Finding a Language Partner

When learning a language on your own, you may find that doing so is a little bit harder than you thought. There are those who can do it successfully, but others may find they need the feedback from someone else to see where improvement can be made. You can look for someone, maybe another student if you’re in a class, to help you with your studies. If you can find a native speaker with whom to practice your language skills, that would be even better.

When you and your language partner are working together on your lessons or other times when you are engaged in language learning activities, the best way your partner can assist you is to guide you through the self–study lessons you create. He or she can help you choose and practice the right words or phrases to accomplish your task in a culturally acceptable way and gain the confidence you will need to go out and actually use it.

Concentrate on learning things that are of real importance to you. This way you’ll be able to keep up your motivation and interest. Do not ask or expect your partner to plan the lessons for you unless you have agreed in advance on the topic and what you are going to do with it. Remember, while you are learning the language, you are also teaching yourself.

When asking for words and phrases, ask your partner how they would be said in a given situation. The answer you’re looking for is what people usually say in real life, not a simplified or overly formal way. Asking your partner what he or she would say usually works better than asking if what you have written or said is right, because they may say “yes” to be polite.

Other Ways to Learn

Ask your language partner questions about the language and culture on a regular, ongoing basis—anytime you are together.

Try having a conversation in which you speak English and your partner speaks their own language. This is a good exercise to practice your listening comprehension without the added stress of having to produce the new language. The conversation will flow more smoothly, and you will understand what you are talking about more easily than if you were speaking only the new language.

Ask your language partner to correct your mistakes, but in a way that is helpful to you. For example, some people prefer to be corrected in private but not in public. You could also ask your partner to point out your mistakes, but give you a chance to correct them yourself before telling you how to say it. Remember - mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, they tell you what you know and where you need to do more work.

Ask if he or she can accompany you on your learning adventures to observe or “coach” you, but only when you need and want help.

In addition to practicing specific parts of the language, pick a topic and talk about it for five or ten minutes. Record the conversation, transcribe it later, and then ask your language partner to look at what you have written. Just talk about whatever comes up, with no particular language purpose in mind.

What If You Can’t Find a Native Speaker?

Not a problem. You can still practice your language skills by connecting with someone through Skype. It’s a free download and you can talk to anyone around the world.