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November 2016

How to Choose the Right Conversation Partner

What you should look for in a conversation partner for language learning

The best way to learn a foreign language is to use it. Finding the right conversation partner is invaluable to developing competent language skills. Speaking takes all the grammatical rules you've learned and puts them into practice, forcing you to develop the linguistic reflexes required for interacting in your target language's country. Without the ability to communicate, learning a new language is virtually useless. It is in sharing our ideas that makes learning a foreign language so powerful.

But what should one look for in a conversation companion? We’ll take a look at some of the attributes of a good language partner.

A good language partner is informed

When looking for a conversation partner, be sure the individual is competent with the target language. Of course, native speakers are preferable to others also learning the target language, however it would be unwise to assume all native speakers converse in their mother tongues in the "correct" manner. Find someone who speaks the target language as "correctly" as possible.

A good language partner speaks the standard language

This takes the prior tip one step further: Unless you are specifically looking to learn a dialect, try to find a language partner who speaks the standard version of your target language. Every country has regions where dialects (or at least heavily accented versions of the language) are spoken. Italy has the Roman dialect, the Neapolitan dialect, the Sicilian dialect, and more. China features multiple dialects from Mandarin (the official dialect), Cantonese, Shanghainese, and more. If you're learning the standard version of a language, be sure to find a partner who speaks this well.

A good language partner is patient

One of the benefits of paying for a language teacher is that they are willing to take the time to sit down with you and chat. Friends may not always have the patience to speak slowly with you in even their native language, especially if you're both preoccupied with everyday life. Finding a patient conversation partner who is willing to slow things down is fundamental. Learning is a slow process, and it would not be ideal to have someone act impatiently with your process.

A good language partner isn't afraid to correct you

If your language partner is too polite to correct you, your path to fluency is hindered. We learn best from our mistakes, so it’s fundamental that our language partners take the initiative to correct our errors so that we learn from them. Letting errors slide can reinforce mistakes, making it counterproductive to achieving fluency.

A good language partner is a good conversationalist

This last item goes without saying: Your language partner ought to be someone you enjoy speaking with. If you are introverted, it may help to find someone more extroverted than yourself so that the conversation is always flowing. Find someone who has similar interests or who can teach you new things.

Whatever method you choose and whomever you choose to study with, be sure to focus on having fun. Make the process sustainable because the process is long.

Do you have a language partner? What are your experiences with finding one? Let us know with a comment on Facebook and be sure to follow us with a “like” for more articles on language learning tips!

Picture (c) leungchopan, Fotolia