No matter what language you’re studying, practicing with a real live person is essential. If you’re living abroad, or taking classes from a fluent speaker like we offer at Confidence Learning Services, this shouldn’t be too difficult. However, you may want to supplement your practice, or keep up your language after returning to your home country. Using online software, books and CDs are great, but will only get you so far. Speaking with another human being is key, so let’s take a look at how to find a language partner via Language Exchange Websites.
Language Exchange Websites
Several websites purport to connect speakers of different languages, in order to set up a mutually beneficial language partnership. You go on the website as a native Spanish speaker seeking help with Japanese, and hopefully find a native Japanese speaker seeking to learn Spanish. And you practice via e-mail, video chat, or in person. However, not all websites are created equal, so let’s take a look at some of these.
My personal favorite, this website is also set up to allow you to offer lessons in exchange for pay, or pay for lessons. The concept is brilliant but a little more complicated. However, with a free membership you can search for and contact members based on their native language and what language they’re learning. Searching by city also works best on this site. For example, if you’re from the Knoxville area, you have to choose the city of Knoxville from a drop-down menu when enrolling, as opposed to listing a suburb of or neighborhood in Knoxville, or possibly misspelling the city. This makes searching by city much easier.
This site really presents itself more as language instruction, rather than just a language exchange site. The actual instructional content is limited, but there is a great feature on the site, once you sign up for a free membership, that allows you to contact native speakers of your target language, and be contacted by people wanting to learn your language. Searching for someone by their native and target language is a little more difficult, and the language options are more limited than on the traditional language exchange websites. However, especially for native English speakers, it’s easy to find others who speak your target language and who want to learn English. Paying a website fee allows you to “learn” multiple languages and access more site features, but isn’t necessary to search for language partners. I find this site to be the fastest at getting me talking with someone who speaks my target language.
Dedicated to helping people find “penpals”, this website isn’t solely focused on language exchange, although that exists as an option. Because of this, searching is more difficult, as you can search for someone based on their native language, but not what language they are learning. You can search by countries, but not by cities. There is a forum feature which looks to be the most promising when it comes to getting visibility in searching for a language partner. The site is totally free.
Possibly the most popular language exchange, this site is a little easier to search than interpals, but searching by city is difficult, because you can type in anything for your city, meaning if you were in Knoxville you could type in Knoxvile, K-Town, Tennessee, TN, Knox, or any number of other combinations. Although a basic membership is free, it doesn’t allow you to contact members, but only allows you to be contacted by others. Membership that allows you to contact others is only $6 a month. I personally had a poor experience with this site, experiencing no problems as a free member, but after paying my 1 month membership fee, my account was deactivated and the webmaster has refused to refund or reactivate my account. I certainly wouldn’t advise paying more than one month at a time, as you are taking a risk here.
I highly recommend you get started on some of these sites, check out their features, and see which option works best for you. I would love to hear your opinion of the above sites, or recommendations for any other sites that I’ve missed.
A word of caution: Many people seem to use these sites to find a “romantic” connection, despite the fact that there are plenty of sites out there dedicated to that purpose. Within a few minutes of joining Interpals, I had half a dozen messages from men telling me how beautiful I was, and I have found a similar phenomenon on other sites as well. Be advised that you may need to adjust privacy settings, be conscious of profile pictures you upload, and make it clear up front if that is not the type of connection you want. As always, be cautious when talking with strangers.