Making the most of a language learning partner

Whatever language you are learning, it is now easier than ever to find a language partner with whom to practice. You might pay your language partner, or you might teach them your language in exchange. So how do you get the most out of these practice sessions or lessons?

I have found it important to lead the session. There is a tendency to let the practice partner lead the session, but this does not always work. Say, for example, that you study during the week, and have a practice session on Sundays. You know what you have been studying that week, your practice partner probably does not. So, if you let the practice partner lead, you don’t get to practice what you have studied. Practicing what you have studied is essential. It is by actually using the language studied that we internalize the language and make it our own.

I study Chinese. I have a practice session once a week. To get the most out of this, I write a diary, and/or paragraphs using the words and grammar that I have studied during the week, and once my partner has checked them for accuracy, we use them as the basis of our conversations. This way, I get to practice what I have learned. Essentially, I am in control of the session. I guide it in directions I want to go. I don’t try use that time to acquire new language, although at times, my partner suggests new words and phrases. I can learn new language by myself from textbooks or other resources. Of course, if I come across something I don’t understand during the week, I make sure I ask my partner for help, but I don’t consider the practice time to be a lesson. Using what you have studied, i.e. taking it from the passive stage to the active stage, is essential when learning a language. The time spent with a language partner is precious. Make sure you get the most out of it.

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