One great way to learn a second language is to date someone who is native speaker. But, for most of us, and for a variety of reason, that’s not feasible. However, the next best thing is to have a Spanish conversation exchange.
It can be just a friend who speaks the language and is willing to speak with you, or an actual conversation exchange, where you spend time speaking in your native language, and then in theirs. It’s a great way not only to learn the language but to meet interesting people from another culture.
When I first met Maider, she didn’t speak English, which forced me to use my limited Spanish to express myself and I had to find a way to understand what she was saying. It helped me improve because I used it in a way that was meaningful to me – to actually communicate with someone!
And speaking with someone whose trying to learn your language can give you a new perspective and ultimately help you make connections in your target language. You might be surprised at its qerks and what makes it difficult. For example, ask a non-native English speaker what they think of “phrasal verbs” like “go off”, “get off” or “get out” !
There are several websites to help you connect with other language learners. Some are more casual, facilitating get-togethers, some let people search for someone who wants to learn your mother tongue and you theirs, and others are more structured with lesson planning and sometimes even a teacher. And then there are lots of options to talk online.
Whichever style you choose, one of the best things to do to solidify your learning and maintain your Spanish is get out there and use it! And don’t forget to use conversation exchanges while you travel. I did it all over Europe and had a great experience. But of course, as with all social internet sites, you must be safe. Be cautious about where you meet people and how much information you give them about yourself. Also keep in mind, some people may secondarily use conversation exchanges for dating – which can be a plus depending on your situation ;).
Some free internet websites for meeting other local Spanish students and native speakers:
Happy Hour Spanish’s Meetups – We’ve put together our own meet up page to help bring Spanish speakers together. Find an HHS Meetup in your city or start your own for free! Get together for a drink to loosen up your tongue and enjoy the company of Spanish students and native speakers alike!
Conversation Exchange: Fill out a short profile with your name, age, and a short blurb. Search for native speakers of the language you’re learning and who want to learn your mother tongue. Send a message to whomever you want to meet to schedule a meetup in person or over skype.
MyLanguageExchange.com: Hosted online exchanges, including lesson plans and chat rooms.
Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments!