How to Get the Most Out of Your French Language Exchange

What if you could practice and learn French with a native speaker, meet people from all around the world and make lifelong friends along the way?

Does this sound like something for you?

Language exchange is an awesome way to do exactly that, without spending a single penny.

As the co-founder of a language exchange website – Speaky –  I want to share with you some tips on how to get the most out of a French language exchange.

But first let’s make a brief introduction about what’s a language exchange and how it works.

For those of you already familiar with language exchanges you can jump to the next section.

What’s a language exchange?

Language exchange is pretty straightforward and easy to understand:

You are native in a language – let’s assume English – and you are willing to learn a new language – let’s assume French. You will find someone who is native in French and willing to learn English and you will both learn by helping and practicing in each other’s language.

How? You decide! But there are some techniques that have proven to be more efficient than others. You will need to find the one that works for you.

But as a rule of thumb, just bear in mind that it’s usually better to talk only in one language at the time. For example 15 minutes in French followed by 15 minutes in English.

5 steps to find the perfect French language exchange partner

1.Find the right partner

Finding the right partner is maybe the hardest part of all. Indeed, you want someone that is both reliable and willing to help you as much as he/she is to learn. As you don’t want to get bored, you also want to find someone you share something with or at least someone with whom you will be willing to spend time with.

There are several ways to find a French language partner – google communities, Facebook groups or other pen pal or language exchange websites that I would just invite you to Google if you feel like trying them.

Some apps like Speaky ease this process by pairing you up with people that share your interests and passions, but also by creating all the tools you need to practice in an optimal environment for language learning. As an example, we integrated an audio/video chat service directly on the browser so that you don’t need any other third party application anymore.

No matter the way you choose your partner, try to quickly schedule a call to test if there is a fit with both of you. Hard to say but you don’t want to lose your precious time with people that are not willing to learn or that bore you.

Test as many partner as you feel needed but normally you should quickly find someone awesome!

2.Prepare

If you are naturally confident when meeting new people this step is probably not for you. But on the other hand, if you are a bit shy or just feel uncomfortable doing this for the first time, you may want to prepare.

Before the meeting, prepare some subject you want to talk about or some questions you can rely on whenever you feel there is nothing more to talk about.

3.Practice, take notes and enjoy

It’s time to get started! You are sitting in front of your computer waiting for your partner to show up for your first call.

Feeling a bit nervous the first time is a bit normal. At this point, remember that your partner is probably nervous too and you are here to learn French, not to take a job interview. Since you both learn a language, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. It’s part of the process.

You shouldn’t hesitate to take notes during the exchange. If you prefer to keep the conversation active, you can also take notes after the language exchange.

4.Use a timer

Why? Well first because you want the exchange to be fair and therefore you should both talk approximately the same amount of time in each others language.

Second, it will simply give some structure to your language exchange which can only be a good thing.

Don’t be too much of a timer freak though. Remember, it’s all about meeting people and sharing knowledge.

5.Organize and schedule your next session

This is one of the most important part of the entire language learning process.

The better you schedule your language exchanges, the more likely you are to create a habit and the easiest it will be for you to keep on learning without using any willpower.

So, your first meeting was great and now you want more?

It’s time to schedule practice sessions in your agenda.

Just find (or free) some time in your calendar when you are sure you and your partner will have time to practice together – for example every Monday and Thursday at 6 pm – and schedule the weekly meeting.

It’s essential to clearly decide when you will have your next language exchange. Simply saying “sometime next week” will most likely mean “sometime next month”, or never.

Again, don’t underestimate this step as it can really make the difference between a one time call and a weekly habit

That’s it for this post! Please feel free to add some comments or questions in the box below, I would gladly help.

Ludovic Chevalier

Ludovic Chevalier is a Belgian engineer who chose to live the entrepreneurial journey rather than the traditional career path. He is the co-founder of a social network to learn languages called Speaky.

6 thoughts on “How to Get the Most Out of Your French Language Exchange”

    • Bonjour Tara

      If you meet someone via a website like Speaky, you can start by reading the profile of the person you are going to talk to before you talk to them. This way you know what they like and would be interested in.

      Otherwise, here are a few interesting topics:

      -Tell me a bit about your city
      -What’s happening in your country these days
      -What are your hobbies, what are you passionate about

      The list is endless, but I often find that these questions work well.

      In any case, remember that you are both talking to make progress and that your partner is probably as nervous as you are. That’s also why it’s important to choose the right partner. A good conversation partner is like a good friend and you never need to think about what you will say next.

      I have experienced lots of awkward silences and conversations in my life, but it gets easier to deal with once you consider that it simply means you are not talking to the right person. Sometimes, when i go to language exchange meetings, we don’t have much to talk about, sometimes we do. But if you remember that it’s not about you or your partner but simply a matter of compatibility, it’s not stressful anymore.

      Reply
  1. Fantastic article ! I am an English teacher to French students and everything that you posted is perfect. This is all very good advice. Great blog ! I will surely check back for updates.

    Reply
    • Hello Kelly, thanks for your comment! We have some classes of American teenagers learning French on Speaky as well, would be great if you could connect with each other!

      Reply

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