For the vast majority of people that I meet, the main goal of learning a language is to improve their spoken language. Whether it is so they can meet people from other countries, go to a foreign university, or work in an international company, English speaking is a very sought after skill.
Many people spend thousands of dollars on classes and private tutors all to help them become more fluent. But, what if I told you there is a completely free way to improve your spoken English skills.
In this article, I want to go over the amazing opportunity that is Language Exchange Partners. This article will show you how to find a language exchange partner, how they can help you, and what you need to do to speak English fluently.
What is a Language Exchange Partner?
A language exchange partner is someone who will help you learn their native language, while you help teach them yours. So, if you are from China and you want to speak English, then you can find someone from an English-speaking country that wants to learn Chinese. You can then set up online meet-ups to practice speaking your target language.
Who are Language Exchanges For?
Language exchanges are for people who want to know how to speak English fluently for free. Ideally, you will both need to have at least an intermediate level of your language before starting. Since your partner won’t be a real teacher, you will want to have solid grammar skills before starting.
As well, language exchanges are for people who are willing to sacrifice time for money. Language exchanges are free, but because you will be teaching your own language as well, it will take longer to get your practicing minutes in.
Language exchanges are also best used by self-motivated students. It can be easy to find and set up a language exchange, but much harder to stick to a weekly schedule of meetups. Language exchanges are best when both parties want to learn.
Which Websites are the Best?
There are lots of websites out there that do language exchanges, here are the ones that we think are the best.
Italki is probably the most well-known site for language exchanges on the internet. This means that it has lots of people online for you to chat with. More people means a better chance that you can find someone that you like and want to learn with.
Italki does have paid tutors, but the language exchange portion of the site is 100% free. Italki also has some great content in their blog to help you with the specifics of English learning.
The Mixxer is a free language exchange site set up by Dickinson College in the US. The Mixxer allows you to find partners around the world who want to learn your language. After you find a partner, you will then move to Skype where you can practice as much as you like.
Tandem is a nice language exchange app that focuses on trying to find you someone that you will connect with. Although you should be mainly concerned with which language they speak, Tandem also believes that having a personal connection can help you learn better. If you want to find someone that shares your interests, maybe Tandem is a great choice for you.
How to Get The Most Out of a Language Exchange Partner
I have had several language partners over the years, and I find there are several important factors that determine whether it will be successful or not.
Pick the Right Partner
You want to find a partner that connects with you and is dedicated to learning a language. Both of these qualities can be hard to find, so it may take a couple of tries to find the right person. You want someone that you re happy to chat about and with whom you share interested. You also want someone that is going to show up week after week. Find these two qualities, and it will help you succeed in your language studies.
Make Sure You Speak English
It can be easy to slip into your native language, especially if your partner is more advanced in your language than you are in theirs. Speaking in English can be hard, but you need to make sure to use English as much as you can. At the end of the day, this is a practice opportunity for you, and you need to make the most of that opportunity.
Although I have never had an issue with safety online personally, it is important to stay safe. Especially for women, you need to be aware that there can be unsavory people online. Never give out your information, and if you feel uncomfortable leave and find a new partner.
Countries that Speak English
Many websites will ask you to filter by country when looking for a language exchange partner. So, you need to know which countries speak English. Many people assume that the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and the UK are the only English speaking country, but that’s not true.
Here is a list of countries that all have strong English speaking communities.
Antigua and Barbuda
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
If you are looking for a particular accent, you may want to tailor the list to meet your needs. Obviously, if you want to speak English like an American, then you should limit your search to the United States or Canada. However, all of these countries officially speak English or are de-facto English-speaking counties. If you are finding it hard to find a language exchange partner in your first choice of country, maybe try one of these other countries.
Is a Language Exchange Partner Good For Kids?
I don’t find language exchanges to be great for kids. In reality, there are few English-speaking kids looking for language partners, and adults don’t want a child as a language partner.
If your child needs language practice and you can’t find another child in the area to practice with, then you could look at Cambly Kids to help. It costs quite a bit, but it would help get your child one-on-one time with English speakers.
Language exchanges are a great, free way to get speaking practice online. Whether you want to speak like an American or just want to be more competent on a business call, language exchanges can help you improve your English.
Look for partners that work well with you and make sure to filter by countries that speak English when you are having trouble finding a partner. Language exchange partners are the perfect way to speak English online, and doing so can help you meet your English goals in a budget that works for everyone.
Before you start language exchanges, I recommend that you have solid English basics. This starts with great phonics skills that you can learn here for free.
If you would rather pay and get more talk time, then maybe take a look at our review of Cambly to see if that may be better for you.