The most important thing about learning a foreign language is to use – write and speak – that language.
Apart from travelling abroad, good way to speak in a foreign language is to find a native speaker as a speaking partner online. In order to find someone who will speak with you in their mother tongue and expect in turn that you speak with them in your mother tongue, you can search for specific groups by Facebook (just enter ‘(name of the foreign language) tandem’ in the search field) or you can register at conversationexchange.com or at tandemapp.me where you will find any possible language combination.
- The optimal solution for you is to have a native speaker as your tandem partner (and not someone who speaks that foreign language well). You should have similar interests and at least one of you should speak their foreign language well. You don’t necessarily have to be the same age.
- When you are posting your ‘looking for a learning partner’-note make sure to denote: your knowledge level, your mother tongue, which language you would like to learn, do you wish to have the class in person or via Skype.
- Contact as many people as possible. Not all of them will respond to your inquiry. When someone replies to your note, arrange the first class as soon as possible.
- 50/50 rule: The class should last about one hour. One half of the time you speak in one language and the other half in the other language. Introduction and the last part of the class should be in English or in some other neutral language. During the class avoid English – use it only if there is no other way to explain some unknown word.
- Determine the next class at the end of the previous one or arrange a fixed time during the week.
- The most important thing is to speak freely and not to correct mistakes. You can arrange that either there will not be any corrections during the class or that you have 1 correction / 1 minute.
- Patience is very important. The best tandem conversation is the one between two ‘friends’ and not just two ‘learning partners’.
- Themes: your culture, your countries, your food, your travels, why you are learning foreign languages, your free time, anything that is interesting for you and that you may need at some later point in your life.
- Once again – the most important thing is that you speak freely. But you do not have to rush. If you are not feeling comfortable enough, start slowly. You can chat at the beginning, use Whatsapp (voice recording), several words or sentences will do. You can even prepare your sentences before the conversation or have conversations with yourself at first: 1. start with chats with yourself, 2. sending messages to yourself in that foreign language and 3. and making short conversations (couple of minutes) with yourself. Each stage (1.-3.) could last about a week.
- When you don’t understand some word, you can ask the partner to speak slowly, use simple words and explain unknown words with other words. Pay attention to ‘signal’ words – the ones that are the most important. For example, if you are arranging the next class and the partner says “Wir machen das am Freitag nächste Woche um 19 Uhr” – you actually need to understand only ‘Freitag’ and ’19 Uhr’.
- You do not have to know the foreign language perfectly in order to use it in a conversation. You do not have to know every word. Only words that are really important should be explained and learned for the next time. You actually need 5 verbs in order to communicate: sein, müssen, wollen, können and machen: Was machst du? Ich mache gerne Sport. Ich bin Arzt. Wie ist es in Deutschland? Ich bin gerade Suppe essen. Don’t forget how babies/toddlers communicate: they cry, laugh, show at something that they need, express themselves with only one or two words, use facial expression or gesticulation.
- Make mistakes with no regrets. That is the only way to progress. Just speak – no matter how and what. You can only get better.
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