Being able to practice speaking with another person is key to becoming proficient in a new language. But sometimes, circumstances arise that make meeting a language buddy face-to-face a challenge. Maybe you don’t know any native speakers or fellow language learners in your area, or you’re stuck at home due to family obligations, injury or, depending on when you’re reading this, a global pandemic. Whatever the reason, a language exchange video chat can provide a helpful alternative to meeting in person.
We’ve created this guide to help you find someone to practice with, choose the right platform, and make the most of your language exchange video chat. Before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly chatting in a new language from the comfort of your home.
Finding A Buddy
The first step to practice speaking a new language is to find someone to practice with. But where do you even start? There are a few different avenues you can take when looking for a language partner.
If you’d like to practice with a native speaker, which is probably the best choice to ensure you’re getting good feedback, you can start by reaching out on social media to see if anyone in your network is a native speaker of the language you’re trying to learn. Then, you have to check that they’re interested in participating in a language exchange video chat. Chances are someone you know has a helpful connection, especially if the language you’re learning is a widely spoken one.
You can also find native speaker pen pals on websites like Conversation Exchange, which you can use to search for people who speak a specific language and are interested in chatting.
Want to get a little more creative? You can change your location on certain dating apps to a country where the language is prevalent, begin talking to people on the app, and maybe eventually move the conversation to a video chat platform. Just make sure you’re open and honest about your intentions!
Another route you can take that may be a bit less intimidating is to find someone who is learning the same language as you. The two of you can have basic conversations in the new language and help each other through any difficulties. Again, you can see if anyone in your network fits this criteria. If not, there are numerous online language-learning communities, where language enthusiasts around the country and the world are looking for people to practice with.
Picking A Platform
Once you have a language partner, you’ll need to pick your virtual hangout spot. There are many different video chat platforms to choose from — including Zoom, Google Hangouts/Duo, Skype and Facetime — and they all have pros and cons. Look into the specific features of each option to see if it’ll allow you to do what you need to do, but for the most part, all that really matters is that you can hear each other clearly. Some platforms, like Zoom, have tools like a virtual whiteboard, which could be a fun feature to play around with. Cost is another factor to consider, but a free platform without any frills will be just as effective for practicing a language.
Making The Most Of A Language Exchange Video Chat
So you have your language buddy and you know which platform you’re going to use. Now what? How should you approach the call itself to make sure you’re getting something out of it?
It’s up to you and your partner to decide if you want the conversation to be structured or more free-wheeling. Either approach could involve greeting each other in the language you’re practicing and making some small talk.
A less structured format would be just chatting about whatever comes to mind and letting the conversation flow. This approach is totally fine, but make sure to set some ground rules about the languages being spoken.
If it’s a true language exchange, and the other person is trying to learn English, you may want to plan upfront to, say, spend the first 15 minutes speaking English and the next 15 minutes speaking the language you’re learning. If you’re both learning the same language, you can set guidelines like “we’re not allowed to speak English at all, and if we don’t know how to say something, we need to find another way to express it” or “if we don’t know how to say something, let’s write it in the chat and discuss it at the end.” Rules like these will stop you from simply reverting to English constantly, which can be very tempting.
If you’d prefer a very structured conversation, you may want to choose a specific topic of the day (i.e. food and drinks, the weather, current events) and make sure you study vocabulary related to that topic in advance. You can also try various exercises beyond just having a conversation. Maybe one person tells a story in the language and then their partner tries to retell the story in English after, trying to include as many details as possible. You can also quiz each other on particularly tricky vocab words or grammatical conjugations.
If you want to really get the most out of our learning, get creative and have fun with it! The more engaging your chat, the more motivated you’ll be to learn and the more you’ll remember after. Even though you and your partner are not physically in the same place, you can still become comfortable speaking a new language and make real, human connections with a new friend.