The internet can be a great tool to advance your language learning progress. I’ve seen my fluency and confidence sky rocket through real life interactions with native speakers online. Based on my own experiences, here are my top 5 tips for successful and enjoyable online language exchange;
When trying out online exchanges it’s helpful to pair up with someone who is at a similar stage in their journey. When speaking to someone more advanced or speaks your native language fluently – it’s easier to fall into the habit of using your native tongue as an unnecessary crutch at times when you feel you can’t express yourself well in your target language. Having a buddy who’s on the same level with you, may also help put you at ease – you’ll both be making the same amount of mistakes!
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t get valuable exchanges between speakers of very different levels. But it will just require a bit more thought and effort to ensure a balance.
2. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Be prepared with: topics to discuss, grammar points you need clarifying or pronunciations you need to work on. In the initial stages when you don’t know someone very well, things can get awkward and boring very quickly – so have a plan to make your first few exchanges run a lot smoother. Once you’ve built somewhat of a friendship with your exchange partner, conversation can flow more organically.
It’s also important to plan how long you want to talk with your exchange partner – however much time you do settle on, make sure you’re spending an equal amount speaking in both of your target languages.
3. The more the merrier (kind of…)
You’ll really be greatly enhancing your online exchange experience by seeking to speak with as many different people as possible. Different people have different experiences to share, speak with different accents, and can offer you different perspectives on how to grasp their language.
But be careful – having too many exchange partners can actually harm your progress. Not only will it eat massively into your time, but it also won’t allow you to develop meaningful exchanges as you’ll be so far spread. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how much time you’re willing to spend online.
4. Follow Up
Once you’ve found a exchange partner you’re clicking with, it’s important to follow up to ensure things don’t fizzle out. Maybe send them a link to an article you think they may appreciate, set up a time to have a Skype call or simply check in on how their learning progress is going.
5. Beware of timezones
When arranging times for language exchange online, remember that your exchange partner is likely living in a different timezone. If you’re anything like me, you may not appreciate being flooded with notifications first thing in the morning, so take into account your different timezones and discuss a mutually suitable timeframe for any exchange to take place.
So that’s it! Speaking to strangers online may go against everything your parents ever taught you as a child – but when it comes to language learning it really is an awesome tool to explore. Give it a go, and see what new things you can learn.