1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. experience with language exch…


experience with language exchanges for "hard" languages?

I'm wondering if anybody has gone the find-a-conversation-partner route (either on something like iTalki or in "real life" by some means or other) when at a reasonably low level (more or less comfortable with a Duo tree but little more, for example) in a language not closely related to your native one or any other one you speak: Greek, Slavic, or anything non-Indo-European for English speakers, for example [or if you have been the language exchange partner of such a person].

How was it? Did it more or less work, being beneficial for both parties, with conversation on simple topics, and gradual progress for both over time, or was it more annoyance than it was worth? Any tips for making it more useful?

August 4, 2017



I hereby officially nominate piguy3, who puts the rest of us (well, most of us) to shame with his impressive string of flags and levels, to conduct an experiment as described above and report back to us on his locutionary excursions. It would be a terrifying sacrifice of pride, no doubt, but it is for the betterment of all of Duolingo - nay, all of mankind!!!!

I'd start here:

http://www.conversationexchange.com - you create an account and then search for practice partners. You can search by various criteria such as gender, age, nationality, hobbies. You can search for pen pals, audio chat partners, or video chat partners. You can use their internal messaging service if you don't want to give out your email address.

https://www.verbling.com/community - uses Google Hangouts (so you might need to install a browser extension). Supports audio/video/text (you can disable the video). Impromptu group chat rooms in many languages at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. If no chat rooms currently have open slots it's easy to create a new one.

Also check out iTalki, weSpeke, Busuu, and goSpeaky.

Now go forth, piguy3, humiliate thyself, and report back for all of our entertain... no, our betterment. Who's with me?!


Thank you for the many recommendations! 'Tis a marveous quest thou putt'st before me, and I would most pleasedly embrace the which had my immediate priorities greater overlap with the criteria of my inquest :) But when the time comes for me to give this a go for "Guaraní," I'll be most happy to give my account! We'll see how much transferable insight can be gained from my experiences of attempting to maneuver in the idiosyncratic indigenous American-Indo-European patois that is Jopará!

https://www.verbling.com/community sounds really cool, but it says "Community groups are temporarily disabled." Is that something you've seen happen before?


I've not seen that before. Let's hope it's very temporary.


Did you find Gurani fun?


The language is great. The tree... will be better when it's somewhat closer to beta stage completion.


As it's still in beta how did you get to level 25 so quickly


Well, it has been out 11 months.


That's 9 skills a day tho non stop


Well, things get easier and speedier with repetition :) Also, timed practice.


I'm impressed congrats :)


Has anyone been responding to reports of late, out of interest? Or, indeed, writing notes? I haven't looked at this tree for quite a while—there were quite a number of frustrating idiosyncrasies (at least, for someone who hasn't learnt his Spanish in Paraguay) when I went through it the first time.


Well, at least the discussion pages contain explanations of the "español jopajá," as it has been intermittently dubbed. And the number of answers and clarifications about things available in the sentence discussions has been increasing apace. As far as more "official" progress, evidence would be harder to come by. There's quite the divergence between those who show up as having built the course and those still "active" as incubator contributors.


Shucks, I'm starting to think the Verbling community feature is down for the duration :(



I suspect it might be permanent. I can't find mention of the old "community" feature anywhere on their website.

Google Hangouts used to have some language practice groups. I haven't looked for those in a long time but it might be worth checking into.


I'm on italki and have tried a few language exchanges. I have a problem finding people who (1) will accept the request and (2) stick with it with any kind of consistency.


I did this for Hebrew, starting last September, having fiddled about on Duolingo since the course came out. I wasn't even finished with, let alone comfortable with the Duolingo tree at the time. It was enormously scary and intimidating, and I couldn't say very much at all, hadn't encountered the past tense at all, mostly knew weird sentences about animals! BUT it was enormously beneficial, and it is the thing that helped my Hebrew the most, and also it is usually really fun once I get past the first few minutes.

Additional thought: Although it's obviously more of a financial outlay, if you can find a good teacher on italki, there's really something to be said for spending a whole 30-45 minutes speaking mostly (as much as possible, within your ability) in the target language. Though exchange partners can also be really fun, if you're willing to be patient finding one who will stick with it and will allow you your chance speaking your target language.

Also, if you're at all interested, this is me talking with my favourite Hebrew teacher at the start of July, which represents a little over a year of learning Hebrew from almost nothing, and about ten months of serious (slightly sporadic) study: https://youtu.be/PbqYCHN2KaU

(And if you want to know where I was at the first time I did an exchange: https://youtu.be/8FD2VBX-wiE (There's a translation in the comments so you can see exactly how little I knew....)

Imagine this plus learning how to say "I don't understand, can you speak more slowly, how do I say ___ in Hebrew," and that was literally everything... and I survived! I do recommend writing down a bunch of survival phrases and questions just so you have something to fall back on in cases of panic or brain fade, but I strongly expect that your Russian, for example, is way more competent than my Hebrew was last September ;))


Wonderful! Thank you for sharing. For the beginnings of your Hebrew adventure did you have a contracted teacher then? I wonder how things would go for two people who were both still in early learning stages. (Albeit less relevant for the Guaraní case since presumably we'd be able to fill in gaps with Spanish.) Probably with the right spirit and person it could be great, but it would require a certain inventiveness since neither would be able to tell the other how to say much.


Actually, I rather resisted having a teacher at first, then I unexpectedly had a small but helpful influx of cash and took the plunge. My first couple of times speaking Hebrew were not with teachers; I think I stumbled through maybe ten minutes of very halting Hebrew with a lot of help before simply running out of words the first time LOL. In my experience, most Israelis have pretty good English (even if they claim not to ;)); I still remember with absolute clarity the first time the Israeli half of a conversation was searching for an English translation and I was able to provide it before she did, because it was that unusual/a genuine achievement!

I think it would take a LOT of patience if both halves of the conversation were beginners - and ideally an actual video conversation with a good connection, because then you can point at stuff or do gestures LOL.

Since typically people have at least some English, I tend to ask to start in the target language, on the grounds that I'll run out of Hebrew (or whatever) and can then talk as long as they want in English, whereas if we start in English, then by the time the target language comes up, my brain has more or less given out. You sometimes need to be a little forceful about using the target language, because some people (intentionally or not) will otherwise seriously dominate the conversation with their desire to practise English. It's the blessing/curse of being a native English speaker; our abilities are highly in demand, but our language partners tend to be more advanced and (not surprisingly) have high motivation to practise, so you have to be really quite intentional about speaking your target language, otherwise you won't get to. That's not universally true, I've had language partners who were very uncomfortable with English and so preferred to favour their own language, but it's a pretty common experience.

That is where actual lessons come into their own. Yes, I have to pay - but 30-45 minutes of my target language and then the same again (or often much more) in English wears me out enormously, so having a lesson that's 30-45 minutes long but is entirely in Hebrew (barring me having memory lapses or simply not knowing a word) is a much more efficient use of my time. Obviously, it's not just about efficient learning, if I have a language partner I enjoy talking with them the language is only a part of it, but with chronic illness it does make a difference to spend X amount of time just speaking Hebrew.

(Most interesting Hebrew lesson so far: finding myself unexpectedly having a Hebrew lesson conducted in Russian. Wow, did that frazzle my brain ;-p)

... I feel like I've rambled LOL but hopefully it's reasonably helpful...

I meant to say, I strongly, strongly suspect that you are much better prepared for language exchange in your strongest languages than I was when I started Hebrew. I cannot emphasise enough how little functional Hebrew I had at that point, and even what I had was mostly things that were completely useless in trying to start a conversation with someone. "My ducks do not want to eat you" = not a sentence that crops up a lot LOL

At your level, having for example pretty thoroughly studied the Russian tree, make sure you have the requisite "please speak more slowly/what is this in Russian/how to I say X in Russian/I don't understand/I've forgotten" and you'll be absolutely fine, I'm sure. I know you did a fair amount of immersion and between that and the tree, even if you've never had a conversation, you've got an absolutely massive store of both active and passive vocabulary, and I can't imagine you actually having many problems once you're past the initial stumbling block of speaking with a native and having to get used to audio you can't slow down or repeat as many times as you like without driving them nuts! ;)


Thanks for your many insights! Whenever I get around to giving this a whirl for Guaraní, it'll be interesting to see how the three-language dynamic plays out. We'll probably both have to resist the urge to keep slipping into Spanish!


I have a couple of exchange people who speak Russian as well as Hebrew, and sometimes that can end up being a funny mixture. It depends who you speak with, some people are reasonably happy slipping back and forth between languages, and others find code switching difficult or even impossible.

Look forwards to hearing all about it!!

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.