In my experience as a polyglot, there are many different ways of learning a foreign language. Of course, there is the traditional method, which is following language lessons, on the internet or at school, or their is the more extreme method, for the adventure-lovers, which consists of moving abroad without any preparation or linguistic skills.
The Leeve team seems particularly fond of this method.
Otherwise, if you have got some sense into you, there is the language exchange.
What is exactly a language exchange?
According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge), a language exchange is a language learning method, based on the mutual language practicing by learning partners who are speakers of different languages. This is usually done by two native speakers teaching each other their native language.
Why take part in a language exchange?
Because it is essential.
Is that all?
Taking part in a language exchange with a native speaker allows you to progress very quickly, needless to say, if you put enough work into it! Obviously, there are different ways of proceeding. You can start by learning with books, taking lessons, etc. and then move to practice. You say you are too shy for a language exchange? Hey. I get it. I myself am the anxious type, so jumping into a conversation with a native speaker without at least knowing the basics of the language? God no!
But, I hope you will agree with me: learning a language is kind of pointless if it is not to, at one point, interact with native speakers. Learning languages is communicating. Communicating is done with people. I swear!
How to make the most of your language exchange?
All of this is nice and dandy, but how do you really do? There are some tips and guidelines that you can use to make sure you succeed in your language exchange, even for the most timid ones!
1) Take part in both online and in real life language exchange.
To find a language exchange partner, it is muuuuch easier to start online, or on a mobile app. For example, with Leeve, all you need to do is enter the languages that you speak, those that you wish to learn, your hobbies, and Leeve will find you people who match near you!
The online exchange will allow you to get to know each other a bit, to know if you are a good match. You can even improve your written skills! And if the idea of meeting your language partner in real life scares you, remember that this is not a date, nor is it a job interview. Take a deep breath, relax, and I promise, everything will be fine.
2) Be clear with what you want from the start.
Why do you want to learn a foreign language (work, hobby…)? How much time can you put into learning that language? How many times a week do you wish to meet your partner?
All these questions must find an answer before the beginning of the language exchange. You will then be able to find a partner who wants the same things as you do. That way, everyone is happy, and you can both move forward with your learning!
3) With a native speaker!
If you want to learn a language, but the person in front of you does not have a perfect grasp of that language, there will come a time where you will be stuck, because you won’t be able to progress anymore; with a native speaker, this situation can hardly ever happen. And let’s not mention the accent: by learning with a native speaker, you will soon speak as clearly as a native. Imagine the feeling when a British person will think you are one of them!
4) Switch between full conversations in both languages.
This will definitely ask you to step out of your comfort zone; which is good, it is necessary! That way, will will both make progress in your target language, and you will get what you expected from this language exchange evenly.
Of course, nothing is stopping you from preparing those conversations - I would even advise you to prepare them thoroughly. You can for instance have some topics that you would like to talk about, with some vocabulary to enrich the discussion. You wouldn’t want things to get awkward because the exchange is punctuated by many long silences, would you?
That’s what I thought.
Conclusion: have fun
Yes, this is what is really important here! Keep in mind that this language exchange is the beginning of (we hope) a great friendship. It is not a student/teacher relationship, you are here because you want to get better and help the other get better as well, but mostly because you want to.
You will see, soon, you will be a true polyglot, and you will shine in society, or come out with an idiom during a conversation, earning admirative looks from your peers. And THAT is priceless.
By Marie Kerhervé