BY DYLAN OLLEY
Learning a second language can be a difficult thing to do. However, thanks to social media, people from different countries are able to come together and help one another learn.
Facebook groups where people meet others looking for a language exchange partner are becoming very common. Language exchange partners speak to each other in both their native language and the one they are currently learning.
Katie VanderLaan is a 23-year-old business student who is currently learning how to speak Spanish. Though she has already completed courses in school for speaking Spanish, she wished to continue to learn and practice. VanderLaan recently joined the Facebook group, Find Language Exchange Partners, to find someone to help her practise the language. “It was something I knew people did, but I never actually looked for a partner myself,” VanderLaan said. “The group was suggested to me on a Spanish learning group on Facebook and I just went for it.”
VanderLaan made an introduction post on the group’s main page and quickly had many responses from people wanting to speak with her. One of the people to reply was Isra Mancera, 23, from Mexico, learning to speak English. “I think speaking to another person is the best way [to reinforce what has already been learned],” Mancera said in a combination of English and Spanish.
Another benefit to having a language exchange partner is being able to learn about different cultures.
Frida Méndez, 18, another member of the Find Language Exchange Partners on Facebook, lives in Mexico and speaks primarily Spanish. She is studying International Relations in college and needed to learn how to treat people from another country and learn about their culture.
“My favourite thing about having a language exchange partner is that I can teach them my language and my culture as well as show them my lifestyle,” Méndez said. “They also can teach me their language, culture, and lifestyle, and I can [compare] their culture and mine… Therefore, I can learn to respect another culture.”
For those looking to join language exchange groups online, there are two things to remember: don’t be shy, and make sure to learn outside of the group. While talking to other people in a different language is a great way to practice, having a better understanding of a language from learning about the culture behind it also helps to improve fluency.
“The partner is only for practice and [clarification]; he/she is not for learning 100 per cent [of the language from the beginning],” Mancera said. He recommends taking a course first or at the same time as practising with a language exchange partner for the best results.
Being open and talking to new people is an important part of learning a language. Having proper conversations with a natural flow helps to learn the language faster.
“Don’t be shy or afraid to be wrong. Since it is a learning process, you will actually need to get [things] wrong many times in order to learn,” Anabella Campos, 28, said. “[Also] accept corrections in a friendly way, since it is very valuable help you maybe won’t find otherwise. Same if you need to correct others and help them see their mistakes and improvement points.”
Learning a new language has never been easier now thanks to the Internet and social media. However, having a language exchange partner offers a way to really connect with people who speak other languages and learn their countries’ cultures.
“With social media like Facebook and even just forums online, It’s not difficult to find someone who wants to do a language exchange,” VanderLaan said. “Just keep going with it even if you’re shy or embarrassed about making mistakes – chances are the person you’re working with is just as nervous!”