Advice for doing language exchanges

When you begin to study a language, it’s very important to rapidly put in practice what you are learning. It doesn’t matter whether you’re still a beginner, if you quickly begin to use the new words and vocabulary that you’re learning you will soon feel more comfortable with what you’re discovering in class. Although you can search for spontaneous situations in which to speak, doing an exchange with someone who wants to practice your language is one of the best ways to improve your Spanish. On the face of it, it would seem as though there would be nothing easier than sitting and talking with someone, but there are certain things that you should have in mind to make the best of the experience.

With whom?

+There are various events and groups in the city where you can meet people that want to do an exchange.

             -If you’re a beginner, it’s better to choose places where you canhave short and casual conversations with a lot of different people. This will give you a sense of security and will allow you to practice the basics many times without boring either yourself or the person you’re talking with. For example:

  >http://mundolingo.org/buenos-aires              >http://spanglishexchange.com/

             -If you can already use the present tense well, it’s better to look onlanguage exchange websites and organize one-on-one meetups.

>http://www.conversationexchange.com/?lg=es

+ It’s always difficult to talk for a long time with a stranger if it’s in another language. Try to meet up with 3 or 4 different people and choose the friendliest one to talk with — or the one with whom you have the most in common. There’s nothing wrong with treating it like an interview!

+If possible, try to do an exchange with someone who has a similar language level to yours. This way, you will both have more patience with each other and be able to better understand each other’s difficulties.

How?

+It’s important that in the first meet-up you come to an agreementabout certain rules that are going to help you make good use of your time.

            -Equal time in each language. If you are going to talk for an hour, make sure that it’s 30 minutes in each language. If you are going to meet up for half an hour, divide the time in 15 minute blocks. Many people get excited about talking and, without realizing it, neglect the other’s time. Others are very timid and prefer to speak less in the language that they were hoping to practice. A pact is the best way of avoiding problems.

            – Scrupulously respect the language that is being spoken in each time block. Instinctively, you are going to want to use your own language in the moments in which you don’t know how to say something in Spanish. But, if you do this, you won’t improve at all. Moreover, it’s useful for your brain to understand that there are moments when you speak your native language, and there are moments when you speak Spanish. The brain is basically lazy, and it’s always going to prefer to use the language which requires the least amount of effort. Don’t let it do this! You can also have in mind the following strategies:

                                 < If there are words that you don’t know, don’t use your own language. Instead, try to explain what you wish to say with other words in Spanish that you do know, or using gestures or drawings. This helps you to keep thinking in the same language and it helps you to connect words in your mind that have similar meanings. For example, if you want to remember the word for “house”, ask: “¿como se dice el edificio donde una persona vive?” As a result, the word “casa” in your brain is going to remain associated with the words for “edificio” and “vivir”, that maybr will be used in a common conext.                                  >Try to resolve grammatical problems that you have by using other grammatical structures that you do know. For example, if you don’t know the past tense, it’s better to say “yo como ayer” (I eat yesterday) than to say the phrase in your own language.

+Always take a notebook to these language meet-ups and write down new vocabulary and expressions that the other person uses and which you think could be useful to you.

+If you’re not sure that you understand the meaning of what your language partner said, or whether you know how to use that same phrase correctly, it’s always better to ask. The same is true if you don’t know whether the word you heard is for formal or informal language use. Encourage your language partner to do the same when it’s their turn.

+Ask the other person how much they want to be corrected. There are people who don’t want corrections and only want the chance to speak. Ask yourself what you prefer, too, and explain to your language partner what types of corrections you want:

             – Only when they don’t understand you?

             – For small errors?

             – For grammatical errors?

             – For pronunciation?

+Try not to interrupt your language partner to correct them. Instead, it’s better to note down the corrections and then to bring them up once your language partner has finished sharing their idea. Ask your language partner that they do the same for you. In this way, both of you will feel more comfortable.

+Sometimes it’s difficult to find topics of conversations. Therefore, it’s sometimes better not to just meet up and talk.

                – Go to the movie theater or to see a play. This will allow you to talk about subjects related to what you just watched.

                 – Go to an art exhibition. Talking about art, or the exhibition itself, can be a good topic.

                  – Play some type of game.

                  – Go out to eat. There is an infinite vocabulary related to food.

                  – Even when you meet up only to talk, try to have some topics in mind: photos, news, books you’re reading, music that you’re listening to. All of these topics can help to facilitate an interesting conversation.

Ñ de Español · Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires.

Desde 2007 acercándole el español a la gente.

Enie de Español