In my last post I shared ten websites or apps that you can use to find one or more partners for language exchange. In this post, we’ll look at who you should ideally choose as a language exchange partner and how to establish an exchange.
If you remember from the previous post, a language exchange is when you meet regularly with a person who speaks the language you want to learn, and who also wants to learn your language. You take turns practicing each other’s language and giving each other feedback. I will assume that you’ve chosen one or more online platforms to do this.
Now, who should you choose for your language exchange partner? Well, there are three requirements you should look for: the ability to have real communication, equal give and take, and reliability.
1. Real Communication
First, you need to find a person with whom you can have real communication. If you want to have a good and long-lasting language exchange partner, it’s very important that you have the right attitude. Remember that languages are tools we use to communicate with people. People are not simply tools we use to practice language.
If you and your language partners only think of each other as people to talk to for the purpose of learning another language, the relationship will not likely last. This is because it won’t be a real relationship. Human beings are not like books or computers.
So, what this means is that an ideal language exchange partner should be someone who can inspire you, entertain you, educate you, and even comfort you when you’re sad. You should be able to do the same for them. If you can open up to each other and share your hopes, dreams, and/or fears, this is real communication. Your perfect communication partner should be just like a friend.
2. Give & Take
Second, you need to find someone who is willing to equally give and take. Not only should you have real communication, but the communication needs to be equal in both languages, as much as possible. This give and take usually can be measured by the amount of time you dedicate (or give) to communicating in just one of the two languages. If you’re both are at similar levels of language proficiency (or ability), this might be easier to evaluate (or judge).
Third, you need to find someone who is reliable. If your chosen language partner is great, but consistently forgets to meet with you or has had to cancel many times, you might need to think about getting another partner. Of course, be sure that YOU are reliable, too.
Now you know some traits you should look for in a language exchange partner. The person who is perfect for you should be someone with whom you can have real communication, someone who equally gives and takes when you talk with each other, and someone who is reliable.
Ultimately, you need to take your time to find someone who is a perfect match for you. And yes, it is OK to have more than one partner. To be honest, you probably won’t find the right person for you on your first try. If you’re not sure about your partner, it’s fine to look for another one if you feel it’s necessary.
The Importance of Personal Profiles
But how do find this person and establish an exchange? Well, it comes down to searching people’s profiles and finding information in them that appeals to you. If you share the same interests or hobbies, it might be easier to connect with that person. This is why it’s also important that you, too, set up yourself up appropriately on the platform(s) you have chosen.
If you create a good profile on your language exchange system, it will be easier for suitable potential language exchange partners to find you. A good profile is one which is interesting, concise (or brief) but informative at the same time, truthful (or honest) and personal. If your profile has these descriptions, it will be easier to attract the right person.
Let me show you examples of both good and bad language exchange profiles.
Here’s a short one:
Hi. My name is Morksensei. I would like to practice Norwegian and I can help you with your English in return.
This short profile probably will not help you. If you leave just a minimum amount of information, you will appear uninteresting, or even lazy. The reader of your profile does not have enough information to decide if you might be a good choice for them. If you take ten more minutes of your time to create an appealing profile, that effort will probably pay off. You don’t need to worry about writing perfect English. In fact, it might be useful if your written English reflects your actual ability in English, because the person who reads it will have an idea of your level before even talking with you.
A longer profile:
Hi. I’m Morksensei. I would like to improve my Norwegian and I can help you with your English in exchange. Do you like coffee? I am a bean addict! If you live in Montreal, we can meet for a cup of coffee.
This is better, but just a little. There is still not enough information.
A much longer (but still concise) profile:
Hi. I’m Morksensei! I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. I work full-time as a teacher, and in my free time, enjoy cycling, reading, and movies. I also LOVE learning languages and enjoy meeting new people, too. I like to talk about a variety of topics, including art and architecture, fashion, psychology, current events, language learning, and travel. Right now, I am interested in improving my Norwegian. I would be thrilled to speak to you on Skype or Zoom. If you live in Montreal, we might be able to meet up for a coffee (I am a bean addict!) and perhaps explore somewhere in the city where neither of us has been. I speak Japanese, French, and a few words in other languages. If you speak Japanese or French as well, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
This one is still brief, but a lot more informative and appealing – at least to someone who has similar interests.
If you’re not sure what you should write in your profile, look at those of other people on the platform for inspiration. Ask yourself why you think a particular profile is good, and think of those reasons when you create your own. And don’t forget a picture. A real picture. You should be yourself.
Writing a good profile is important, but you can’t expect people to all find you and want to speak with you just because you wrote an interesting and honest profile. What you need to do is be proactive and take the time to look for people. This will probably take more of your time, and you may have to do it several times.
Take Initiative to Reach Out
Once you have found one or more people you think might be interesting to have language exchange with, you have to take initiative and write messages to them. You should read their profiles carefully so that you can write to each of them in a personal way. Don’t write the same impersonal message to everyone. Use information you found on a person’s profile to create a unique message that is just for them.
For example, if you discover in a man’s profile that he loves vegetarian cooking, you should make it clear that you’ve read his profile by mentioning vegetarian cooking within your message. You can write something simple, like:
“Hey! I see you like to cook! Me too! I’m not a vegetarian but I am interested in cooking with more vegetables.”
Comments like this can make a big difference.
If that man is a little interested, he will probably go to look at your profile. If he finds something interesting about you, he may reply. This is why it is important to share personal things, like passions, hobbies, interests, etc. It all comes back to the idea of real communication. It’s much easier to have real communication when there is interest, or an interest in common.
If you don’t get a reply from the person you messaged, don’t take it personally. This may happen a lot. Even the nicest message won’t result in a reply if the other person is busy, doesn’t check the platform, already has a partner, or any number or reasons that have nothing to do with you. Just keep looking if this happens.
Once the person does get back to you, though, then you’re ready to start! Hopefully you’ll be able to have real communication from the beginning. After a few sessions, you’ll have to decide if the partner is willing and able to share time equally between the two languages, and if the partner is reliable. We’ll talk more about that in the next post.