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Running out of topics?

Hi everyone, 

I just saw someone ask a question about this, so I want to ask you about it. When people take a language partner, do they really feel it helps them to improve? Because I feel in a way that what happens is that in the first few sessions you say hello, my name is X and I live in Y. I like to eat bla bla and I like to do bla bla. And then you talk about your family and your job and your hobbies. And after 3 sessions or so you run out of things to discuss. I teach here on italki, and I tend to use a text for the focus of the lesson because otherwise I don't think that students can really advance their level of vocabulary and grammar that way. If they just do this kind of unstructured talk for a long time it gets boring, unless they are already at advanced level and they just want to keep practising so they don't forget what they already know. What do you think about language exchange ? Can it really be effective? Do you run out of topics? OR do you really need more of a structured kind of lesson to improve?

Aug 29, 2016 11:28 AM
Comments · 9

Hello. I have such experience. I have been talking during half a year till now, and we became good friends during this period. We talk every day and in different topics. Of course: no gramma rules...we make much gramma mistakes and its not interesting for us to correct it (we have no time to correct). BUT - i can say that i knew much about other country, I knew much new words i didnt know before and i can talk more fluently and even I can think in other language. The most interesting in our language exchange talking is that we try to do something too, for example my friend teaches me cook its traditional foods (so my friend say by video skype what to do and i cook at the same time). Of course if I dont know how to translate - my friend try to say other words or even to show with pictures - in this way the new words come to my mind better.

Well, as a resalt I want to say, skype talking helps me to know more new words, helps me not to be afraide of talking with foreing language, gives me much interesting about new culture and traditions. But no gramma rules.

August 29, 2016


It is an important question! For me, I am very serious and motivated to study, practice for a long time. Unlikely, most of the partners get bored quickly. Just few partners are willing to practice and our talks last for a long time. we mostly didn't discuss private issues, we started directly to practice using online materials and got involved in a group. Those  partners are so beneficial for me, and we may become friends after a while for being honest and beneficial for each other. 

August 29, 2016

Running out of topics has been a problem for me, not only with language partners but also with teachers. More specifically, rather than having nothing at all to talk about, the conversation is just to slow and relaxed, or I end up talking about something not interesting or challenging enough to feel that I am improving. I do believe that a more structured approach can help.

With my language partners I am using these:

I do find them useful, but I am still looking for something even more useful. One of my language partners has suggested using a course book. It sounds like a good idea and I think I'm going to try it. Using texts sounds like a very good idea too, but that can be done with a language partner as well as with a teacher. 

So far, I have talked to several language partners and several teachers (mostly community tutors but also some professional teachers) and my experience has been very similar in both cases. Similar usefulness, similar problems. It is even similar in terms of payment, as I pay the teachers in cash, and my language partners by spending time teaching them. 

My language level is advanced enough to have a conversation, I learn a lot on my own, and I use both my teachers and language partners mostly for conversation practice. I'm still not sure how useful this conversation practice is. I'm still experimenting and looking for the best way to learn.

August 29, 2016
I believe it helps because the problem I face is that I am uncomfortable in speaking my new language to strangers. Even if we only speak once or twice it is helpful. One of my language partner comes up with themes to discuss before we start to talk.  I think becoming friends helps because like with most conversations with friends the topic goes all over the place and I end up learning new words and pharses.
August 29, 2016

I definitely feel it helps me improve.  My partners and I usually start each session with a conversation about what we have been doing since we last talked.  That part of the session is usually brief.  Then we switch to a structured activity.  We do not have to plan ahead much, we just decide which of our favorite sites (like breakingnewwsenglish, a comic site, or Google Arts and Culture) to go look for something to use as the text of focus.  Usually it is in English, but my partner helps me learn to say the same thing in Spanish.

I just tried out the English as a Second Language curriculum and tried it with two partners this week and it worked well.  It has lessons in English.  My partners read each page of the lesson in English while I took the same role I would if I were a teacher. .  Then they took the ¨teacher role¨ and helped me learn the words in Spanish and we compared the differences in the grammatical structure of the languages.  With my partners who are all at least intermediate in English, my partners and I can easily find English sites that can be used for the structure we need so we never run out of things to talk about.  Off2class offers a placement exam which one just took, so we are likely to use the lessons that he needs, and then do them together.   (My Spanish skills are basic and I find I learn from any lesson.)  Off2class has a free trial for a month, and then there is a fee.  I think the fee is low enough that I have purchased it for a year.  I have no problem investing some money in good learning materials when I have good partners to help me.

My experience on italki is the teachers have not appeared to spend a lot of time lesson planning for me ahead of time either. Things may be structured, but they appear to usually do so ¨on the fly¨as well.   I totally agree with everything Katarina said-- that has been my experience. 

August 29, 2016
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Hebrew, Spanish
Learning Language