Friday, August 26, 2011

Language Exchange Programs Defined

Are you interested in learning a new language, but perhaps having a difficult time doing so in the traditional manner? Would you be interested in becoming part of a language exchange program—a comfortable and collaborative new method for language acquisition? If so, the following information may prove very useful. In this article we will discuss the concept of language exchange in a bit more detail, first by defining the term and how the practice works, followed by a brief section outlining some of the benefits of this type of program.

What Is a Language Exchange and How Does It Work?

Simply put, a language exchange is a type of language acquisition program in which two or more people who speak a different language come together—either in person or electronically via email, voice chat, etc.—to practice one another’s language. For instance, if an English speaker is interested in learning Spanish, in a language exchange program he/she would be paired with a Spanish speaker interested in learning English.

There are several different ways a language exchange can be performed and practiced, including one of the more popular techniques called the Cormier method. In this system, small mixed groups of native speakers—speakers of two languages—will spend half the time conversing in one language and the other half speaking in the alternate language. This is carried out through various activities that are designed to address every important area of effective language acquisition, including vocabulary, comprehension and pronunciation.

While language exchange programs can take place in person, the improvements in technology in recent years have made it possible for speakers of different languages to get together electronically from thousands of miles away to practice each other’s language. This is often accomplished using a language exchange service of some type—one that provides a lesson plan and simplified instructions, usually for a very nominal fee. At the beginner level, speakers in a language exchange will often communicate exclusively through email or text, but as speakers become more advanced in each other’s language, video chat is often added to enhance the experience and to stress proper pronunciation.

The Benefits of a Language Exchange

Learning a new language takes not just practice, but the right kind of practice. Unlike other popular ways to learn a new language, methods such as a language class—in which the instructor does most of the speaking—and total immersion—in which the native speakers really have no motivation to help you learn—a language exchange allows both parties to speak, write and practice the new language often, with both parties sharing the same goal and thus just as motivated to help the other learn.

Another benefit of language exchange is that it stresses the type of communication most often used by people—conversational communication—and does so in a way that is very structured, yet comfortable. Through the carefully designed lesson plans and how-to guides, a language exchange program ensures that speakers will always have something to talk about, and because there is no evaluation process or penalty for mistakes, students tend to feel more at ease with the process and are more apt to practice on a regular basis.

Language exchanges offer a “win-win” scenario for both parties, and because these programs create an environment that is both supportive and collaborative, they are the perfect solution for anyone desiring to learn a new language.

1 comment:

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