The concept of language exchange is great. The idea of practicing with a native speaker sounds great! You can help each other and maybe even build a friendship. However, it’s very easy for things to go a bit pair-shaped with language exchange if you do not monitor it carefully!
Find your balance
Striking a balance can be really hard sometimes. It depends on how exactly you want your interactions with your language exchange partner(s) to go. If you want to have regular practice with the language alternating each day, let them know! You should work together to find something that works for you both. This is especially important if you’re lower level at your target language than they are at theirs (or vice-versa). It’s super easy to just get steamrolled (or steamroll them) and end up using one language exclusively. Then it’s less of an exchange than a conversation that only one learner benefits from. I admit I’m guilty of this sometimes… some of my language exchange partners don’t seem to honestly care much about learning English. In that case, it’s okay if I take over the conversation and run it all in Korean, right? Not exactly! It’s a bit selfish, so I try to ask them if they would like a turn to practice if I’ve been steamrolling them.
What should we talk about?
The discussion topics are up to you! I usually just start with normal conversation and as we learn more about each other, we naturally find more stuff to branch out and talk about. I have language exchange partners for all kinds of discussion. Most prefer sticking with natural conversation. A few ask for structured alternate-hour exchanges. One even likes Skype calling me with complex English grammar questions! Just try to find a topic you are both interested in and roll with it!
Finding a language exchange partner that fits your needs can be complicated, but just make sure you make your expectations clear and are considerate of what the other party wants and you’ll be fine 🙂 You might match up with a few people you don’t quite fit with at first, but there are a lot of people out there, so don’t stop trying!