Language Exchanges: Learn Languages Abroad on the Cheap
Find Free Options to Expensive Classes
These days one can find language schools or private lessons everywhere abroad, but both options can be expensive. There are cheaper alternatives; they just aren’t as obvious or convenient as classes.
Language Exchanges Offer Full Cultural Immersion
Language exchanges are free opportunities for learning that are either advertised online, or in the classified section of many English publications in metropolitan areas. The number of such dedicated websites and virtual social communities around the world is increasing daily. Intercambios are a favorite way to exchange language knowledge in Spain, and are very effective due to the inherently immersive environment.
Some language exchange groups get together for dinners; others have specific themes for discussion. A few group exchanges are less focused on the language than on gathering locals and foreigners for networking, making friends, and having good times! Both of these styles of group exchanges are good exercises in fluency and practicing the language skills you already know. Neither one-on-one nor group exchanges require any planning or paper and pens. They can be a great way to relax, socialize, and build your language skills at the same time.
For an individual language exchange you first need to contact a partner, either by placing an ad yourself or by responding to one. If you have little of the language to draw upon, you can use an online translation program. When arranging an initial meeting, don’t choose somewhere too busy or big, wear something distinguishing, and if possible exchange a picture by email.
Many people don’t prepare anything for these initial meetings and keep them “conversational,” but knowing the goals and expectations of your exchange is important to ensure that you complement each other’s needs and style. Bring ideas and materials such as articles or music to future meetings. Imagine your appreciation if your exchangee brought a local article written about your home country and helped you read it, thus revealing to you an extra-cultural perspective on your home.
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The concepts of TEFL training are migrating to the teaching of other languages and in most metropolitan areas people are making careers of teaching their own language. These teacher training schools need students to practice on. Look up local teacher training schools on the web using your favorite search engine. Also, check the local periodicals in both English and the local language. Calling or visiting the school is the best way to get the information on these courses. Most of the courses run for a month and average 7-10 hours per week of instruction. You will have to write an assessment exam or undergo an interview for placement purposes.
The courses are a mixed bag—inevitably so when everyone is a student. But even frustrating lessons provide exposure to the language. Take an active role; be bold and make mistakes.