Find a language exchange partner

It doesn’t matter if you’re learning Chinese in your own country, or you have gone abroad to learn, finding good opportunities to practice Chinese can still be a problem. If you’re at home you have the obvious problems with immersing yourself in Chinese, and if you’re abroad you might find yourself in a bubble of foreigners, if you’re not careful.

Zuckerberg Learning Chinese

(yes that is Mark Zuckerberg in the photo, from a recent video showing him learning Chinese)

Find a language-exchange partner

Something that you can do regardless of where you are is find a language exchange partner. When you’re first starting out learning Chinese this really is an essential part of the learning process. For the most part you’ll be in a classroom looking at a textbook and discussing the topics chapter by chapter. But it quickly becomes apparent that if you really are to learn this language you need to get out there and find a native speaker and see how people really speak in their every day lives, and not the polished version you see in the textbook.

This might seem impossible if you are learning Chinese at home, but try putting up a note on the noticeboard at the local university. There will no doubt be Chinese or Taiwanese students who are looking to meet local students to polish up on their English.

If you are learning Chinese in China or Taiwan you might think that a language exchange partner isn’t necessary, but it might even be more valuable, allowing you to learn local usage and integrate more into the place you are staying. Your Chinese Language Centre will no doubt have a language exchange programme already set up and you need only put your name on the list to find a partner – take advantage of the opportunity, it will do wonders for your Chinese conversation ability.

Make good use of your time during a language exchange

There are various things you can do during a language exchange, such as going through your textbook to clarify things you’re not sure of from class, or if you have any specific questions about how to translate things from your own language you can discuss that. One of the best usages of the time might be to go on a pseudo field-trip and discuss usage of words relating to place you visit, like ordering food in a cafe, going shopping for clothes, take a visit to a local tourist attraction or gallery, even discussing furniture in IKEA, whatever you have an interest in.

Generally speaking a language exchange might last for a about 2 hours, being split evenly between speaking Chinese and English. Make sure you make the most of your time and only revert back to English if you really can’t explain yourself in Chinese!

I’m sure you’ll meet really nice people who will likely turn into good friends, and what use is language if you can’t meet people?

Have you done a language exchange during you studies? What topics did you discuss and how did you arrange time? If you have any other ideas for study tips let us know in the comments!

  • I had a Chinese tutor last spring and I paid him a little bit because I didn’t want to teach English. We went through my textbook and I would read and he would correct my pronunciation. That was really usefull for me, but right now I’m too busy. Maybe later I will continue with my tutor.

    I would recommend getting a tutor or language exchange partner to everyone learning languages. In class you don’t have time to ask all the questions you want to ask and teachers don’t have enough time for you. But your tutor/partner is there to help only you.

    • Of course if you don’t want to teach anyone English then you can pay for a tutor 🙂 Either way a language-exchange partner is invaluable, it helped improve my Chinese so much during the first few years.

    • victor lee

      I am from China, I can speak Chinese and Cantonese fluently. I want to learn English. if you want to be my language partner, please contact me.

    • victor lee

      if yon don’t want to teach English, and you have some problem in studying Chinese. you can ask me too. glad to help.

  • I’ve had a language exchange partner this semester; so far we’ve discussed 三十六計 and some old stories, and math terms and some terms for daily things. Some ideas for lesson plans I’ve had haven’t been so good, like just discussing Shakespeare. Can get boring and I’m not a professional teacher.

    Going on a little field trip sounds like a fun idea 🙂

    Sometimes it’s hard to come up with lesson ideas; I think it’s good to try to start having a conversation about anything at all if possible, then discuss vocabulary/grammar issues when they come up.

    While I’m in the US, one way to help them with English is to proofread papers or presentations they have for various classes; if I go to China or Taiwan and get a language partner, I could also ask for help with this.

    • Hi Qeny, Yeah I think small field trips can be a great way to have some fun while also learning some Chinese.

      Something I forgot to mention in the post, I have a friend here in Taiwan who went on a few language exchanges and each time there other person would bring more and more people to join in. In the end it was him vs about 5 Taiwanese students haha. Which obviously had a negative effect on the language exchange. He was embarrased to speak Chinese with so many people watching and they spent more time speaking English, so it’s probably best to keep it one-to-one.

  • Fong Weng Kiong 方永强

    I am from Singapore and I would like to learn Chinese from someone in China, preferably a university student or fresh graduate from university. Thank you.

    我来自新加坡,我想认识一位中国人学习中文,最好是大学生或大学应届毕业生中。谢谢。

  • Susan

    I am a chinese chasing my master’s degree in Shanghai,who majored in linguistics,and would like to find some native English speaker to exchange language.

  • victor lee

    I am from China, an i am lerning English. I can speak Chinese and Cantonese fluently. I learn china literature and history at college by myself. if you have some problem in study in Chinese. you can ask me , even you don’t have time to teach me English.
    my msn: victorlee2004@gmail.com

  • Jiay

    Hi, I’m a Chinese. I want to find someone who can chat with me in English, and if you want to find a partner to learn Chinese, maybe I can help you with some of the problems in learning Chinese. I’m a high school student, my English is not very well. I really need a partner to improve my English.

  • Alan Hua

    I am from China and i have a BA degree in Chinese literature.I have been learning English all the time.If you want to learn Chinese,maybe we can exchange language.

  • vivian

    i am a chinese girl.I want to learn german.and i have BA degree in chinese literature(chinese theater/opera).so maybe we can exchange language

  • Amber

    Online language exchanges can be great too. If you are a native speaker of English, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a speaker of Chinese to skype with. Some are free; the one I have used successfully cost about $5 for a month of gold membership (which allows you to email other members). You can exchange emails, skype, or chat, and the site I used offers games like hangman that you can use too. It’s not as good as face to face, but it is great for people in areas with few native speakers or who have a busy schedule.