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Language exchange is a method of language learning based on mutual language practicing by learning partners who are speakers of different languages. This is usually done by two native speakers teaching each other their native language. Language exchange is different from other Language learning methods as there is usually no set syllabus or activities. Language exchange is sometimes called Tandem language learning.
In modern contexts, "language exchange" most often refers to the mutual teaching of partners' first languages. Language exchanges are generally considered helpful for developing language proficiency, especially in speaking fluency and listening comprehension. Language exchanges that take place through writing or text chats also improve reading comprehension and writing ability. The aim of language exchange is to develop and increase language knowledge and intercultural skills. This is usually done through social interaction with the native speaker. Given that language exchanges generally take place between native speakers of different languages, there is also the side benefit of improving cross-cultural communication.
This practice has long been used by individuals to exchange knowledge of foreign languages. For example, John Milton gave Roger Williams an opportunity to practice Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and French, while receiving lessons in Dutch in exchange. Language exchange first came about in the early 1800s where school aged children in England were introduced to the newly set up program. Countries such as Belgium and Switzerland found the language exchange program very easy to run as there were many languages spoken in the one country. French and German youth picked up language exchange in 1968 which then spread to Turkey and Madrid.
Universities are increasingly experimenting with language exchanges as part of the language learning curriculum. In this respect, language exchanges have a similar role as study abroad programs and language immersion programs in creating an environment where the language student must use the foreign language for genuine communication outside of a classroom setting. Language Travelling has increased significantly over the last three years, with an increase of 67%. However, there are also concerns that language exchanges cannot be used as a substitute for formal language education, given the difficulty of using language exchanges in learning formal grammar and writing skills.
Language exchanges have been viewed as a helpful tool to aid language learning at language schools. Language exchanges tend to benefit oral proficiency, fluency, colloquial vocabulary acquisition, and vernacular usage. A major benefit of language exchange is the exposure to the native speaker's culture. Understanding the culture of native speaker will help with understanding why and how the language is used. Another benefit is that you are in an friendly and informal environment, this means there is no pressure to get everything right as both speakers are trying to learn and understand. This also gives the learning environment a fun and productive atmosphere. By learning with native speakers each person will get a better understanding of the language as they are learning from someone who has knowledge and background in the language, whereas, learning from someone who has learnt the language later on in their life may not be correct in what they are teaching.
With the growth of the internet, language exchanges using social networks and voice-over-IP technologies have become increasingly popular. Language learning social networks now offer students the ability to find language partners around the world, and speak or text chat through instant messengers. This has allowed students who previously could not find foreign language partners to search online for native speakers of that language. There are now over 24 different online language exchange groups that can be joined.
- Language education
- Community language learning
- Language immersion
- Language acquisition
- Communicative language teaching
- Online learning community
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