I highly recommend working with a language partner, no matter what your language level.

 

You can find partners by registering on Scrabbin or Lang-8.

Here are some tips:

  1. Provide just enough information to be interesting. If you are not looking for romance, make sure you mention you are taken, indirectly. Something like "I live with my husband, 2 children and 1 cat in Toronto."

  2. You can find a partner for speaking, using Skype or FaceTime or similar technology. However, you can also find a partner just for writing emails or messages back and forth. I suggest writing back and forth a bit before meeting someone new on Skype, because you will feel more comfortable if you feel you already know the person. You can also skype with just audio -- no video -- if you feel more comfortable.

  3. One of my partners found me on Scrabbin, several months after I registered. However, most people register and then forget about the site. The best thing is to register, do a search for a suitable partner, and contact them immediately. Do not wait for someone to contact you.

  4. What kind of partner should you look for? Keep in mind that not all languages are "equal" on the language exchange market.

    1. If you are trying to learn English and not many English speakers want to learn your language, you should not discount having a language partner who is at least B2 level in English, but a native speaker of a third language.
    2. If you can find a native speaker of your target language who wants to learn your native language, that is good too, but you will spend more time correcting them in your native language than if you talk to another foreigner.
    3. If your level low (A1, A2, B1), find someone who is B2 or above, or you will have a very hard time understanding each other and get frustrated. If your level is high, you can work with someone of any level.
    4. If a first meeting goes well, try to set a day and time that will always work for you, such as Sunday at 1pm. It is much easier to remember (and not schedule anything else) if the day and time almost never change.
    5. If you are learning each other's languages, talk only in one for 30 minutes, then switch and talk only in the other for another 30 minutes. You can correct each other as you go along, or take notes and discuss corrections only at the end of each half hour. See what works best for you.
    6. Come prepared to your session with questions, if you think your partner will be able to answer them!

Do not worry about errors, or be reticent to speak. Your partner is also learning. You must be willing to make errors and laugh about them in order to learn a foreign language! I have worked with partners for Dutch, Italian, French, Chinese and Hungarian. The only problem I have had was flakiness -- when one person failed to appear for meetings. I am sad to admit that, in one case, I was the flaky partner. Sorry!