Our previous blog posts looked at some of the best online tools for finding a language exchange partner during the pandemic, but as restrictions ease and more events take place, the opportunity to attend an intercambio away from your computer screen and meet face-to-face is possible once again.
If you’re new to a city, finding out where language exchanges take place is easy with the help of Google, Instagram and Facebook. Searching the city name and “intercambio” or “language exchange” will usually lead you to the right place. Walking into a room of people and having to interact in a language that you don’t feel completely comfortable and confident using, can be daunting – but hopefully by the time you’ve read this blog you won’t feel so nervous about going.
‘If you don’t use it you’ll lose it!’
Putting your language skills into practice and speaking with others is essential in order to improve your language learning, and intercambio is certainly one of the best ways to put your language skills to use. Studies have shown that conversation practice uses your working memory to put to use the various elements of grammar, punctuation and vocabulary all at once, which is why language learners who practice speaking have been shown to progress faster than those who do no oral practice. Unlike the more formal classroom setting, intercambios allow you to pair up one, or multiple, language learners so you both spend equal time speaking and listening and break away from the more traditional, teacher focused learning that takes place in the classroom. An intercambio also allows you to have more autonomy and practice the type of conversation that you want to learn.
Learn the language used by native speakers
Whilst grammar is very important when learning a new language, going to an intercambio enables you to learn and practice spoken phrases that you can use with native speakers whilst living in a new city. Through learning slang words or colloquial expressions you can gain a better understanding of the local dialect and the language everyone uses in real life interactions. Likewise, the more conversational environment of an intercambio allows for a more personal learning experience and one that you may find more engaging than if you were using a language learning app on your phone, for example. Isolated words that you may learn through an app can also sound very different to when you hear them in a real conversation which is another reason why linguists argue that conversation practice is essential to understanding native speakers when learning a second language.
Meet new people and find out more about a different culture
As well as putting to use your language skills, intercambio is a great way to integrate into a new city and culture. You can meet new people and find recommendations for local food, bars, clubs and cultural attractions. The people who go to intercambio sessions are open to meeting new people and keen to share their knowledge and culture with you, so don’t be shy! It helps to remember that everyone who goes to an intercambio is there to learn, people are patient and they want to help you learn. Have fun with the experience!
As part of our Intercambio Plus project, we will be organising our own intercambio events in different cities around Europe. These will be an opportunity to try out our Intercambio Companion, which will include useful guidance and conversation-friendly exercises to do with other language learners. Stay tuned for more info!