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Pros and Cons of an Online Language Exchange Partner


Practicing with a language exchange partner is a great way to help you learn a language. In this article, we will look into the pros and cons of language exchange partners, and who is best suited to benefit from it. I’ll start by giving a brief overview of how language exchanges work. Feel free to skip to the next section if you already know this.


Language exchanges work best when they involve native speakers. For example, if you’re learning Spanish, your best language partner would ideally be a native Spanish speaker who wants to learn your language, presumably English. Speaking with and listening to a native speaker is an invaluable opportunity to see the language as it is “on the street”, and not what you might find in a text book. You can do an exchange with someone who isn’t a native speaker, of course, but look for someone who is advanced in your target language.  


Typically, you’d give equal time to each language. So if you planned out an hour to chat, you’d spend 30 minutes chatting in English and 30 minutes chatting in Spanish. It might help to break the time into small increments, maybe 15 minutes at a time. 


How To Find A Language Exchange Partner 


Some of the best places to find a language partner are on websites dedicated to conversation exchanges, Italki and Tandem are two examples. Along with these, social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit are great ways to find exchange partners, either in groups or through hashtags.


Language partners can be great, but they also have their downsides. Let’s look at the pros vs the cons. 


Pros


Having a language exchange partner is free. You can practice without the price of a tutor or classes. For people who have a high level of fluency and want to keep up their language skills, this is a great way to practice. 


There are many online language exchange options, you can practice no matter where you are in the world. You just need an internet connection and time.


It is an opportunity to form cross-cultural international friendships. If you are planning to travel, or study abroad, meeting language exchange partners ahead of time is a great way to practice the language and build relationships before you even get to your destination!


Cons


Time. You will likely have to spend some time looking for a good fit. There is a wide variety of potential exchange partners out there, and the range is from very dedicated to super casual. It might take a few sessions to find something mutually beneficial. It’s worth noting here that there are people who are looking for more than a language partner (wink wink), and are using the exchange as a way to meet people. If that’s not what you want, be very clear about that to your prospective partners.

Getting stuck with a partner that is of a level too dissimilar to yours. Some students may not be able to hold a conversation in your native language or demand quite a bit of explanation or corrections. This can often lead to an exchange feeling very one-sided, as one person requires significantly more attention.


Finally, less structure, correction and guidance. In a class, a teacher will stop you regularly to correct your grammar, as well as bring up new concepts for you to study. Don’t expect language exchange partners to break down the grammar thoroughly. This is especially critical for native speakers of English learning Spanish. As with other romance languages, Spanish is fairly grammatically complex. For this reason language exchange partners are better suited for upper-intermediate or advanced speakers that already have a strong grammatical base in the language. While learning your target language, you don’t want to unknowingly create bad habits, so this is only a good idea as a supplement to your regular classes while learning.


In conclusion, a language exchange partner is a great tool to practice a language in which you already have a good foundation. If for example, you don’t need more than occasional corrections while speaking. When you are still learning the basics of a language, having clear guidance, grammar lessons, and corrections are essential to building a strong foundation. It’s much easier to nip a problem in the bud, rather than correct a long standing bad habit.This is why classes, or a tutor, is recommended for language learners until they have a strong grasp of their language.


~ If you enjoyed this article please share it with friends and give my page a like on Facebook!~
~I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~



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