Many people would like to learn another language but are unsure where to start. The best place to begin is with a language partner (also called a language exchange partner).
A language partner is a native speaker of a language you’re studying and who wants to learn your native language. You and your language partner work together to understand one another’s languages. The process means spending time together speaking each other’s language. The language partner will correct you, and you will correct them.
Language partners can agree to meet in person or virtually (or a combination). However, in-person meetings usually benefit you and your language partner the most. While you learn the spoken language, you learn nonverbal communication simultaneously.
Having a language partner means having someone dedicated to teaching you the grammar and correct pronunciation. You also learn about the country’s culture where your new language is spoken. A language partner provides you with well-rounded experience in a new language. They bring more than book knowledge of your new language and culture. Plus, you gain more practice outside of class, especially speaking the language.
Table of Contents
Finding the Right Language Partner
While it may seem like a daunting task to find the right language partner, you do have various options to explore. Both you and the language partner need to be somewhat compatible. It’s best if you both share some interests and agree on setting guidelines for your meetings. In addition, it’s best if you’re both at the same level in your native languages.
Language partners don’t have to be friends; they need to get along and have interests in common. It’s best to find someone who is patient, is a good listener, and wants to help another person learn their language.
One thing to watch for is a language partner not set on a mutual exchange of languages. In this case, they are more interested in learning your language and won’t give you much time to learn theirs. A language partner of this type is not interested in helping you learn their language.
If your language exchange does happen to go in one direction, be sure to speak up. If they are not happy to help you learn their language, it’s recommended that you find another language partner who wants to help you, too. Your language exchanges should have time for both languages.
Where to Find Language Partners
The good news is that finding a language partner’s not too difficult. There are many options to choose from. You may want to start with a Google search for a language partner near you.
Do you live near a university? If so, you can put up flyers with your information. International students on campus may be interested in a language exchange. And if you live in a large city, you can find a language partner for face-to-face meetings. Check listings for language partners or language exchanges on sites such as Facebook or Meetup. Another idea is to check out groups on Reddit to see if there are requests for language exchange partners. You may be able to find a language partner who would prefer in-person meetings.
Are you attending a language school? If so, you may find flyers or meet someone who would like to do a language exchange to help you learn their language as they learn your language.
If you prefer virtual meetings, you’re in luck! There are plenty of platforms that make it easy to find a language exchange partner, including the following:
This language partner site has been around for years and is still a popular place to meet a language partner. You can search for a language partner in a language you want to learn.
The search is done by seeking a language partner in your home country or another country. You can also choose their learning level (from beginner to proficient), their town, and whether you’d like to learn face-to-face, via correspondence (pen-pal), or using a chat software (such as Skype). You can also choose the person’s age and gender.
We did an experimental search, and it was pretty easy to find several language partners. Our language pairs were English and Czech.
iTalki is another popular site to find a language partner. It’s easy to find a teacher; just click on the “Find a Teacher” tab and choose your language, lesson category (such as conversation), lesson time, etc.
One note—this is not a free site. Your language partner is more like a teacher; they charge for each lesson. The teacher sets the price for their lessons, so you must look for a teacher in your price range. You can book a trial lesson, however.
Speaky is an app, though you can also use a web version. The app is available for both iOS and Android. All you have to do is register for free and search for a language partner. You can do this by hitting the “live” button to find a partner. The search results show who is currently online and available for a chat.
Speaky also offers a “Find Friends” menu, where you can learn something about a person before contacting them. The menu shows which languages they speak and the languages they are studying, their gender, age, interests, and nationality.
Once you’ve found a language partner, you can chat through the app’s system via text or chat. The app has its own calling system (similar to Skype). One more note—this service is entirely free.
My Language Exchange
My Language Exchange is one of the most popular sites with a very good reputation. You can find a wide range of people and languages, and many of the site users are still active, so it’s easy to find a language partner.
You need to sign up for a free account, create a free profile, and search for the right language partner. The search allows you to filter language partners by country, languages spoken, and age. So you can more easily find a language partner that’s a good fit.
Bilingua is another popular site that helps you easily find a language partner. This is a website that connects you with others who have similar interests. When you’ve found the right language partner, Shiro (the site’s bot) helps to guide the conversation between you and your language partner. The bot suggests conversation topics, current happenings (based on your interests), and more.
The site also offers some fun games you can play with your language partner or challenge Shiro to help with your language skills. And the price is right—this is a free site where you can have fun learning a new language!
Online vs. In-Person Language Partners
Is there a difference between online vs in-person language partners? Yes, there are some things to consider before choosing an online or in-person language partner.
The advantages of online language partners include:
- Access anywhere: an online language partner can be accessed from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can get together from any mobile device, including a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Just ensure your device has a webcam and a microphone, and you’re ready to talk!
- More choice: when choosing an online language partner, you can choose from a broader range of people than those who can get together in person. It’s much easier to find the right language partner online.
- Learn for free: many of the online platforms are free and easy to use.
- Online learning is best for beginners: learning a new language can be challenging, especially for those who move to the country where the new language is spoken. You can learn the foundation of a new language online before jumping into a new culture.
The advantages of learning in person:
Real-world experience: having an in-person language partner means you gain more proficiency and learn to speak and think like a native speaker. It’s also possible to share cultural experiences in person and more.
Stay safe and healthy: talking with an online language partner also protects you both. Your security and health are protected.
Share cultural experiences: sharing cultural experiences with your language partner in person is possible. You can visit traditional restaurants for both cultures, exhibits, and much more to gain some insight and experience with one another’s culture and language.
The cons of online and in-person language partners:
- Limited in-person exchanges: learning your new language in person is much deeper than doing so online. Face-to-face meetings mean language immersion, the best way to gain language proficiency.
- Culture shock: is one of the best ways to learn a new language. If you’re learning online, you bypass this valuable way to learn your new language. While culture shock is anything but fun, it does allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your new culture and language.
What Does a Language Partner Do?
First, it’s crucial to understand that a language partner is not a teacher. Sure, they will help you learn the language, but they are not a traditional, official language teacher. The role of a language partner is to provide you with interactive practice in your target language (the language you want to learn).
The language partner will help you with pronunciation and grammar, as they allow you to use and develop your new language skills. A language partner may also teach you more about their culture and the language you’re learning.
Speaking of culture, when working with a language partner, learning about their culture is normal. Learning a new language is one thing, but learning that new language with cultural knowledge is a completely different experience. For one thing, you learn more about the people, their values, and other cultural nuances. Knowing the culture of a country helps you to better understand the language.
With in-person meetings, you and your language partner have the opportunity to do things together. You might choose to visit traditional restaurants of one another’s countries or go to cultural exhibitions together. This is not only an excellent opportunity to learn a new language but also to learn about the culture of other countries and regions.
Maximizing the Language Exchange
Here, you’ll find tips on how to do a language exchange and make it work for you and your language partner!
1. Determine Expectations
On the first meeting (if not before), it’s best for you and your language partner to determine how the exchange will work. You may want to have an hour-long session for each language. So, you both must agree to a 2-hour session each time you meet.
2. Determine Goals
What do you both want to get out of your language exchange sessions? Do you want to improve your pronunciation and learn to speak like a native speaker? Does your language partner want to learn more vocabulary and grammar?
Set the goals you both want to achieve during your sessions together.
3. Divide Time Evenly
Finally, you want to ensure that the time allotted for the language exchange is equally divided. What do we mean? You and your language partner receive the same amount of time for learning one another’s language. This is only fair.
4. How to Deal with Corrections
You and your language partner must also determine how to deal with corrections. Do you want to be corrected for every mistake or only when your meaning isn’t clear? Do you want to be corrected in your native language (if the language partner’s language level allows)? Do you mind being interrupted, or will this make you more confused?
Do you want your partner to explain things in-depth?
5. Plan Topics Head of Time
To get the most out of your language exchange, it’s helpful to plan topics to talk about before your meeting. You can also bring an article or exercise to discuss with the language partner. This way, you don’t lack things to talk about, and you learn more about the culture and the language simultaneously.
6. Ask for Feedback
When practicing your target language, ask for feedback from your language partner. If you make a mistake, that’s OK! You learn from mistakes.
Your partner may be uncomfortable with offering feedback as they may fear causing offense. However, you’ll both need to learn to take and make corrections with grace and a smile!
Clear goals and expectations are necessary for any language exchange. Without these, your sessions won’t be maximized, and you could end up wasting time and not learning anything beneficial.
During your language exchange, you and your language partner will converse on a wide range of topics. So, what should you talk about? Here are some topics you can use during your language exchange sessions:
- Where did you grow up? What was it like?
- What’s your dream job?
- What’s your favorite time of year?
- What’s the weirdest thing about your language?
- What’s the best decision you’ve ever made? What would have happened if you hadn’t made it?
- Do you ever send letters? Why (or why not)?
- Do you like sending postcards?
- What is a normal day for an adult in your culture?
Structuring Language Sessions
Do you and your language partner want a more structured language session? If so, follow these tips!
1. Determine the type of exchange: there are many ways to have a language exchange. For instance, you may want speaking practice, while others may prefer texting their language partner. This is also the perfect time to choose the timing for your sessions:
- Would you like to have an hour-long session split into 30-minute segments for you and your language partner?
- Would it be better for you both to have a one-hour session each?
- Do you want to speak one language per session and the other language at the next session?
These are important questions to answer either before or during your first language exchange session.
2. Use a timer: this ensures you both have an equal amount of time to practice your language skills.
3. Corrections: it’s also important to choose how to handle corrections.
4. Plan topics ahead: if you prefer structured language exchange sessions, it can also be helpful to plan topics ahead of time.
5. Take notes: it’s also a good idea to take a notebook to each session, as writing notes out can help you retain more information. You and your language partner can also agree on a place (online is best) to share notes from each of your sessions. This helps you both gauge what the other is having trouble with, such as pronunciation, grammar, etc.
6. Come prepared: always try to come prepared for each of your language exchange sessions. Be sure to ask questions, have some topics prepared in advance, and be ready to learn.
Finally, remember that your language partner is not a teacher, and neither are you. A language exchange should be a fun learning experience for you both!
Frequently Asked Questions about Language Partners
How do I find a partner to learn a language?
When searching for a language partner, it’s best to choose someone near your own age who has similar interests. If you use an online tool to find a partner, their search functions usually make it easy to find a suitable language partner.
What does a language partner do?
A language partner helps you learn a new language, but they are not teachers. The language partner is someone you can converse with in your target language. They can offer insights into pronunciation, grammar, and cultural issues. It may also be possible to have different cultural experiences together to learn each other’s language and culture.
How do I get the most out of a language exchange partner?
You can get more out of your language exchange sessions by doing the following:
- Give and receive language help (don’t just take the language partner’s assistance)
- Try to meet up at least once a week online or in person
- Prepare before each session (study, practice the language on your own, have questions/topics written down in advance)
It’s crucial to remember that learning a language and practicing with a language exchange partner takes discipline and dedication. These tips can help you get the most out of your language exchange sessions.
What are the benefits of a language partner?
- Cultural and language exchanges
- Conversation and speaking practice
- Correction and feedback
- Flexibility & informality
- Learn more cultural sensitivity and gain a global perspective
- Motivation and accountability
- Friendship and networking opportunities
Having a language partner to learn your target language comes with many advantages. Not only can you learn your target language more easily and in informal settings, but you also have more speaking practice and feedback to improve your language skills.
For a successful language partnership, it’s best for you both to determine the goals for your meetings, the amount of time for each session, and to arrange weekly meetings.
There’s no question that language partners bring value to language learning. You get to learn more about the target language’s culture, make a new friend, and so much more. The key to a successful language exchange is to ensure that you choose a suitable language partner. They should be dedicated to learning another language and helping you learn, too!