Yesterday I did my first face-to-face language exchange, swapping English for Mandarin. My partner was fun but my Mandarin was brutal. If you have ever heard a recording of your own voice & hated it, that's how it felt.

I found an exchange partner on italki. I would recommend it if you don't have anyone to practice with as there are a ton of Mandarin speakers looking to exchange. With skype etc, should be easy enough.

Although it brings up a new problem that I've had with language swaps - how to practice when you're not capable of saying much. Luckily one of the books I had with me had some dialogues in it with chinese & english.

Next time, I want to try and start using some chinesepod dialogues. If you're a subscriber, you can download pdfs that look like below. They are usually much better than traditional books because they use real, everyday chinese and not the formal language nonsense that most books have. I'll let you know how it goes.
(via Chinesepod)

Does anyone else have tips for making language exchanges more productive? Especially in the beginning?

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Comment by Brandon Brick Kerr on February 6, 2011 at 1:00am

I would recommend asking your language partner to speak in English, and you speak in Chinese. Usually they want to practice their English, and you want to practice your Chinese soo. Everyone benefits that way. Have them correct you as soon as you're done speaking, and you do the same for them. 


It also helps a lot because it can be hard to have a conversation when you don't understand what they say. It's a lot easier to respond to things when you can be sure of the meaning than it is to try and decode things using a limited vocabulary/knowledge of structures.

Comment by Martha on January 31, 2011 at 7:44am

I collect something with images on it, like postcard , pop singers' foto , pictures , handbill , etc.When I do language exchange with my partner , I try to build up a conversation about the images.For example , I have asked about a pop singer : Who is he ? Do you know any of his music ? How do you like him? Afterward I also used the sentences which my partner used to introduce my favorite singers.To the end , we both were excited to share the music(singers) we like. And once a time we even talked about what kind of girls are sexy because I brought a foto of a hot girl.Of course you still need to prepare some sentences before you do language exchange, otherwise you easily stop talking because you know too less words. Veel succes! ^^

Comment by Brandon on January 20, 2011 at 7:41am

That's a pretty good idea actually - playing 'have you ever'. Although to be honest I liked the idea because it translates well from a classroom to a bar. Now I just need to get a bi-lingual group together....

Replying either place is okay, thanks for commenting.
Comment by Gillian Law on January 19, 2011 at 5:29am

I think you have to keep it narrow when you're new - practice one situation where you both know a bit - talk about family, talk about food - or take a grammar point and come up with examples. Like tonight in class we were coming up with lots of 'have you ever...' - have you ever eaten dumplings? have you ever been to Beijing? No, I've never eaten dumplings but I've had wontons... you get the picture. You can have fun thinking up vocab but it's not so beyond you that you sit, stumped and feeling stupid.

And man - I tapen myself speaking Mandarin once and nearly gave up on the spot. It was BAD :-)

And a question - is it better to reply here or on Facebook? Do you have a preference?

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