Miguel 雷明
Community Tutor
How to find a good language partner: General advice

On italki, you can find both paid tutors or do some language exchange with a partner for free. With a language partner, you can help him practice your language and he'll help you practice his language, without any of you having to spend money. Talking for 30 minutes over Skype in language A and then 30 minutes in language B seems a good arrangement.   So let's talk about how to find a good language exchange partner, or how to know if you should accept a request from one. 

Go to Community > Language partners. In the huge button select the language you want to practice, and in the "learning" section, select your own native language. Mark the "native" box and hit search. 

What to look for when browsing profiles

1) Right next to each people's picture, you'll see a short description they've written. Click only on the profiles of people who explicitly say they're learning your native language.

2) On his full profile, again look for any specific written statement where he says he's actively studying your language and looking for exchange partners.

3) Check if he's been writing notebook entries in your language, thus demonstrating he´s serious.

4) Check if he´s been correcting notebook entries written by other people in his native language, thus demonstrating he´s willing to help. Participating in other community aspects is also a good sign.

Be direct and specific

To the ones you select, either because you send them a request or they sent you one, send them a specific message requesting to be their language partners, and proposing a specific arrangement and specific available times for the arrangement. This way you'll save other people's time and your own time. Send the information in his local time, and specify this.

If you reach an agreement, set an appointment in your calendar with a couple of alarms, so you won't forget about it. Be punctual.

Prepare conversation topics beforehand

For when it's your turn to practice his language:
-Show and tell: Describe a place you've been to, a picture of a room, a household object, anything. Having pictures or maps ready on your phone or tablet can help make yourself understood.
-Read or watch something interesting beforehand in your target language, so you can share that with your partner.

For when it's your turn to help him practice your language:
-Pretend you're a restaurant or shop owner. Keep a picture of a restaurant menu in your tablet, and pretend he's a customer trying to select something from the menu. If you end up in a silence, you can also reverse the show and tell exercise and recycle your pictures.

For both:
-Think about anything you've found hard to do when you've visited a foreign language, and turn that into an activity you can do over a webcam. For example, asking for directions, buying train tickets, talking to a taxi driver, buying stuff, understanding a tour guide instructions, etc.
-Have the following key phrases ready on a notepad in both your language and your target language: "If I make a mistake, please let me know", "Sorry, I don't understand", "Could you please say that again?", "Could you please speak a bit slower?", "Could you please type it?". In case you discover your partner does not know these key phrases, send them to him in a text message, so he can use them.  You can find these phrases in most languages here: http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/

During the call

-Be helpful, patient, speak clearly, slowly and without slang. During his turn to speak your language, do your best to keep the conversation in your language. You can quickly google pictures, use gestures and think of a different, simpler way to say something to achieve this.

-Don't give out personal information.

I hope this helps. What have been your experiences with language partners?

May 24, 2016 4:26 PM
Comments · 6

Hi, @Oleg. Thanks for asking.

1) I like having both income sources. I sell house plans on my website. That's passive income. Teaching is active income.

2) It's my hope to one day move to Taiwan, and it's hard for a foreigner to get a non-teaching job over there, so I figured I better get some experience under my belt before I go. I do plan to undergo ELE training to become a professional teacher before that.

3) I'm a language learner myself, and sometimes can be obsessive about it: For example, back in 2015 I learned to read and write 3,000 Chinese characters, and last year I passed HSK 5. So yeah, I have a lot of tricks to share. And I actually feel energized when I speak to people who are highly motivated to learn Spanish: I've learned a LOT from them.

4) I actually love my language. I write carefully even when I send text messages. That's why I'm starting both a website and a YouTube channel with comprehensible input resources: Because it doesn't exist right now, and it needs to exist.

August 6, 2018
Great tips! Thanks :)
August 6, 2018
These are really great tips Miguel -- thanks!
May 24, 2016
@ Miguel
thank you for a detailed explanation, very augmented.  i didn't expect that

good luck with your training and journey to Taiwan!
August 6, 2018
Quite useful!!
August 6, 2018
Show more