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January 05, 2016

Find Language Partners - Language Exchange (Step 3)

Language partners imagePracticing with language partners is a great way to learn a language.

But what are the best places today to find them?

Well, that's what I'm about to tell you.

On this page, I've listed some of the best places to find language partners so that you can practice a language every single day.

And at the end, I've even thrown in a strategy for squeezing more practice time out of your language partners.

Where Can Language Partners Be Found?

Generally speaking, there are two types of language partners:

  • Online language partners
  • Physical language partners

We're going to focus on the first type because they are more convenient (you don't need to move away from your computer to meet them).

exchanging online

But I will also say a word or two about the second type, because they can represent a significant source of practice for you.

Best Places to Find Language Partners Online

Luckily, the Web has no shortage of people with whom you can practice a language.

We will see that online language partners can be found at at least three places:

  • Language exchange websites and apps
  • Dating websites
  • Online games

Let's start off with the obvious; language exchange websites and apps.

Making Connections on Language Exchange Websites/Apps

Making connections on language exchange websites

Language exchange platforms are a gold mine for learning languages.

You can find people there who are eager to learn one or more languages. So, they will readily practice a language with you.

It gets better:

You don't even have to ask them to teach you the language; all you need to do is practice it with them. It's an added bonus if they want to give you tips and corrections to your mistakes, but these are not necessary.

Of course, the people you find there may want to practice in your native language with you as well, so expect to give and take there.

Alright, let's cut to the chase.

Below is a short list of the best language exchange websites and apps around at the moment. They are fully functional, free and I've personally used them recently, so I know they work:

HelloTalk

hellotalk logo

HelloTalk is an app (Android and iOS) that you can use to find language partners. The layout looks a little like Viber and Whatsapp, which are two instant messenger apps.

HelloTalk screenshot

Upon creating my account, I've selected English as my native tongue and I managed to find a lot of active users for each of the major languages of this world. It even had a good number of active users for a few less popular languages. HelloTalk is, without a doubt, the best language exchange platform that I've ever tried.

Speaky

Speaky icon

Speaky is a social network website that looks a lot like Facebook, but has different functionalities. After you've created your account, you can choose which languages you speak and those you want to practice. Then, you can find language exchange partners from a list that you can customize.

speaky screenshot

WeSpeke

Wespeke logo

WeSpeke is also a social network website and it's pretty easy to use. It has plenty of people you can practice a language with. After you've created your profile, you can click on the Community icon on the top left corner and you can find language exchange partners by performing a search by native language, target language, country and age.

wespeke screenshot

Italki

Italki logo

Italki is another language exchange website where you can create a profile and start searching for potential language partners. It fares fairly well for the major languages in terms of quantity of users.

Italki screenshot

Now, let's talk about something that has even MORE potential than language exchange platforms in terms of finding language partners...

Tapping into Dating Websites For Finding Language Partners

Dating websites have played a crucial role in the improvement of my Portuguese.

I've originally used Badoo, although it doesn't allow sending unlimited messages for free, unfortunately.

Badoo logo

I have developed both serious relationships and friendships on dating websites, but most importantly, they have provided (and still provide) partners with whom I am able to practice a language.

But that's not all...

On dating websites, I'm practicing Portuguese 100% of the time, because my partners do not ask me to practice English with them, which is awesome!

It's important to note that dating websites do not have to be used to find love.

Some people on there are completely comfortable with finding friendship so if all you want is to practice a language, then make sure you make it known in your profile that you're looking for friendship only.

Speaking of which, I strongly suggest you take the time to write a complete profile on these websites as this will boost your chances of getting replies from other people. Try to write it in the language you're learning.

Here's the English version of a description I use that I've been complimented on, on several occasions:

Example of a profile on a dating website
Click to enlarge

As you can see, this is a very simple description. You could translate it and fully adapt it to your own needs, should you want to do so.

Here are a couple (no pun intended) of dating websites that I recommend you start using:

PlentyOfFish

Pof logo

PlentyOfFish seems to have the most users of the two websites. For this reason, it makes it easier to find someone to practice a language with. When doing a search, you can sort people by the last time they were on the website. This helps you weed out those users who are not active.

pof screenshot

OkCupid

OkCupid logo

OkCupid has a significant amount of people to practice with. Just like PlentyOfFish, you can choose to find people who are online at the moment or who have used the website recently. OkCupid also gives you a tool to make a detailed profile.

okcupid screenshot

IMPORTANT NOTE ON DATING WEBSITES:

Exclamation markNow, there's something I noticed using these websites when I was in certain countries: depending on which country you're in, you may not be able to search for people who are abroad.

On dating websites, you usually have to choose a location to start finding people to meet and from within certain countries.

okcupid select your city

And, in some countries, you cannot search for people in a country other than the one you are in at the moment.

I think that dating websites impose restrictions to IP's from certain countries (an IP is like a digital address associated with a city and country).

The good news is that there is a way to change your IP for an IP from another country like the USA or Canada. The bad news, however, is that I'm not in the business of telling you how to do that since it may be illegal.

Finally, for all you hardcore and casual gamers out there, I'll now show you how you can improve your language skills while gaming.

Online Games - Learning Languages While "Pwning" Your Opponents

Example of multiplayer games

Online games nowadays are a great way to socialize with people and, thus, practice a language.

This means that you can enjoy your favorite game while still learning a language.

Do not be shy to use your microphone if the voice chat feature is available in the games you're playing. And even if the feature is not available, you can use voice communication programs like TeamSpeak or Skype to communicate with your teammates in the game.

Teamspeak server example

Also, try to play games with people who speak the language you are learning.

How can you do this?

Often, games have different servers where people from specific areas in the world play the same game.

So, if you want to learn Spanish, just hop onto a Spanish-speaking server in Latin America or in Spain and expose yourself to that language.

Back in the day, I played my fair share of Counter-Strike and my involvement in the game forced me to speak English a lot (my native language is French). I was playing mostly on US servers, but I could've played on Swedish servers to practice Swedish or on Russian servers to practice Russian if that's what I wanted.

I just googled "Swedish server games" and here was one of the results:

Swedish Minecraft servers

If you're okay with violent games, you could practice a language on Call of Duty and Halo, both of which have the voice chat feature available.

Otherwise, there are tons of major games (like Minecraft and World of Warcraft, for example) out there which do not have the voice chat feature integrated, but where you can use a side-program like TeamSpeak or Skype to communicate by voice.

If you don't own either a computer or a console, you most likely have a mobile device. There are countless online games available on mobile devices where you can communicate through a chat platform. Scrabble is just one of many:

Scrabble screenshot

Now it's time to say a few words about finding language partners offline.

Finding Physical Language Partners in Your Area

The Web is not the only place where you can easily practice a language. Practice can be done in person, although that depends on where you live.

Communities of Foreigners in Your City

If you live in a large urban area of the Western world, there are most likely, close by, various communities of people who speak a different language.

For instance, I, being from Montreal, have been informed that the city housed several communities which I had no clue about until recently such as a community of Norwegians and one of Brazilians. Such communities may hold events and meetings and outsiders are usually very welcome to join in.

Here is the result of a quick search on Facebook:

Montreal Norwegian community Facebook

Apart from social media, there's another a great tool that you can use to find offline practice partners: Meetup.

Meetup has been around for a long time and I recently remembered that I used it myself several years ago to find communities whose interests matched my own. It can also be used to find communities of foreigners in the city you live in.

For example, if you'd like to learn Argentinian Spanish and you're located in the NYC area, you'd simply type: Argentinian in the search field and then you'd choose the desired distance within New York, NY as indicated here:

Argentinian community on Meetup

I did the search to see what I'd come up with and interestingly enough, I found this active community of Argentinian expats in the NYC area who hold Meetups in Argentinian Spanish, which is great news if you're looking to practice this dialect of Spanish.

Argentinian community on Meetup

So, when looking for partners, it is useful to use the tools available on the Web to do a search in your own city to determine if there are people who you can physically practice with.

Squeezing More Practice Time out of Your Language Partners

Alright, now that you know where to find language partners, I'm going to tell you how to maximize your practice time with them.

Now, here's what most people do:

When looking for language partners, they go on language exchange websites, contact a few people and start teaching each other a language.

This is a HUGE mistake.

Why? Because teaching someone a language can feel like work and some of us already have their hands full with that.

Here's the solution:

Instead of focusing on teaching each other a language, focus on getting to know and befriending this person.

Making friends first

In other words, treat your language partner as a friend-to-be and not a teacher or a student.

The thing is that once a bond between you and your partner is formed, your relationship can last a much longer, which equates to more practice time.

But now you might be thinking:

"If we're just going to have normal conversations with our partner, when are we ever going to learn the language?"

Well, here's the best part.

At Step #5, I'll show you how you can learn a language completely from scratch, merely by having conversations in that language.

Learning a language by conversing

There's one last thing I have to tell you:

When contacting potential language partners, do not be content with messaging one or a few. Instead, message tons of them.

This will increase the likelihood that you will stumble upon someone reliable and it will obviously increase the number of partners you'll find.

Summing Up...

Knowing how and where to find language partners is a major step towards mastering a language on your own. So, it's important to make use of the resources at your disposal in order to acquire these language partners.

NEXT STEP: 4. Assess the language difficulty (Do you know what to expect?)

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