Working in Tandem:Language Exchanges

The time had finally come; I had arrived in Paris to put the years of learning French to the test. However, I had come up against a brick wall: despite the fact I was speaking in French, the response was regularly in English.  So what was I to do? Skimming through all the events on, I discovered language exchange events such as Paris English French Conversation exchange, Franglish and Café Conversation and I decided to try one out.

The event I went to had a concept similar to that of speed dating (without the awkward chatting up), with 7 minutes each to speak in French and English. After the time is up, you move onto another table, meet a new partner and repeat the cycle.  Simple.

Language exchanges are successful because they provide a medium to meet native speakers in a relaxed environment. There is no need to feel embarrassed or anxious when making mistakes, as everyone understands the difficulty of learning a language. It is also a brilliant compromise, as both parties get the opportunity to put their language skills into practice. Additionally, the events attract a wide variety of people which allows for a large scope of conversation topics.

Needless to say, the concept can become repetitive and you do find yourself saying the same spiel over and over again.  The constant chopping and changing also has a downside as you often have to leave conservations unfinished when you’ve reached an interesting point. Lastly, as an intern, I found the event I went to a bit expensive at 8 Euros (12 Euros without student discount). However, the price does include a drink.

Complaints aside, I feel it is a worthwhile investment and the opportunity to meet native French speakers, who are willing to help me with my French, is priceless. The road to fluency is often a long and frustrating one but a language exchange offers the prospect to do so in a welcoming and non- intimidating atmosphere. I would highly recommend participating in language exchanges to anyone who wishes to improve their language skills, regardless of their level of fluency.

What do you think of language exchanges? Do you have any other innovative ways for learning languages?

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