What shall we talk about?

Language exchange is a great way to practise languages you’re learning and to learn more. In my experience, it works best if those involved have reached a similar level in the language(s) they’re studying – ideally at least an intermediate level.

Sometimes the conversation flows, other times it limps along like an ostrich trying to walk through treacle. To avoid the treacle, you could agree on topics in advance and prepare them by learning relevant vocabulary. This works quite well, though after a while, thinking up new topics can be quite a challenge.

One topic I thought up today was cultural differences, particularly as they apply to the workplace. For example, the kinds of things people do when they or someone else in the office has a birthday, or when they leave the company.

What do you talk about with your language exchange partners?

13 thoughts on “What shall we talk about?

  1. Though I have several language exchange partners, I mostly talk with one in particular from China. We usually just tell each other what we’ve done since the last time we’ve e-mailed and tell a little bit about the culture of our countries. She also gives me a list of words and phrases to work on while I correct her grammar.

  2. I practice with others by taking turns on a foreign language news article on the web. Taking turns on the articles ensures that the focus is not one-sided. It also ensures that the practice is not just regurgitated words that are used as a crutch. We try to make sure to include the words in the articles and talk about our thoughts on the matter, expressing different points of view.

    Sometimes it’s what is going on in the world, sometimes it’s technology, sometimes lifestyle or medicine, and so on.

  3. Politics, culture (including arts and religion), weather, and of course language are usually good “grist for the mill”. People who can’t disagree respectfully might not be the best language partners. As for “crutches”, I couldn’t stand up without them. Indeed, I think they form much of what even native speakers say, if on a grander scale.

  4. I am now in year 9 and am currently studying Japanese. In May students who are learning Japanese are able to choose an exchange student to stay with them for 2 weeks and that is what I am doing.

  5. Hey Simon I also wanted to know if you are able to convert japanese ‘mirai’ into kanji for me please or anybody else who can type japanese on their computer.

  6. David, you should consider getting a japanese IME on your computer, then you could type it yourself.

    Aside, I just talk a lot about random things with language exchange people through e-mail. — I’ve only started this not long ago after I decided to join friendsabroad website — It’s mostly been regular conversations (like how was your vacation, what are your hobbies, etc.), or talking about school/university/work, giving information about things found in my country, vice-versa, practicing our languages, and talking about global warming… for some reason 😛

  7. Hmm.. Good question.. Well i don’t have many language exchange partners and all of my exchange partners’ native is Spanish although i am supposed to learn German first 🙂 They are my good friends now. GREAT FRIENDS! We talk about anything regarding life. Talking about cultures and our countries is one of the favourite topics. We love to help each other. We don’t hesitate to ask for help. And last but not the least, we mix the languages we learn and make sentences like that. That’s fun!

  8. I totally agree that after about five or six sessions, language exchange can go pretty stale. Usually by that time, I’ve either established some chemistry with my partner — or I’m ready to give up.

    In general, I try to use topics that I would find interesting in English. I talk about movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read or simply news that’s happened recently. Those subjects can get hairy (especially the news and China), but I also think that’s what makes it interesting. I’ll never feel like it was a wasted conversation if my language partner disagrees. It’s great — and those heated discussions (not offensive of course) are often the most memorable and important discussion you can have. In my opinion, that’s where language exchange meets cultural exchange — you’re actually learning or debating something you both care about.

    Granted — it all depends on your partner. If you want to talk about corruption in China and he / she only wants to talk about buying hamburgers, then I feel like it’s a language exchange that won’t be lasting much longer anyway…

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