I remember the first time that I had a language exchange…
I was so nervous! I had no idea what to expect or how the people would be that I was going to be talking with.
About 6 months ago I realized that there are actually fun ways to study a language and I just wanted to share my experience and emotions. After many months of doing activities that were not very fun ways to study, I decided I was ready to start talking with real people, native speakers. I found a free site called conversationexchange.com and created a profile. To my surprise, I received over 50 messages within 3 days from various countries. These people wanted to speak English with me! I added a dozen or so people to my Skype account and started to receive greetings from everyone.
I was quite content to just try chatting with people, text chatting I mean. Although I had committed to this idea of talking to real people, I was definitely putting it off (delaying) as long as I could. For the first few days, I was working quite a bit, so it was easy to tell people I was not available to talk. One night, I was off work early in the evening and I received a message asking if I could practice talking. I didn’t have a good excuse to say no… so I said yes I could talk!
My ability to speak in a foreign language was not very good at that time. I remember being very content to speak English with this Colombian guy on the other end of the call and only saying with a few words of Spanish here and there. Despite the language barrier, I couldn’t believe how interesting the conversation was! This was one of the most fun ways to study a language. I had met a really interesting person, that was very kind, extremely patient and really funny.
I remember the feeling of speaking and listening to the language I was learning. It was so bizarre. It felt like I was testing every word to make sure they were understood by the person I was speaking to. Until now it was only a theory that these words were used and would be understood but I had never tried. So really, I still had a bit of doubt in this way and it actually took a few weeks to gain some confidence.
A few days after my first phone call, I decided to try talking to a different language partner. It was another interesting person who was smart, friendly and easy to talk to. After talking with 4 or 5 different people, I started to realize that most people that are learning languages are really cool people, ambitious and often very well educated. Just the type of people I like to talk to!
Now I recognize that it is absolutely critical that I feel comfortable talking with the person on the other end of the phone, testing out this new language. It is a very delicate thing working with other people that want to learn, having to teach and also being taught. You have to put yourself in a vulnerable situation where you could be emotionally hurt if you are laughed at or made to feel like an idiot.
If you take the time to find the right person to practice learning a language with it will truly become a natural motivator and be a very fun way to learn English. I find myself wanting to learn the language better to be able to communicate my thoughts clearly to my new friends.
I am really grateful to have found a language exchange partner that I feel is a good friend. We help each other so much every day. There are no stupid questions, ever. Some questions are just funnier than others and are more fun to answer with entertaining examples for the answers.