Progressing in the language means training, practice … and who can help you better than a native speaker? From simple correspondence to linguistic exchange, the possibilities are multiple, provided you avoid a few pitfalls..
1 Making a successful correspondence
It’s still too early to consider a language stay in the country, but you would like to improve your language skills by exchanging with a native? It’s an excellent approach! There are many ways to find a pen pal on the Internet. Some sites simply offer a connection, others have forums or instant messaging. It’s up to you to choose the formula that suits you best, among the small selection I’ve prepared:
The strong points:
- The self-evaluation system based on the European framework: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2
- The graphics are nice
- A convenient search engine to find foreign correspondents
- The site has a lot of members and you can find native people very easily.
The weak points:
- To start, you have to send in a friend request and wait to be accepted
- There is no internal video conferencing service on the site so you must use Skype.
The strong points:
- The speed at which we can find a correspondent in the United States, or any other country…
- The chat system with the possibility to correct (and get corrected) mistakes in the chat room.
- The system to call each other (no need to use Skype) with suggestions for topics and questions, timer and the possibility to take notes.
- Badges and competitions to motivate people to do tandem language training.
The weak points:
- The live feature is very nice but it’s hard to see the level of the correspondent in our language to sort the profiles.
- More filters and options should be added to choose correspondents
- Finally, even if it makes registration easier, the obligation to register via Facebook or Gmail
The strong points:
- The search for partners by mode of exchange (if you want to talk, no need to find someone who just wants to exchange letters)
- Convenient and fast site
The weak points:
- The lack of an integrated video chat (but you can use Skype)
- It is not clear whether a user is online or not.
- Last thing, in order to talk to someone, you first have to exchange messages…
The strong points
- A famous site… As a result, there are more than 3 million members, spread over 133 countries. This makes it easier to meet people. And it also makes it easier to meet a pen pal of the same level as you.
- There is the possibility to communicate by e-mail or voice chat. Depending on your level, and especially on your ambitions, you can improve your written or oral skills.
- The platform is free…
- It’s free until some point. In order to use the site as a discussion platform, a subscription is required. Quite inconvenient for a free language exchange platform… But to overcome this problem, correspondents easily exchange skype, e-mail address or phone number. It’s user-friendly.
- The platform and the graphics are a bit old and outdated. But between us, what’s more important: that the navigation is pleasant or that the conversations are rich?
To ensure that your experience is positive and as beneficial as possible, here are some important tips:
- Find a correspondent of the same level as you.
It is important that the exchange is interesting and efficient for all the protagonists.
- Vary and change partners.
One cannot share interests with everyone. If you feel that your fit is not optimal with your first pen pal, do not hesitate to look for other people with whom you would have more things in common, even if it means exchanging with several pen pals. This will allow you to vary the topics of conversation and, above all, to ask for help more often, to improve your language skills even more.
- Preparing for the conversation if you are exchanging verbally.
Of course, discussions leave a lot of room for spontaneity, but it is advisable to prepare a few topics and questions in advance to avoid downtime. The simplest is to address general themes at the outset (presentation, profession, passions, etc.).
- Agreeing on corrections.
Correct oneself in writing, orally? Interrupt at every mistake or correct everything at the end of the discussion? There is no rule other than that of getting along well with your correspondent from the beginning.
- Respecting the timing.
In an oral language tandem, it is best to agree on a length of time for discussion in one language so that everyone can move forward at the same speed and avoid some frustration. For example, for one hour of correspondence, speak for 30 minutes in your language and 30 minutes in the language of your correspondent.
2 Direct conversations with native speakers
You feel you master the basics and you’re ready for live discussions with native speakers? Then go for a language stay in the country!
The most classic: in a host family
In France, there are about a hundred organizations recognized by two federations that can help you organize your stay in a serious and secure way:
- UNOSEL Union nationale des organisations de séjours éducatifs, linguistiques et de formation en langues
Surely comparable organizations exist in your country as well. It’s up to you to find them to start your preparation.
Among the most often proposed stays, we find in particular:
- Staying in a school: language classes in the morning, activities in the afternoon. An exchange that can reassure parents (for the youngest) and that will allow you to meet people of different nationalities and to share your room with a non-French speaker.
- Staying with a teacher: one of the best ways to progress in the language, in a fast way, with several hours of individual lessons per day. A formula that will suit the less extroverted.
Pitfalls to be avoided during language exchange
1 Do not stay among your own countrymen!
It’s sure reassuring, but if you don’t dare to go outside your comfort zone to come into contact with locals, you’re not going to make any progress. You have to immerse yourself completely in the place where you are staying, even if you sometimes feel a little isolated, but you will make progress.
2 Do not take too many language courses on site!
Of course working is important, but language courses can be taken from home, while having contact with locals is a rare and precious opportunity: take advantage of it. Live the language, go shopping, go to parties, … meet people, exchange and you will progress.
3 Finally, once again, prepare the organisation of your stay thoroughly.
This in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the spot, especially in the choice of the host family. I, for example, have very bad memories of a stay abroad because of hosts who were so absent that I had no language exchange, spent all my evenings alone, which brought me back to France with great frustration!
You might as well put all the chances on your side by preparing your trip well.
So now all I have to do is wish you good luck! Travel, dare, speak, question, discuss … and your trip will be unforgettable in addition to all the linguistic progress you will make!
3 Book linguistical progress from home, with a native while having fun!
You’re back from your trip. You’ve made good progress and would like to maintain your newly acquired language skills and even improve further. You already have some nice correspondants that allow you to communicate with native speakers, but you would like to progress faster, more efficiently, in a more focused, more pedagogical way…
Why ? Because Coliglote will allow you to learn languages in two absolutely complementary ways, unlike other applications. You can of course study alone, but also by practicing with a real native of the country. Because a language is above all to communicate.
- Learning with locals : a real immersion in the language
- Sometimes student, sometimes teacher : you can be ambassador of your own language!
- Playful and effortless : educational games to learn
- Fast progress insured : we never progress as well as practicing
- Friends all over the world : cultural exchange guaranteed
- Completely free
The app will be released soon, so sign up here quickly:
Written by Ingrid, Coliglote
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