A couple English-learners have recently told me that their skills are suffering because they have no one to practice their English with. This can be a huge problem, because if you can’t communicate in the language you’re learning, you’re never going to improve.
Just think about your own language for a minute. Pretend you’re preparing for a big speech at work or school, and there are some challenging words that you need to focus your attention on. You listen to how they should be pronounced, you say it a few times, and then you keep rehearsing your speech over and over again in your head. Because you can say those difficult words in your head, or say it perfectly after you’ve heard it, you think you don’t really need to rehearse it aloud.
Then it comes time for your big speech. You’re about to read that really difficult word, and you realize you actually don’t know how to say it.
This can happen when you practice English by yourself. You may be able to repeat lines perfectly, or have English conversations in your head, but when it comes time to actually have an English conversation, you can’t.
You probably know how important it is to improve your English by participating in as much English conversation as you can. But what if you can’t find an English-language partner? What if you feel like you’re all on your own?
Finding A Language Partner
Wherever you live, there is always going to be someone who would appreciate a language exchange partner. Take a look at free ad posting websites like Craigslist or Kijiji. You could even look at ad postings in your own cities that would most likely be found in libraries, universities/colleges or even grocery stores. If you can’t find anything, try posting your own ad. You’ll most likely find someone who wants a language partner.
If that fails, don’t worry. There are plenty of free websites that offer language exchanges, no matter what level of English you’re currently at. Here are just a few to start out:
HiNative is a global platform where you can ask native English speakers questions about language or culture. You can ask your own ‘free question’ or pick from many of their pre-written question formats that make it easier than ever to ask questions (especially if you’re still a beginner).
The best part of WeSpeke is that you can connect with native English speakers in any format you’d like – text, audio, or video. So if you’re a little shy, you can simply use text or audio. But if you’d like to see the person you’re connecting with, you can use video!
Speaky allows you to connect with people through audio or video at your own convenience. There are thousands of people online at any time, and they can match you up with someone who shares your particular interests.
Real Conversations Are the Best Teachers
Although your potential language exchange partner is not a teacher (in most cases) and may not be able to teach you specific grammar points, they can tell you when something doesn’t sound right. English conversation can really be the best teacher because it’s real.
Conversations are unpredictable and full of variables. No two conversations are the same so you can never really prepare for it. Now, for all of you who are naturally anxious, that can sound like a nightmare. But don’t worry, the more you participate in English conversation, the more you will enjoy them.
You will see improvements in your English if you have real conversations. It will also give you an added boost of encouragement!
Just remember: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The worst thing you can do is not try or hold back because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes – even the person you’re talking to! When you make mistakes, you’re one step closer to the level of English you wish to be at. Mistakes are vital to improving your English.
If you’d like to see more tips and on how to get through any English conversation, click here.
So, even if you’re not living in an English-speaking country, you can still immerse yourself in the language. Take a break from your textbooks and grammar drills, and try a language exchange. Have you ever tried a language exchange? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below!