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How to have a successful language conversation exchange

Practicing a language you are learning with a native speaker is a wonderful way to improve your speaking skills in that language. The MIT community is filled with people  who want to share and exchange languages with each other. Our website is designed to make it easy to find and contact potential conversation partners, and you can also meet partners on our Slack space and at our events.

With some thought and planning, you can create a productive one-on-one conversation exchange. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Be sure you are ready for a conversation exchange. Here are some questions to think about before you reach out to potential conversation partners. 

How much time can you realistically dedicate to an exchange?

What are your personal goals for language learning? Are they appropriate for an informal conversation exchange, or would you be better served by taking a class or hiring a private tutor? 

Are you able to hold a conversation in the language you want to practice?  Although it is possible to begin learning a new language through the LCE, the exchange usually works best when the partners have some ability to converse in each other's language and can carry on a simple conversation.

2. Make your expectations clear: Please keep in mind that the goal of the LCE is to give people an opportunity to practice their conversation skills with a native speaker. It is not designed to replace the experience of learning from a trained teacher in a classroom setting. For example, it may be unreasonable to expect your partner to teach you specific grammar rules.

Talk with your partner about what you are hoping to gain from your meetings together. Do you want your partner to interrupt you every time you make a mistake or wait until the end of your meeting to share feedback? Do you want to improve your everyday conversation or polish your language for a professional setting?  

From time to time, reassess whether the partnership is a good fit or if your needs for language exchange have changed.

3. Set a regular day/time and meeting frequency. Take the logistics out of scheduling by setting a regular meeting time and sticking to it as much as you can. Once per week or twice per month seems to work best for most partners.

4. Have a structure: Speaking for a half hour in each language works well for many partners. Preparing a conversation topic or activity ahead of time can make the meeting more comfortable and productive. We have compiled some of our favorites here.

5. What if it isn’t a good match?  All participants should view the first meeting with a new partner as a get-to-know-you meeting. It does happen that a partnership does not work out - it could be due to scheduling conflicts, personality differences, or differences in language proficiency. This is very normal. If you do not wish to continue meeting with a partner, it is very important to let your partner know that you no longer wish to meet. You are always welcome to return to our website, slack space and events to seek another partner.

Remember - the LCE team is here to answer any questions or consult with you. Email us at