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My First Face-to-Face Language Exchange (Intercambio) in Spain: Observations and Some Tips

My first in-person language exchange was superb, if you can find a native speaker in your area to work with I can’t recommend it enough.


First face to face language exchange in Spain.

A video posted by Andrew Tracey (@andrewhasacamera) on

That’s my partner, Azucena, who took me on a tour around my area of Zaragoza for several hours.  We stopped at a couple of different bars for first coffee and then later beer.  I would say we probably spent something like four hours together, I was very lucky not only in that she was kind enough to spend that much time with me and take me around the city but also that she actually had that much time to spend with me.

A couple quick observations that may help you should you decide to do a face-to-face language exchange like this:

  • I’m used to setting a specific amount of time to talk in each language before the exchange gets started that way both parties know where they stand and we have an agreed-upon deal, e.g. we’ll do 20 minutes in English and then 20 minutes in Spanish.  This didn’t happen and wasn’t necessary.  It was really interesting, honestly fascinating looking back on it, how this dynamic worked: we just kind of naturally went back and forth, like “ok we’ve been speaking English a while now, we should switch to Spanish for a bit”, and it just worked out in the end.  We ended up doing roughly equal amounts of both.  This is something that I think is highly dependent on the people involved and therefore it may not work out that way for you with whoever you end up doing one of these with, but it’s nice when it does because you don’t have to watch the clock.
  • My Spanish improved as the time went on, and I would say the same thing happened to her English.  There’s definitely some sort of “I need to warm up” phenomenon with speaking a second language.  I think the brain definitely gets into a particular “mode” for each language that takes it a while to get into and out of not only because of what I just said but also because I noticed that I had trouble thinking of English that I knew after I’d been speaking Spanish for a while and the same thing happened to her with Spanish after she’d been speaking English for a while.
  • You need to note the corrections and new aspects of the language that you learn.  Of course, the less distracting and disruptive the way you do this is, the better.  Writing them on a laptop or notepad is…okay, but not the best method in my opinion.  I recommend you get one of these little digital voice recorders and use that instead – as soon as you hear something new you can hit the record button and speak it into the recorder then immediately go back to the conversation.  Additionally, another benefit is that you can have your partner, a native speaker remember, say the word or phrase into the recorder for you that way you’ve got an audio record of the native speaker saying it.  This would ensure you’re not accidentally introducing any errors (that you’ll later learn as the correct way to say it) by misspeaking or because you misheard them.
  • If you have any questions about something specific in the language that you’ve read or heard recently that you can’t sort out on your own with the resources you have (internet, dictionary, etc.), note it down somewhere and bring that with you to the language exchange so you can ask them about it.  I didn’t do this but it’s something I’ve done before with online language exchanges and tutoring sessions and is just generally a good idea.

Ok, that’s all for now, I’ll continue to keep you guys updated and I hope you’re enjoying my posts.



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