- Language Exchange Websites
These websites are designed specifically for the purpose of connecting people who have a desire to exchange skills. Say what you can teach, what you would like to learn, and your zip code, and the site will generate a list of matches. You can review your matches’ profiles and start a conversation about meeting up! Many of these websites provide online learning exchange opportunities as well. Check out sites like LRNGO and see for yourself.
- Houston Language Partners Initiative Meetup Group
Meetup is a networking site bringing people with shared interests together through local groups. The Houston Language Partners Initiative group is for people interested in language exchange in the Houston area. The group meets socially so that members have the opportunity to meet each other face-to-face and improve their chances of finding a learning exchange partner. The group also sponsors free events where instructors are invited to speak and give advice on how to better learn from one another.
- Coffee Shops
Known as a place to meet new people, coffee shops provide the perfect atmosphere for meeting a learning exchange partner. Everyone needs their coffee, be it college students studying, those in the workforce needing a pick-me-up, or those simply looking for a place to read a book. With so much variety, especially in Houston, and a casual atmosphere, coffee shops are the perfect place for meeting someone with the skills you’re looking for. The key is to pay attention to what people are doing. Is there someone with a "How to Speak Spanish" book on their table? It doesn’t hurt to ask if they’d be interested in a learning exchange. Check out Starbucks ---- or Agora.
You are sure to find people eager to learn in public libraries. Similar to the coffee shop advice, pay attention to what people are studying. Look out for someone who is studying your native language and ask if they’d be interested in teaching you theirs. Find your local Houston library.
- Local Events
Keep up with local events! Architecture walks, dance parties, and poetry slams are all in your backyard. Houston’s visitor site compiles a calendar of events that lists tons of unique, interesting happenings in the area. The more you get out and do things you’re interested in, the more likely you will meet like-minded people. Keep an eye out for what interests you, and for people who may be interested in learning exchange!
Finally, although not free, there are effective low cost classes specifically for improving English speaking and conversation that very few people know about here. While big language businessses and local universities charge a lot for enrollment to pay for their advertising, lesser-known smaller classes like www.HoustonEnglish.com can be more reasonable and even show results quicker. This is because the classes you need to communicate now should focus more on speaking English like native speakers (accent reduction, pronunciation, linking, etc.) instead of the same traditional written English and academic grammar you've already had.
When it comes to finding a learning exchange partner, the key is to be friendly, willing to meet new people, and to never be embarrassed! Remember that, whatever skill level you’re at, there are people in the area interested in just talking to you and helping you improve, and learning something from you in return!
Photo Credit: Kate Haugland