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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?


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


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.

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