test (OOPT)?”

Once you have assessed your own level, consider what level of partner you would like to find. Do you want to work with someone on the same level as you, or someone who’s level in your own language is higher or lower?


Start by practicing the basic structures of both languages

Search for information about how each language uses these basic parts of speech:
nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, and prepositions. You can also search for an overview of how each language handles verb conjugations and tenses. When you ask your language partner about them, you'll already have a basic understanding and will be able to build on that understanding more quickly.  You might want to think about how your own language uses these parts of speech as well, since your language partner might have questions for you, too!


Keep raising your goals: level up little by little

As soon as you notice that you are making good progress, you should begin increasing the complexity or difficulty of your sentences and conversation topics. This will help you improve and keep you from becoming bored. You can do this by making more complex sentences or simply using the same sentences but using them more quickly. Keep finding new, fun ways to challenge yourself and your language partner!


2. Be Specific

Many language exchanges fail because students try to cover too many topics too quickly. Therefore, you should set your focus on a specific topic for each session.  See “What are some good language exchange topics?” for some ideas. Choose a narrow topic to discuss with your partner, and learn it confidently instead of trying to learn too much and becoming overwhelmed.


3. Measure your Results

In order to measure your results, you and your language partner can construct exercises or simply count the mistakes you made during the session for one another. If you keep a diary or journal of your progress, make lists of your goals and congratulate yourself when you achieve them! Record the new things you are learning so you can look back and see how far you have come! Ask your language partner for their opinion of your progress, and give your opinion of theirs. Make sure you are also giving your language partner feedback so he or she can also improve.

If you have already taken a language assessment test, challenge yourself to take the test again or to take a higher level of the test.  You and your language partner can encourage each other to improve your test scores!

Ask for feedback

You might be nervous to receive feedback or you might not want to offend your language partner, but language exchange depends on feedback. To make it easier, speak with your language partner at the beginning of your exchange about how you would like to receive feedback, and ask them how they would like you to give them feedback. For example, some people want to be corrected right away when they make a mistake, but others would prefer not to be interrupted and would rather hear a summary of their mistakes later. Consider what you would prefer, share this with your language partner, and ask your language partner how you can best give them feedback.

 Have a great language exchange!

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