Maintaining conversation exchange

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bombobuffoon
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Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby bombobuffoon » Thu Apr 18, 2024 6:50 am

I have done some conversations online in the past. I think in principle its a very good idea.
However in practice I found it difficult to maintain for more than a month.

-Skill mismatch
In a country where almost everyone speaks English, and my language skills are so poor its difficult to find a partner with a similar skill level. Maybe this is not a problem at all but it can feel awkward.

-Conversation
How do you keep this fresh and ongoing. Whilst I liked my conversation partners in the past I found that due to my limited vocabulary and honestly most days I just do not want a conversation. I want to talk, but I don't want a conversation and to cycle topics over and over. I thought about something like, sharing photographs via screenshare, playing coop video games together. I don't know!

-Balance
As I mentioned there is typically a mismatch in ability. This also gives rise to the question, how to balance the exchange. I tried doing a 50-50 split on time, and flipping back and forth at any moment. I found the problem with the latter is that the stronger one tends to dominate, despite effort from both sides. I suppose another possibility is taking turns each session.
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby rdearman » Thu Apr 18, 2024 9:49 pm

I will wade in. :D

I have done literally thousands of LE over the years. Some partners last one or two sessions tops. I have an french partner I have been speaking with for over 10 years now. I have Korean exchange partners and I can barely say hello.

Skills mismatch.
When I am of low ability like Korean I use conversationexchange.com filter for people who want LE with a super high level of English. I get a couple of minutes of Korean in exchange for a lot of English. But gradually I add in partners with less ability in English as I get better. Nowadays when I look for a french or Italian partner I look for someone who has almost zero English ability. In my strong language I will be doing almost the entire time in French or Italian since I often need to revert to their native language in order to help them understand. So don't look for someone of equal ability. I actively mismatch the skill levels.

Conversation
With my french friend of 10 years we just talk about stuff, same as you talk to any of your friends. But we sometimes do challenges like, explain how an aeroplane flies. Lift, thrust, etc... some people are only in it to make conversation, but I am in it to make friends. Even in my worst language I can ask about them and their lives. I have done things with people in my strong language like ask them to describe photos, etc.. But honestly, it is a lot easier to just talk to people about the same stuff as you would with your English speaking friends. You also have the same interests as the other person, you are both language learning. So swap tips, apps, websites, etc...

Balance
It is different for each session since I deal with different people and we all have different levels. Basically I schedule 1 hour. In Korean I start and we probably manage 10 minutes before I have exhausted my vocabulary, but it is gradually expanding. I started with literally one sentence, now I can manage about 15 minutes. Then we switch to English and they explain some stuff, or we just talk. I say schedule an hour but my last chat with a Korean here in the UK lasted about 4 hours. Because she has become a friend and I am interested in her life and we just talk about language or politics or kids or whatever. Yesterday I spoke with a lady in Korea and she'd got up at stupid o'clock in the morning to speak with me. I spoke with her way past my bedtime and she was getting late for breakfast. Lol.


Some other stuff.
Sometimes it is worthwhile for both people to speak in their native language the entire hour. This is great for developing listening skills and it is easy for both people because they are using their native language. Not something I would do all the time but it helps if you hit a rut and need a switch up.

I learn languages to speak to people so I am in it for the conversation and to make friends. So a language exchange for me is just a way to make more friends since that is my objective anyway. It isn't just a learning technique for me. If you make a couple of friends a couple hundred lame conversations with creepy people or lots of no-shows are worth it. I've visited my language exchange partners in Italy and France. I have met their families and had BBQ with them and their neighbours. I even had one of my partners get me a free room for a holiday in Rome.

It isn't always about learning languages, sometimes it is better to teach than to learn. I have a LE partner in China who I help with English even though I parked Chinese years ago! So I collect friends.

You've probably noticed all the people I talk to are women. This isn't because I am some creepy old guy, it is because men always talk about sports or cars. Topics I hate and bore me to tears, I would rather watch paint dry than sports. So I just prefer to talk to women. I realise this is a stereotype, but it honestly if you spend 30 minutes talking to me about sports I will listen to you politely and never speak to you again.

So I suppose what I am saying is that you need to find people with similar interests if you want to keep a conversation going for multiple sessions over years and you need to have interesting stuff to talk about.

(Can't believe I typed all this on a phone! Excuse the typos, etc)
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby emk » Thu Apr 18, 2024 11:27 pm

I agree that language exchange partners can be a very mixed bag, and that many of them will turn out to be weird, flakey or worse.

Several of my favorite language exchanges, by some odd reason, have involved North African engineers. They usually had very solid academic French, and they were working on their English. I remember one who spoke his native Berber, plus Arabic and academic French, and who was working on English. We talked about language learning and some tech/science topics. These were usually pretty equal exchanges and pretty easy to manage. We'd just switch every once in a while.

At low levels, I think rdearman's idea of looking for unequal exchanges is interesting.

And one of my favorite exercises _after_ an exchange was to sit down and write 50–150 words about a topic I'd struggled to discuss, looking up phrases using Linguee. Then I'd post it on a correction exchange site. (Which have their own dynamics to figure out.)
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby alaart » Fri Apr 19, 2024 3:54 am

emk wrote: [...]Then I'd post it on a correction exchange site. (Which have their own dynamics to figure out.)

Oh, first time hearing of this. Sounds interesting. What is a correction exchange, do they include Audio? Do you get answers fast? And which websites are there?
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby badger » Fri Apr 19, 2024 6:06 am

alaart wrote:
emk wrote: [...]Then I'd post it on a correction exchange site. (Which have their own dynamics to figure out.)

Oh, first time hearing of this. Sounds interesting. What is a correction exchange, do they include Audio? Do you get answers fast? And which websites are there?

@emk - do you have some links to these sites please? this sounds really useful. obviously I'd be happy to correct correct someone's English writing in exchange.
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby tiia » Fri Apr 19, 2024 6:32 am

badger wrote:
alaart wrote:
emk wrote: [...]Then I'd post it on a correction exchange site. (Which have their own dynamics to figure out.)

Oh, first time hearing of this. Sounds interesting. What is a correction exchange, do they include Audio? Do you get answers fast? And which websites are there?

@emk - do you have some links to these sites please? this sounds really useful. obviously I'd be happy to correct correct someone's English writing in exchange.

In February we may have had an discussion about it. See here.
But if there are more active websites right now, that would be good to know.
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby bombobuffoon » Fri Apr 19, 2024 8:29 am

badger wrote:
alaart wrote:
emk wrote: [...]Then I'd post it on a correction exchange site. (Which have their own dynamics to figure out.)

Oh, first time hearing of this. Sounds interesting. What is a correction exchange, do they include Audio? Do you get answers fast? And which websites are there?

@emk - do you have some links to these sites please? this sounds really useful. obviously I'd be happy to correct correct someone's English writing in exchange.


Obviously this will not be any use to you as the language is Finnish, but I am a member of a discord group of scholars. We have channel for discussion around Mathematics, natural law, languages, and so forth.

Within that group there is a Finnish channel, with around 10 or so natives and some with academic experience of language. I can get a response within minutes. I have posted 1000s of sentences for correction there. I don't want to flood the channel either so I keep it to 1 or 2 sentences a day. But I will always get a fully corrected sentence with grammar notes. Incredible resource.

I also have native family members they really aren't that useful :lol: my kids refuse to talk to me in Finnish for some reason.

But yes such groups do exist, if you are lucky enough to find them. I would also add that I avoid language learning channels, as they tend to be a bit of a circle jerk. I think the topic needs to be centered around some other interest.
Last edited by bombobuffoon on Fri Apr 19, 2024 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby bombobuffoon » Fri Apr 19, 2024 8:32 am

rdearman wrote:I will wade in. :D

I have done literally thousands of LE over the years. Some partners last one or two sessions tops. I have an french partner I have been speaking with for over 10 years now. I have Korean exchange partners and I can barely say hello.

Skills mismatch.
When I am of low ability like Korean I use conversationexchange.com filter for people who want LE with a super high level of English. I get a couple of minutes of Korean in exchange for a lot of English. But gradually I add in partners with less ability in English as I get better. Nowadays when I look for a french or Italian partner I look for someone who has almost zero English ability. In my strong language I will be doing almost the entire time in French or Italian since I often need to revert to their native language in order to help them understand. So don't look for someone of equal ability. I actively mismatch the skill levels.

Conversation
With my french friend of 10 years we just talk about stuff, same as you talk to any of your friends. But we sometimes do challenges like, explain how an aeroplane flies. Lift, thrust, etc... some people are only in it to make conversation, but I am in it to make friends. Even in my worst language I can ask about them and their lives. I have done things with people in my strong language like ask them to describe photos, etc.. But honestly, it is a lot easier to just talk to people about the same stuff as you would with your English speaking friends. You also have the same interests as the other person, you are both language learning. So swap tips, apps, websites, etc...

Balance
It is different for each session since I deal with different people and we all have different levels. Basically I schedule 1 hour. In Korean I start and we probably manage 10 minutes before I have exhausted my vocabulary, but it is gradually expanding. I started with literally one sentence, now I can manage about 15 minutes. Then we switch to English and they explain some stuff, or we just talk. I say schedule an hour but my last chat with a Korean here in the UK lasted about 4 hours. Because she has become a friend and I am interested in her life and we just talk about language or politics or kids or whatever. Yesterday I spoke with a lady in Korea and she'd got up at stupid o'clock in the morning to speak with me. I spoke with her way past my bedtime and she was getting late for breakfast. Lol.


Some other stuff.
Sometimes it is worthwhile for both people to speak in their native language the entire hour. This is great for developing listening skills and it is easy for both people because they are using their native language. Not something I would do all the time but it helps if you hit a rut and need a switch up.

I learn languages to speak to people so I am in it for the conversation and to make friends. So a language exchange for me is just a way to make more friends since that is my objective anyway. It isn't just a learning technique for me. If you make a couple of friends a couple hundred lame conversations with creepy people or lots of no-shows are worth it. I've visited my language exchange partners in Italy and France. I have met their families and had BBQ with them and their neighbours. I even had one of my partners get me a free room for a holiday in Rome.

It isn't always about learning languages, sometimes it is better to teach than to learn. I have a LE partner in China who I help with English even though I parked Chinese years ago! So I collect friends.

You've probably noticed all the people I talk to are women. This isn't because I am some creepy old guy, it is because men always talk about sports or cars. Topics I hate and bore me to tears, I would rather watch paint dry than sports. So I just prefer to talk to women. I realise this is a stereotype, but it honestly if you spend 30 minutes talking to me about sports I will listen to you politely and never speak to you again.

So I suppose what I am saying is that you need to find people with similar interests if you want to keep a conversation going for multiple sessions over years and you need to have interesting stuff to talk about.

(Can't believe I typed all this on a phone! Excuse the typos, etc)


This is very sound advice and I agree with all of it. What I need is a friend, not a conversation partner. I want to be able to let rip about my opinions, and not feel drained after 10 minutes of talking after all my vocab is spent up.
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby tiia » Wed Apr 24, 2024 5:56 am

I thought I could still add a bit of my own experiences here. I have tried a few language exchanges, but basically just stuck with one person (for almost 6 years now) and otherwise language cafés. Language cafés eliminate pretty much the risk of no shows. Although I had group for language practise online for a while (only with other learners), I almost exclusivly do offline meetings - which is the way a language exchanges were traditionally done. With all those online tools nowadays, that seems to be a bit forgotten. The only time I met my current language exchange partner not face to face was at the beginning of the pandemic.

With this one person a typical meeting would be about 3 hours (not just one) and if we only have 2 hours it's already a short meeting. We often do different activities, like ice skating or aqua jogging, but it can also be a meeting at home or in a café. During the pandemic we went for a walk, while talking over the phone. Activities help to keep the thing going and to find topics to talk about. Also a few moments of silence are no issue.

The meetings during the pandemic were more structured, because there was not much going on in our lives. So we searched for documentaries in both languages that we then would watch between the meetings and discuss later. I also wrote some texts about them to practise writing.

I see this more as meeting a friend than having a language exchange nowadays. Meetings can be either in one of the languages or split between both languages, depending what makes more sense in that moment. Most of the times we switch at some point.
A long time ago I also had a friend with whom the conversation was basically each of us talking in the other ones native language, at least as long as there were no other people involved.

If you split within a meeting I would advice to always start with the weaker language, because greetings and the typical "how was your week" will be covered at the beginning of the meeting. That should be easier to handle even with limited skills.
Last edited by tiia on Wed Apr 24, 2024 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Maintaining conversation exchange

Postby Severine » Wed Apr 24, 2024 6:24 am

I think that rdearman's advice is excellent.

I also think that one of the hardest (yet most important) things to accept when it comes to language exchanges is that many (most?) of them will not turn out to be long-term successful exchanges. This is, in my view, perfectly reasonable and to be expected. You probably don't form a bond in your native language with every random person you speak with, and language partners are no different. Be discerning, be picky! I am an introvert and conversation takes energy, so I only want to talk to people I really want to talk to.

Speak with lots of different people and then politely decline to continue with anyone you're not actively looking forward to speaking with again. Don't be discouraged by the partners who don't work out - it's a selection process and some weeding out is necessary. Nor are you being rude or unkind, in my opinion, to those people you choose not to continue with. A person might be a fantastic, fascinating partner for someone else, but not for you. It's all about fit.

Like rdearman, I enjoy making friends through language exchanges. I have met some fascinating people who have become truly important to me. However, I have also sat through many, many video calls with prospective partners I had zero desire to speak with again. The second experience is the price at which you buy the first, in my view.

Another factor: I have a weird selection of interests, in that I have an extremely wide-ranging collection of topics that fascinate me, but I am simultaneously deeply uninterested in many common topics of conversation, like sports, fashion, cooking, celebrities, religion, TV shows, etc. This makes it even harder to find someone with whom I click. But the difference between having a language partner with whom I really click versus one who's just fine is so night-and-day that it's worth the time and effort to find those few fellow weirdos.

In short: with the right person, it won't feel so much like work.
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