How are your Spanish skills? Even those who have studied some Spanish before arriving at Madrid can become overwhelmed when they try to converse with the locals. I mean, they just speak so quickly! No amount of study with audiobooks and online courses can really prepare you for the whirlwind that is a conversation with a Madrid local…
One of the best ways to get some speaking and listening practice is to take part in a language exchange. This can take place in several forms, meeting one-on-one, as part of an exchange group, or even online chat. But, the general gist is, an English speaker and a Spanish speaker meet up to teach each other their native tongues through conversation.
- practice speaking and forming sentences
- practice comprehension and active listening
- pick up new vocabulary
- it’s free!
- make some new friends in Madrid
- let a local suggest where to meet, and discover a new bar or part of the city
- get to know the real Madrid from the people who live here
- improve your confidence by teaching your own language
- learn colloquial use of Spanish
Luckily, in a typical conversation exchange group, English native speakers outnumber Spanish native speakers by about 10 to 1! So, you should have no problem at all finding people with whom to chat. Until recently, English was not widely taught in the Spanish school system, so, there are a lot of locals who would love to chat with you to improve their skills. It’s a perfect arrangement – everyone benefits!
How to find a partner
There are lots of online sites available to help you pair up with locals. Amongst the most popular are:
- Why not try to plan your meeting into sections: 40 minutes of speaking in Spanish, followed by 40 minutes of speaking in English, so both partners have a good chance to practice
- Have a clear expectation of what you want to work on each session: pronunciation, or speaking in the future tense, or in the past
- If you want to work on your Spanish for business reasons, try to find a partner in the same industry
- Don’t be afraid to bring a pad and take notes!
- Try to pick a partner who is at a similar skill level. If their English is basically fluent, and your Spanish is still in its infancy, it can become easy to lose confidence
- If you can’t understand a word your partner is saying, ask them to slow down, and go easy on yourself! Languages take a lot of time to really master
- Don’t know if you’re using the correct grammar or vocabulary? Just try anyway! The best way to learn conversation is to just enjoy communication – your partner will help you along if you become stuck.
- Don’t be afraid to sound silly. Duolingo founder Louis von Ahn states that the major difference between those who learn a language easily, and those who struggle, is that those who aren’t afraid of making a fool of themselves, can become fluent up to twice as fast. So, jump in!
- Of course, as with any online activity, play it safe and meet in a public place first!
Good luck! ¡Buena suerte!