If you’re reading this article, chances are you understand the importance of picking up a second language. In today’s ever-globalized society, language skills have become key in landing jobs, getting better travel opportunities, and making connections with people from all over.
A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience confirms that speaking a second language does improve your brain’s cognitive functions and helps delay the signs of aging. Learning a language takes lots of practice, and speaking is one of the best ways to pick it up fast. This is where language exchange comes in.

An introduction to language exchange

Simply put, language exchange is when you team up with a partner and converse in your own respective languages. If you’re an English speaker who wants to learn Spanish, for example, you’d pair up with a Spanish speaker who wants to learn English.

There are no strict guidelines to adhere to when it comes to how long each session should be, but the time should be evenly split between the two partners. Going back to the previous example, an hour-long session would mean that you and your partner will spend 30 minutes speaking in English and then 30 minutes speaking in Spanish.

Getting started

There are lots of avenues to language exchange. Our previous post on finding an English language exchange partner emphasizes the convenience of mobile apps when it comes to connecting with a partner right away. Apps and online websites are a great way to easily find people; there’s also the added convenience of being able to hold sessions from the comfort of your own home.

Sometimes, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in foreign surroundings. Traveling abroad is the perfect opportunity to engage in language exchange, especially if you’re trying to practice a widely-spoken language. For example, Daydreaming in Paradise notes that English is one of the major languages in the Philippines—if you’re looking to brush up on your English, why not speak to a local? Befriending locals is the best way to see a different side of your surroundings, one that you might not have had access to otherwise. Plus, chances are you’ll find someone who is equally as interested in learning your own language.

Proper etiquette

Verywell Mind’s guide to active listening recommends asking questions, summarizing what’s just been said, and using nonverbal cues such as leaning in and nodding to show your partner that they’re being heard. These tactics can also help you focus your attention, which will then help you spot any errors in speech or common mistakes that your partner might be making.

Even though your language exchange can be through informal conversations, it’s still important that you’re aware of the other person’s time. Both parties should agree on the lesson beforehand in order to prepare accordingly; it’s also important that you give constructive feedback and be patient with your partner (just like they’re being patient with you).

All in all, language exchange is a great way to stay motivated and foster relationships through language. Finding the right partner and sticking to your schedule can advance your progress by leaps and bounds, and you’ll be fluent before you know it!

Article specially written for Hellotalk.com

By Raqz James