Language Exchange: The Simplest Way To Practice Any Language

  • Donovan Nagel
    Written byDonovan Nagel
    Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot
    🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW
    🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW

    Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
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Language Exchange: The Simplest Way To Practice Any Language

NOTE: Before trying this language exchange technique, you should definitely sign up to italki and use their service to connect with native speakers first. It’s cheaper than the advice I’ve given below (plus they’ll give you a free lesson just because I sent you).

This is fun but it’s not free. I suggest using Skype credit rather than your home or mobile phone as it’s much cheaper. At the time of this writing many countries can be called using Skype for about 2¢ per minute (others are a little higher).

Don’t go running your phone bills up though and then blaming me for it. 🙂

This little exercise is for people learning a foreign language at home and looking for more opportunities to practice.

NOTE #2: I’m not advocating harassing businesses either. Make legitimate enquiries!

Be creative when looking for language exchange opportunities

Looking for language exchange?

Part of being a good learner is coming up with creative ways to overcome challenges and one major challenge for a lot of people is finding opportunities to practice new target language content.

One thing I used to do a lot with Arabic was language exchange cold-calling.

Sure you can use sites like italki to connect with native speakers for conversation practice (if you’re lucky enough to find a willing language exchange partner that is) but what about when you’ve just covered a specific topic and want to put it to use straight away but aren’t able to?

Let’s say for example that you spent a study period learning all about how to book accommodation or how to hire a bicycle in your target language.

Unless you’re abroad chances are you won’t get an opportunity to use that language so it tends to be forgotten easily. There is a fun way to practice the new content immediately using Skype and it only costs a buck or two.

The easiest language exchange is a genuine enquiry

Spend some time going over new phrases and vocabulary relating to a specific product or service (e.g. renting a bike or inquiring about a guest room). You might choose to hone in on something specific like the size of the rooms or asking about the cost of renting a bike for a day.

Google “yellow pages” + your target language country (Georgia, Ireland, China, etc.) and usually the first Google search result will show you the business directory of the country (each country also has other directories but Yellow Pages is a good starting point).

Georgian Yellow Pages:
Yellow Pages Tbilisi Georgia

Irish Golden Pages:

Spiddal Ireland

Gather a short list of a few businesses and their telephone numbers, and call each of them asking a prepared list of questions about their products or services.

Let them know that you’re calling from overseas and apologize in advance for not understanding everything. Once they know you’re calling from abroad they’ll be curious as to why you called them specifically and you’ll probably make their ordinary, mundane day at work a little more interesting! 🙂

It’s great if you have a genuine query too. Instead of using Google to find out certain information consider taking the old-fashioned approach and making a few phone inquiries to get some practice.

Phone conversations are lot more challenging than face-to-face chats so make sure to record the Skype call so you can study it afterwards!

There are plenty of programs available for doing this such as Skype Call Recorder (Linux), Ecamm (Mac) and Pamela (Windows).

A simple, minute long language exchange with a stranger over the phone will get you using vocabulary that you’d otherwise quickly forget or never get a chance to use.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


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I am always looking for new creative ways to practise and improve: I found your article really inspiring! I will definitely try this method, thanks!



This is just brilliant!



Thanks, Shannon :)



Oh my god that’s devious and brilliant, I’m definitely using that. Thank you!!!

If only those poor people knew why it was you were calling...I’ll bet they’d have a laugh.

I agree about having what you’re going to say pre-planned out in an outline sort of format, I also recommend doing that for language exchange calls on skype: have some stuff written down that you want to talk about, questions you want to ask, that way you’re not as nervous because you have no uncomfortable silences to fear, none of that “oh god what am I going to say??!?” nonsense.





Thanks buddy. :)



Hey, there are very good resources in this article!
I take note of the three services LiveMocha, Busuu and italki.
I didn’t know Skype Call Recorder. I would like to use RecordMyDesktop to record skype conversation, but I had a problem with it recently.
I’m going to try this software.
Thank you. I subscribed to your RSS feed.
See you



Hi Fabrice.

Thanks very much! Glad you got something out of it :)



Another great idea! I did this a few times in Istanbul, calling hotels, restaurants, etc, but what a great idea to do it from afar! Looking forward to calling Turkey regularly!



Awesome. Thanks!



Simply brilliant! :)



Thanks :)

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