My Spanish sucks and so does your English-- lets talk!
June 6, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

How could I go about setting up a language exchange partnership with a Spanish speaker in my community?

I am slowly and painfully trying to become fluent in Spanish. I can read it okay but understanding is much harder and speaking it is really really rough. I live in a predominately Spanish speaking neighborhood and I think it would be awesome if I could find someone who was working on learning English and meet with them weekly or a couple times a week and speak in English for half an hour, Spanish for half an hour.

Has anyone done this? Does anyone have any advice on finding such a language buddy? I'm considering just posting a flyer at my laundromat and the library and seeing if I get any takers. I know that some cities have formal programs to match people up but I don't know of any in my area-- I'm in Providence RI. What kind of organizations might run this kind of program?

If I did find someone does anyone have experience or ideas about how to structure it so that we both get the most out of the experience? What other things should I keep in mind?

(I know there are sites that will match you up so that you can skype but I don't have a webcam on my computer.)
posted by geegollygosh to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My city, which is part of the metro DC area has it's own English Spanish Intercambio meet-up group. I keep meaning to brush up on my Spanish and go but as yet have not. They have regularly monthly or bi-monthly meetups at the local Panera, but they also seem to get together for special events (a local fair) or other activities such as day long hiking trips. Long story short, check out and see if there is anything similar in your area. If not, you might want to consider starting one yourself.
posted by kaybdc at 12:01 PM on June 6, 2012

Response by poster: I can read it okay but understanding is much harder and speaking it is really really rough.

I meant that understanding spoken Spanish is difficult for me. I understand much of what I read.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:03 PM on June 6, 2012

This can be a great way to learn not only the language but also the culture.

It can help to find someone who's at about the same skill level as you are, and then agree explicitly that each language gets 30 minutes (or an hour or whatever) and consider setting a cell phone alarm. Otherwise, the more assertive or needier person could begin to claim more and more time. At least, that's the problem I've seen in the partnerships I've had and a common concern from others in my community (lots of language learners here).

You might start with Spanish one day and English the next, so the first language alternates.

Group language exchanges, where bunches of people have conversations, can be good places to meet a well-matched partner for private talks. I've learned a lot more from the one-on-one talks, and I've learned the most when I've assigned myself homework and bring lots of questions to each session.

Where I used to live in the US, the literacy organization based in the public library matched up English and Spanish speakers, but I think your idea of a flier should work, too.
posted by ceiba at 12:21 PM on June 6, 2012

The spanglish-exchange folks are doing spanish events in different cities across the US, you might want to reach out to them. I know they're usually focused on South America but that they did a series of events earlier this year in the Northeast and they are quite popular.
posted by carlodio at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2012

I do this! It is great and I recommend it.

We have experimented with structure - alternating languages by meeting; or setting a timer and alternating languages when it dings; or each of us only speaks in our non-native language; or we help each other with class assignments (for when we were both taking language classes); etc. It seems to work best for us if we somehow get both languages in a session, but the best approach varies by day and by what we're doing.

Working on assignments was especially helpful in the beginning, because I'm not great at smalltalk even in my first language, so it helped mitigate the anxiety of producing content.

Another thing that worked was having us read something (news article, whatever) in our second language. It lets you practice pronunciation / accent / all those speaking skills and gives the listener easy points of correction or comment.

I found my conversation partner on craigslist (he posted, I responded). In the past I participated in a similar program sponsored by a retirement home with predominantly Spanish-speakers. There's also a city-sponsored (I think) program here.

If you don't have success with flyering or finding existing intercambio programs, you might contact local ESL / ESOL programs (possible sources: library, the public schools, nonprofit organizations, private language schools, colleges) to see if any of their students would be issued in such an exchange.

!Buena suerte!
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 6:59 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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