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Why is it so hard to find a language partner?

Even though we receive many language exchange requests every week, the probability of getting to talk with some of those contacts is very low, much lower than I'd had imagined when I started using italki. Of course, most of us have family, job, and busy schedules but sincerely I think the biggest barrier is to be afraid of embarrassment of talking with an unknown person and expose part of our life. Not to mention the stressful feeling of making mistakes while our brain and tongue are struggling to express our ideas in the way we are used to do it in our first language.
In my personal experience when I get nervous before or during a conversation the magic solution has been to break the ice with a smile, positive attitude and sense of humor. I've always heard that we learn from making mistakes, so if I'm going to learn from every error, bad pronunciation and wrong usage of the grammar, I'm ready to learn a lot .. a lot, literally! ;)

What has been your experience about it?




TIP:  Use your hand (one finger = one word) to break a sentence into words.

Hold up your right hand facing your partner and say each word while pointing to one finger -- this breaks a stream of sound into (familiar) "words".  This helps with one major listening problem -- breaking the sounds into 'sense chunks'

Once the person goes "aaaaaahhh!!" then repeat the same sentence again a few times at normal speed so they connect the WHOLE STREAM to the words.  

Then, you can ask them to repeat the sentence back, (again) using your fingers as prompts to elicit the words.  The trick (as the tutor) is to SHUT UP and resist the temptation to give a hint -- give the person TIME to recall it.  WAIT for the person to nod or ask before giving any hints.  If you do the listening part first, then this recall portion is 1) very possible and 2) very enjoyable and effective.  Well, not for everyone but I do this all the time and it seems to work.  I like to learn this way so I inflict this method on many students :-) 

I can show you how to do this if you want and then, if it works for you, you can train your interlocutors to do it for you.  Message me and I would do a quick session with you on Skype if you want to see it in action.  Hope this helps :-) 




I wanted to suggest this tip above because it's one easy thing that always works to get the ball rolling (=to get started) ... especially with shy people, you want to NOT have awkward silences, yes?  So that's why I wanted to ust suggest this one practical activity you can do for any topic, that is achievable for even beginners.  You can use pictures, too ... send someone a link to a picture and then ask and answer questions about the picture (say, starting with pictures from your town/city/country, etc) ... very nice and easy way to get started.

well I don't recieve language request from this website, I mean I am a spanish speaker and I want to improve my English but I believe there are few English speakers in this website, some people follow me but I don't anything from them after I added them to my list, that's kind of strange for me, because they suppose to message me.

  I think it is difficult to find a language partner.


  I was determined to learn French but people laughed at me when I spoke.  I was hard to try again, after that. 


  I feel like I need to begin again.

You really need to take the initiative to find some language partners and start talking to them. Don't sit around waiting for people to contact you.

In the 6 weeks since I joined italki, I've gone to the Community -> Language Partners page many times, followed 45 people, sent follow requests to most of them (you can only send out 5 per day if you don't pay), 26 followed me, I've had at least one Skype conversation with 13 of them, and I regularly talk with about 4 of them. There are a few people who have responded to my follow request, and I really want to talk with them, but we haven't connected yet (usually because of the difficulty in finding a time convenient for both of us). I encourage them to add me on Skype, and I keep bugging them. "Are you available?" "Would you like to talk now?"

One person who I've been "chasing" for a month finally got in touch while I was online a couple days ago. We have an appointment to talk two days from now. Persistance pays!

Only about 5 people have initiated a contact with me. In most cases I haven't responded because I'm mostly interested in talking with engineers or engineering students, so I can improve my language skills in that subject. That shows why you need to contact a lot of people in order to find a few that will be good language partners - not eveyone you contact will be suitable.

Apparently almost 55,000 people "like" italki on Facebook, so I expect there are plenty of English (and other major language) speakers on this site. You just need to do something to attract the attention of the people you want to meet. If you are passive, you'll disappear into the crowd, and no one will know you're here.


I am a professional English teacher here on italki and I have been experimenting lately with attempts at finding a language partner.  Italki has a serious problem in that it attracts new users daily and encourages them to register, but many of these new users do not stay around/active.  So, when you are looking for a language exchange partner, I recommend looking at their community point score to see how active they are.  I suppose that the more active a user is, the more likely they will follow up with you.


Still, personally, I am about to give up on searching for exchange partners and go back to paying for language lessons.  It is way more straight-forward in terms of scheduling, negotiating content, and actually speaking to someone who is consistent and motivated.


Juan, es difícil porque la gente espera encontrar amigos en los tiempos que están disponibles para hablar.  Eso es una razón por la que comencé mi membresía en italki mediante el pago de los maestros para las lecciones. Realmente quería ayudar con mi espanol y no quería depender de la puntualidad de los extraños para conseguir esa ayuda... si paga a alguien, usted hace una cita y usted está preparado, ellos están preparados y la reunion sucede. Con compañeros de idioma, no hay un sistema de citas por lo que decide hacer los arreglos para una fecha/hora específica o esperar a alguien dispuesto y capaz cuando está.  Y luego espera que son ambos compatibles.  Muy difícil.


Juan, it's difficult because people expect to find followers/friends at the times that they themselves are available to chat. That's one reason that I began my membership at italki by paying teachers for lessons. I really wanted help with my Spanish and didn't want to rely on the timeliness of strangers to get that help... if you pay someone, you schedule an appointment and you are prepared, they are prepared and the meeting happens. With language partners there is no appointment system so it's up to you to either make arrangements for a specific date/time or hope that someone is ready & willing when you are. And then you hope that you are both compatible. Very difficult.


I think another difficulty is that it's not easy to find someone at a similar level in their understanding as you are. For instance, if we talk and I sound very familiar with Spanish it's easy for you to become complacent/lazy and just talk Spanish the entire session rather than pushing yourself to speak English. When I pay a teacher this is not an issue as we just speak Spanish the entire time.

So it's tough. Add in the time difference in our lives & the difficulty increases.


Dave and Thaddeus made good points: new users usually are not reliable language partners, the time difference can be a real problem. I agree that it's much easier just to pay for a lesson. But the idea of the language exchange looks so attractive. Jank has mentioned above the 55000 Facebook likes, just imagine that there are so many people who are looking for help in your native language and can help you with your language study. This is why sometimes I get inspired again and start messaging to new language partners.

I could not conclur more! I joined it since 20 days ago, and sent out 1 million mail and friend request! However, I only met one nice partner. I started to even suspect some profiles might be fake!

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