Language exchange tips

I have an opportunity to have a language exchange with my friend’s Japanese wife. Her English isn’t great but is much better than my N5/barely N4 level Japanese.

Having not done anything like this before, I’m wondering if anyone has any tips.

I’d rather have some sort of structure to the session rather than sit there and randomly talk about stuff. Although listening and speaking are my weak points so maybe talking about random stuff would be helpful?

Thanks in advance!


Agree to use a timer (and alternate between the two languages – i.e. 15, 20, or 30 minutes each); otherwise you may end up speaking English the whole time.


If you’ve got some time before the meetup, try practicing a bit. Get on HelloTalk and speaks to randoms, try some things out and see how they work. That will not only give you some confidence but it will also provide tools to ease you into a language exchange.

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Maybe you could think of a topic or situation beforehand which you’d (both) like to be able to say more about? Then you could use that for part of the time and have random chit chat on either side. Plus even random stuff is useful. If you are already comfortable with some phrases, using them might help you “warm up” prior to trying something more challenging, and you can build up confidence and fluency.

Otherwise, talking about stuff either of you has done/seen during the week is always good. Even better if you can illustrate it with pictures off your phone. “Show and tell” never gets old. :grinning:

I also recommend using a timer and strictly keeping English only or Japanese only during those times.

It’s basically your time to test drive all the phrases you’ve been learning, like introducing yourself, talking about your hobbies and job, asking if they are Genki and how their family is doing, etc. So you could even go as far as writing down a list of things you want to say so don’t forget/freeze during the convo.

Mostly I recommend putting all of your fear behind you and just wholeheartedly trying to communicate and not worry about doing it wrong. I’d even suggest not having any electrical dictionary available at first so that you don’t interrupt the flow of conversation. They didn’t understand a word you used? OK! try to work around it, that kind of thing will happen a lot and you won’t always be able to bail yourself out with a dictionary. You will undoubtedly make many mistakes but the more mistakes you make the more you will learn and build confidence.

Have fun!

Tell us how it goes afterwards! Good luck. I am getting to the point where I should probably start trying to do some exchange myself. From experiences with other languages, it will probably be a little bit awkward at first, but if both of you really get interested in what each other are saying, after a bit you might even find yourself having fun.

Thanks for all the good advice.

I think I’ll stick to one or two grammar points that I want to work on then try and incorporate them into some basic conversation topics.

Whatever happens I’m sure I’ll be better for the experience :grimacing:

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