I love learning new languages, though I can still only speak two with fluency, and another two with mediocrity. But lately I’ve been fascinated by learning them, so much so that I’ve taken several up at once. I came back from Poland and France last month and was switching back and forth between learning Polish and French phrases. Now, I think I’ve finally settled on my next language, Hungarian Magyar, because my best friend is Hungarian and we are going this summer to spend two weeks touring her country and visiting with her friends and family.
Though Reni (my best friend) offers me great support, sometimes I’d rather not bother her, even though I don’t quite care if I do. Sometimes it’s nice just to get a fresh perspective on a language, to make sure I’m covering all the bases and learning effectively and efficiently. That’s when I discovered language exchanges.
Now, I’ve known about language exchanges for some time, but I have never really used them. Language exchange refers to a method of learning languages by finding tandem partners of the target language who are fluent and communicating with them directly. It is an exchange because most of the time the learner would help the other person also improve their fluency of the learner’s language at the same time. It becomes a win-win situation for both parties, usually, and can lead to life-long friendships. If your native tongue is English and you want to learn Spanish, you can find a Spanish speaker trying to learn English.
Though language software and aids have grown in helpfulness by leaps and bounds, there is still no better alternative to learning a language than immersion. But let’s face it, most of us can’t immerse ourselves in another area of the world easily or feasibly, so the language exchange is the next best thing. With technology today exponentially better than even a decade ago, we can email, Skype, Google Voice, or SMS a native speaker on the other side of the world, when it would have been mostly snail-mail to pen pals, and thus written text only, just a short while ago.
A few of the best Language Exchange websites:
MyLanguageExchange - My Language Exchange is a great community, headquartered in Montreal, Canada, which gives learners access to profiles of other members fluent in 115 different languages. It is a decent site, though it is recommended that you pay the fee to become a Gold member, to access all the features available. Non-Gold members may view other profiles, but may not initiate contact with any members, though they may reply to any messages received from a paying Gold member. There are word games and forums accessible to all members.
LingoFriends – LingoFriends is a similar community that offers access to profiles and messages completely free. There is a ‘mentor’ feature on the site which gives one the ability to pay a person fluent in the target language for one-on-one lessons. The site is a bit slow to load, but worth much more since it’s free. Users are almost as numerous as the MyLanguageExchange community, and anyone is welcome to become a mentor, giving them the chance to earn some money while tutoring someone on their native language, of which LingoFriends collects a small broker’s fee.
Livemocha – Livemocha is the world’s largest language-learning community, but they revolve around lessons and study material, with content and a learning method similar to Rosetta Stone software. However, there is a social area where people can meet and hence use this as a facilitator of language exchange, but Livemocha is perhaps not the best if a language exchange is all you seek, as their search options of profiles are limited.
Other good sites for language exchanges: