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June 2015

Speaking practice

5 tips for finding a good language partner

Developing functional conversation skills is essential when it comes to learning a new language. Unless you are a scholar, the bottom-line reason for even learning a new language is to communicate with others. One can study all the grammar in the world, but without real-world practice, the lessons reside only in the mind. Speaking with native speakers helps a language student develop the critical thinking, linguistic reflexes, and muscle memory of the mouth to speak fluidly and effectively.

But we can't all live in the country of our target language, so finding a good language partner is important. But before you go out and grab any person who speaks your desired language, there are a few criteria to keep in mind. Today we’ll look at five tips for finding a good language partner.

Find a language partner who actually understands grammar

This seems like an obvious rule, but you'd be surprised how many people in the world don't understand proper grammar enough to explain it, even in their native language. Having a language partner who understands the grammatical rules of your target language is invaluable for cementing your knowledge of how to utilize the language. While there is much to be said for learning a language based on instinct, knowing the grammatical rules well (including how to apply them accurately) helps broaden your knowledge of the study of the language.

Find a language partner who is patient

When not in their native country, many foreigners prefer speaking in the language of their new home, especially if they are already fluent in that language. Many may not have the time or patience to speak with a beginner of their native language, or, even if they are willing, they may not feel the need to correct errors. This can be detrimental to the language student, because errors not corrected are often errors that linger on. It's important to correct such mistakes before they become too ingrained, in which case it becomes more difficult to fix them. Be sure to find a language partner who is happy to speak their native language with the patience it takes to correct someone who may not yet be fluent.

Find a language partner who can meet regularly

Unless you have many friends who speak your target language, it's a good idea to find a partner who has the time to meet periodically so that you can practice consistently. Language practice is far from a once-a-month endeavor; it takes constant practice of conversation to become a fluid speaker. Whether you buy them coffee or drinks every so often for a couple of hours per week, finding a way to practice regularly is key.

Find a language partner that speaks with minimal dialect

Every country has dialects and accents, but it behooves the language student to find a partner that speaks as cleanly as possible. Unless your goal is to learn a specific dialect, you should find a language partner who can speak your target language "correctly". When you become more skilled and knowledgeable with your target language, you can start implementing new dialects and slang to increase your comprehension. Initially, however, it's best to learn the language as it is known internationally.

Find a language partner that makes learning fun

Enthusiasm is key when it comes to learning anything. Finding a language partner who makes the experience of conversation enjoyable is important to your studies. Even in your native language, it is unlikely you would want to speak with someone who fancies that in which you have no interest. The bottom line of learning a new language, as stated previously, is communication, but the bottom line of communication is people. Make sure you find the people that make communication fun!

Do you have tips for finding a language partner? Do you have any stories of language partners from your past? Let us know on our Facebook page and "like" TELC English for more language learning tips and tricks!

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