A great way to do a language exchange is via a chat room – a language exchange is just where two people, each learning the other’s native language, agree to help one another, e.g. a native English speaker learning Spanish will help a native Spanish speaker who’s learning English in exchange for said Spanish speaker helping them with their Spanish. See my article I linked to above for more info.
This is not actually that popular – most people use Lang-8 or Skype – and so there aren’t that many chat rooms dedicated to this and, in my opinion, only one really good one, “good” in that it’s well designed and popular enough such that finding partners is always easy. Below are the three best ones that I’ve found and some tips on how to use them:
This is the best one and the one I recommend. It’s run by Rosetta Stone as a free service (no, you don’t have to have purchased one of their products, it’s completely free at the moment). It’s for any and all languages, it’s not language-specific (like some others).
It’s well designed and always has lots of participants. Not only that but it has a voice-chat function that’s essentially a service like Skype where you can actually talk to people in real-time if you have a microphone on your computer and, preferably, a web cam so you can see each other as well.
Also, of course, you can always just both agree to get on Skype.
This one’s been around forever (10+ years) and looks it. Old design but it still works fine (recommend you choose Flash instead of Java when starting it up). There are typically a decent number of people on it, usually around a couple dozen, but here’s the thing with this one…
It’s Spanish-English only. SharedTalk is for any language you’re learning – if you can find someone else on there who matches you (you’re a native Swahili speaker learning Russian and you can find a Russian learning Swahili) then you can chat with them.
Ok, this one’s not actually for language-learners, but if you’re at an intermediate or higher level you should be just fine. It’s actually several language-specific rooms for people who want to speak something other than English (so it’s going to be filled with native speakers of that language who may very well not speak yours, hence the requirement that you be at least somewhat competent in their language). The languages available are (each of the below links to the relevant room):
- Chinese (not really a language, but anyway…)
Yeah, no German, I was surprised too. Oh well. Hey, Dutch is kinda close, right? 😀
As I explained in my recent article on how to learn vocabulary, the best possible single thing you can do is to actually use said vocabulary to communicate with a native speaker and this is one way to do that. Just take whatever new vocabulary words you’ve recently learned and make a point of using them with your chat partners.
You can go about this one of two ways:
- Just have a list of those words/phrases you want to use pulled up in a text file or some such thing while you’re chatting and try to use them whenever you can.
- Write, beforehand, a list of sentences you want to say to your partner such that all your vocabulary words get used. For example, write up something about a local news item using your new vocabulary words, bring it up in conversation when you can, and then use the relevant sentence(s) you’ve written beforehand.
The point of this is to get corrections, it’s to make mistakes, find our weak points, to find out if we’re actually using the words/expressions correctly or not and if not then to get corrected (by the native speaker). You do this by using them with a native speaker and seeing if they correct you or not (make a point of asking them to correct any mistakes you make, of course).
Hope that helps you, let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have any other chat rooms you think I should have included please definitely let me know about them! I’ll be happy to edit this, add them, and give you credit.