Virtual Conversations – Taking Your Language Practice Online
Covid-19 Lockdown Special: Our Guide to Finding a Language Practice Partner Online
As of early April 2020, around a third of the world’s population is living under some form of social restriction due to the Covid-19 virus.
Life as we know it has transformed for the time being. Entire populations are confined to their homes, schools closed, and work is canceled for millions of people.
With all the changes, it’s easy to think your language study will suffer. But with the help of technology, you can head to the Internet to practice your speaking skills!
Here’s our guide to finding a language practice partner online.
Why Practice Languages Online?
Put simply, for the same reasons you’d practice speaking in person!
Speaking is one of the fundamental skills in learning a language.
Practice makes perfect. Speaking cements words and phrases in your memory. It promotes recall of words, not just recognition, and strengthens the neural pathways established in your Pimsleur program.
It’s encouraging to be able to speak to (and be understood by) a native speaker. This is why speaking practice is the perfect complement to Pimsleur’s course materials.
If you haven’t tried a Pimsleur course yet, we have Free Lessons in over 50 languages. Or try an entire Pimsleur course, free for a week. Afterward, it’s only $14.95 – $19.95 / month.
Millions of people already practice languages online. They may do this for convenience, because they learn niche or minority languages and finding partners is difficult, or they may live in remote areas, away from the practice options of living in a city.
But it’s not just for speakers of remote languages. Every language learner can benefit from virtual language practice.
Benefits of Online Language Practice
1. Fit speaking practice in around your schedule
As long as your schedule can match up with your partner’s, you are free to practice whenever you like! Are you a morning person? No problem. Night owl? Easy. Time zones are your friend – you can make a 7am speaking date with a partner in Europe, or a 10pm speaking date with a friend in Asia.
2. Anywhere is your classroom
Virtual language exchange means you don’t need to wait for the local café to open to meet your language partner – you can do it from your kitchen table!
3. You’ll discover different accents and cultures
The beauty of online communication is that it makes it possible to connect with anyone, anywhere.
Meeting with native speakers across the world can introduce you to parts of the world you’d never have thought to explore. You’ll learn all about the regions where your language is spoken; how the accent sounds, local customs and cultures, what daily life looks like in that corner of the world.
If you’ve not tried online speaking practice before, lockdown could be the perfect opportunity to give it a go and reap the benefits.
Great, I’m Convinced. So How Do I Begin Finding a Language Practice Partner?
Most of the ways to find a face-to-face partner are now out of bounds due to the Covid-19 crisis. However, they will come in useful when we emerge from the crisis, so we’ll mention them anyway. These include:
- Meetup groups
- Classes held at cafés and restaurants from your target language region
- Local Facebook language groups
- Study groups
- University drop-in sessions
- Local adverts
Drop-in sessions are especially useful if you want low-commitment options. However, it might be worth contacting the organizers up-front to ask whether your language is catered for – these sessions tend to attract learners of the main European languages.
Now let’s see what the best online resources are for finding language partners.
Best Online Language Exchange Resources for Finding Virtual Conversation Partners
A quick safety note: Pimsleur supports safe online practice, so we recommend you never share details you’re not comfortable with (e.g. phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, etc.) Create a separate account if you don’t want to share your regular email address or Skype handle.
iTalki has a free language exchange community where you can contact people who speak your target language. It’s popular, with an easy-to-search website and there are native speakers available for all languages in the Pimsleur program.
To partner with someone, you’ll need to send a message or friend request through the iTalki site, and arrange your sessions via Skype, Zoom or a similar teleconferencing tool.
Facebook’s Online Language Learning Communities
There are public groups on Facebook for people to find virtual language partners. Search for your language on Facebook to find your community and join the discussion or create a post of your own. Although this community is easy to access, Facebook profiles typically contain a lot of personal information, so beware of privacy settings when posting in public groups.
My Language Exchange
My Language Exchange (MLE) is a classic case of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Although the website looks somewhat tired, there is a wonderful, active community of language learners here just waiting to practice!
The site has an easy-to-use filter to find people with the language pairs you need, and it automatically sorts by ‘last online’ so there’s no need to worry about contacting dormant accounts. At the time of writing, there were over 300,000 Spanish speakers on the site, with over 400 having logged in over the past 48 hours. It seems that during the pandemic everyone is turning to My Language Exchange!
In terms of arranging sessions, MLE doesn’t have an integrated chat platform and you’ll still need to exchange contact details for Skype or other conferencing tools.
The Language Learning Community on Reddit
Reddit has two communities that help with language learning.
The subreddit r/language_exchange is an advertising board where you can post and respond to ads describing the languages you’re looking for and the ones you can offer in exchange.
For a less formal arrangement, there’s another section of Reddit, r/languagelearning. Here you’ll find a directory of Discord servers – online voice and text chat facilities – for most of Pimsleur’s languages.
These servers work like an online drop-in: you join the server, chat with whoever is there and stay for as long as you like. It’s the perfect way to practice when you have some free time on your hands because there’s no need to arrange it in advance. These servers run 24/7 and so you’ll always have someone to practice with.
A Quick Note on The Common European Language Framework
In many of these resources, you’ll probably see a bunch of alphanumeric references like A1, B1, C2, etc…
These are references to the Common European Language Framework, a way to measure someone’s language ability.
Although it was originally designed and implemented in Europe, it’s become the unofficial standard among the language learning community for gauging proficiency.
Here’s some further explanation of what each level means.
Hopefully, there’s something here that all our learners will feel comfortable trying.