With all the communication options to choose from today; mobile phones, video calls, smartphone apps – you no longer need to worry about squeezing travelling into your busy schedule. Within minutes you can find someone excited to learn with you, wherever they are in the world – without having to leave the comfort of your home. Although it’s more accessible now – we understand that approaching somebody you haven’t met before can be quite nerve-wracking, and of course, learning a new language isn’t exactly easy. If you find yourself struggling with your language exchange sessions, don’t worry – you’re certainly not alone. We want to make your experience as enjoyable as possible for you, so, we’ve put together a list of 6 common dilemma’s language learners might face – and how we suggest solving them. With these tips, you should be a language exchange pro before you know it.
1. YOU THINK YOUR PARTNER IS INTERRUPTING YOU TOO MUCH
Having someone who can correct your mistakes is an essential part of learning a new language. However, if you find that your partner is interrupting you and not giving you a chance to work things out – this can lead to more confusion and pressure on you. Our language learners often say they feel overwhelmed if their partner is constantly talking over them – which is why we suggest the following tips:
• Before you start, discuss with your partner what you want your main focus to be. For example, you might want to master a specific topic, perfect your tone or perhaps learn a vocabulary rule. A few moments to talk about your goals can help you to keep focussed rather than being pressured into learning multiple skills in a small amount of time.
• If you feel like your partner is preventing you from speaking, you might benefit from asking them to take notes without interruption, and then reflecting on your areas of improvement at the end. Talking through what you need to work on at the end of exchange will help you practice a fluid conversational approach whilst still helping you learn from your mistakes.
2. A LACK OF CONVERSATION OR FEELING AWKWARD WITH YOUR PARTNER
This is one of the most common problems we hear from language learners. It might be the case that you build yourself up with excitement but then freeze when it comes to speaking to or meeting your partner. We suggest creating a list of things you want to achieve from your exchange as well as asking your partner about their goals. If you both discuss what you want from the process, then the session will likely flow more naturally from there. Turning up to exchange with no preparation is likely to leave you feeling more nervous as the conversation will lack direction. The best way to avoid any feeling of awkwardness is just to be yourself – and remember your partner is probably feeling the same as you, so ask them lots of questions to make them feel relaxed.
3. THERE IS TOO MUCH FOCUS ON ONE LANGUAGE
Sometimes, you might naturally slip into using your native language more than you should be. This is completely understandable, especially when your partner has a higher standard in your language than you do in theirs, but it’s important to remember that a language exchange should be an equal use of your time so you should ensure that you are developing your language skills too. We suggest planning together how long you’ll spend on each language – to make sure you both have a fair chance to learn. It’s up to you how you choose to distribute the time. Some partners like to split the session in half, whilst some might prefer to swap languages throughout the exchange to keep it fun. Remember you are both there to learn together – so speak to your partner and decide what work’s best for you both – this communication really will make it a more fair and enjoyable process.
4. STRUGGLING TO HEAR OR SEE YOUR PARTNER
Video calls are a great alternative to meeting your partner – especially if you live in different countries or have busy schedules. Of course, video calls have many advantages. However, if you can’t actually hear or see your partner, then you’re both going to be wasting your time. First of all, we suggest making sure you have a quiet place to set up your call without any background noise – definitely avoid a busy kitchen or communal area! We’ve listed a few more things you can adjust if you’re unhappy with your video call quality:
• If you are using Skype or similar software – make sure it is updated to the latest version to avoid any bugs or errors.
• If you’re struggling to hear your partner – wearing headphones should improve the sound quality and block out any distractions.
• Make sure you are connected to Wi-Fi or have strong internet connection before making your call.
• Don’t overload your browser whilst you’re on a call – try to clear any other running tabs to keep the video running smoothly.
• Play around with your webcam settings – find the lighting that ensures your partner can see your face.
5. YOU’RE NOT SURE IF YOU ARE MAKING ENOUGH PROGRESS
A language exchange should be an enjoyable and fairly laid back experience – but, it’s important not to lose track of how much you are learning. Sometimes, learner’s feel that there is a certain level they should be at in a particular time frame – this isn’t really the case. Each learner will get the hang of different things at their own unique pace. The best way to make sure you’re fulfilling your potential is by writing down what you learn in each exchange and reflecting on your progress throughout. As long as you’re making improvements and trying your best – then you’re on the right path.
6. YOU DON’T SPEND ENOUGH TIME SPEAKING TO YOUR PARTNER
Learning a new language is never easy – but if you put the time and dedication into it, then you’ll pick it up quicker than you think. You can have a great partner, but if you don’t spend enough time with them, then you’ll see much slower results than you could be getting. We suggest getting into a habit of planning your next call or meet-up at the end of each session – if you’re both committed to keeping on track of your learning then it’ll feel like less of a chore.