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Get more practice with a language exchange

I’ve said before that it’s really important to get feedback from a native speaker on your Vietnamese pronunciation. But what if you’re not in Vietnam? What if you’re learning at home with an audio course or textbook?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a native speaker in your town. But it can still be hard to find someone willing to help you practice and to correct your mistakes. Even if you have friends who can speak Vietnamese, friends are not always the best language exchange partners.

That’s where the internet comes in!

Types of language exchange

When you first read ‘language exchange’ at the beginning of this article, what did you think of? Two people meeting up in person to practice each others’ languages? This is certainly a form of language exchange (or ‘language tandem’) but it’s not the only one.

Let’s take a look at the different ways you can exchange a language or otherwise practice with a regular partner.

1. Local face-to-face language exchange

This is the classic form of language exchange where you find someone who lives in your town or city and meet up with them in a coffee shop or similar. You spend half the time speaking in each language so that both of you get to practice.

2. Online face-to-face language exchange

These days it’s so easy to set up an online exchange where you chat via Skype, Google Hangouts or other system. This can be a lot more convenient than meeting someone in person – and you don’t even have to live in the same country. Again, the principle is that half the time is spent talking in each language.

3. With a penfriend

The advantage of a ‘penfriend’ or ‘penpal’ is that you don’t have to schedule a time to talk. You can send emails or messages back and forth as and when you have free time. Because it’s not instant you can also take the time to look words up in the dictionary or refer to your class notes. This is great to focus on accuracy and for getting corrections.

There are a few ways to make this into an exchange: you can write your messages in both languages or you could write to them in Vietnamese and they reply in English, sending you some corrections at the end.

4. Pay someone to talk to you

The downside of traditional exchanges is that half of the time is spent helping the other person to improve a language. If you’re busy, this can be limiting.

Instead of having a session where you split the time between two languages, you can have a session focused on you, practising and improving your Vietnamese. Of course, no-one would help you practice without getting something in return so if you’re short on time for a two-way exchange, parting with some money could get you the attention you need.

This kind of session can be flexible – if you want a full lesson you can find a teacher to do this but if you just want to practice, some corrections and to learn some new or more natural expressions then any native or fluent speaker can help, like a Community Tutor on iTalki.

Ways to find a language partner

Now you know what kinds of language exchanges are out there, how do you find a partner?

Local communities

Ask around. Someone you know may know someone looking for this kind of exchange, or may suggest where to go. Students could be a good option.

Online communities

Especially communities you’re already part of like the people who help correct your writing on Lang-8, through language learning forums or add a comment here or on facebook if you’re looking for someone. Người Việt cũng vậy nhé.

Language exchange websites

There are a lot of Vietnamese people wanting to practice English so it should be easy to find someone on any language exchange website out there.

A few sites I’ve come across are:

  • Conversation Exchange lets you list what type(s) of exchange format you’re interested in, including local face-to-face exchanges.
  • Linguar recently started by a fellow Vietnamese learner, Carl Noresson, again lets you select and search based on what kind of exchange you’re interested in.
  • iTalki* for online face-to-face exchanges.
  • WeSpeke is a fairly new site for online face-to-face or text chat exchanges.
  • Polyglot Club is good for finding a penfriend.

* affiliate link which gives me free credit if you sign up and buy credit

Top tip: You can end up getting a lot of messages, especially on more established sites, because so many Vietnamese people want to practice English. If this gets a bit much, you might want to change your settings so less people can contact you or send you a friend request.

How to get the most out of your language exchange

If you prepare for your exchange, you’ll get more out of it. The clearer you are on your goals and what you want to get out of the exchange, the better.

Over to you: Have you ever done a language exchange? Which type of exchange do you prefer? Are you inspired to try a new kind?