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Help students teach themselves with language partner: a guide

I’ve been teaching my buddy English while he teaches me French. Here’s what we’ve learned in the past 8 months. Also, you’ll find links to video tutorials below on our learning method, which therein contain links to my files designed to help collaborative language learning.

First – you need to find a language partner you actually like working with and who shares similar goals. My language partner and I are both vigilant about keeping a routine; 3 hours a day, same time, same place. That’s half the battle.

Learning Together Online You should explore how to best work together. For us, our initial struggle was maintaining a good conversation. It can be difficult Skype calling an internet contact, but doing so in a foreign language is even harder. So, we changed the game. We started watching YouTube videos together and discussing what we saw. I would share my screen via Skype, mute the show and enter full screen mode. After that, we’d follow our curiosities. “What’s that thing? And that?” When we learned a new word, we’d pause it and write them down. We also tried using the PC game Counterstrike, which unlocked first person conversation style. We’d load a custom map such as a zoo. “Look, I am walking up the stairs. Now I’m walking down the stairs.”

I created a Google Sheet customized for language exchange vocabulary. You can both load it up, make a copy and work simultaneously. It’s also easy to export the vocabulary to Anki for review.

Here’s a video demonstration of our learning method

And here’s my user guide for using the spreadsheet

Tracking Progress Although there are no progress pics for language learning, I’ve come up with the next best thing. I’ve created a free massive wordlist from Project Gutenberg ebooks, using some easy automation and a database. It shows the frequency at which millions of words appear in the books.

In my English sample database that I create during my tutorial video, these words are “the,” “of” and “by,” which respectively account for 6.0%, 3.6% and 2.9% of the total 1.5 million word count. If you only know these three words, your sum vocabulary level is already at 12.5%! Now mark that number on your calendar, because you can chart your progress over time! As you descend the list, you may also discover some crucial word gaps. Scrolling down far enough will inevitably reveal the extent of your vocabulary.

Here’s a video tutorial on creating a Wordlist

That’s it. I tried being brief at the cost of clarity, so just post any Qs that come to mind.

We’re all gonna make it!

September 1, 2015



This post and these links all are great. Thanks very much for going to all this effort for us, your fellow language learners. Please accept a few lingots (a good french word).


Merci beaucoup Slogger :) Bonne chance!

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