If you want to speak Spanish, at some point you have to go beyond memorizing new Spanish words and studying Spanish verbs and grammar. Besides, that can get a little dry if that is all you are doing.
What you really want to be able to do is speak Spanish, right? That’s the fun part. In fact, there is a growing body of language teachers who say that we should spend FAR more time practicing speaking and hearing Spanish than we should spend studying Spanish. Personally, I think that there should be an even balance between study and conversation practice, for I find that the more words I know, the better I am able to express what I am trying to say.
So I strongly suggest that you find native Spanish speakers to converse with in Spanish one-on-one, and you can find those language partners in LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and speak with them on Skype (www.skype.com). Here is how you do that:
First of all, you need a LinkedIn account. It is free to establish a basic LinkedIn account, just go to the web site and sign up. LinkedIn, which is kind of like Facebook for business professionals, will try to get you to sign up for a higher level account which costs at least $24 per month, but you don’t need that if you don’t want it. The basic, free, service works fine for finding language partners.
Once you have a LinkedIn account, join several LinkedIn groups where you can find native Spanish speakers who can help you speak Spanish while you help them speak English. Do a language exchange. So, at the top of the LinkedIn page there is a search box with a drop-down menu that enables you to search for people, jobs, groups, companies, etc … switch it to groups, and then search for Spanish, or Latino, or language, or español, or something like that. Your search will return various groups, ranked according to the number of members in each group. The groups with the largest number of members will appear at the top (numbering sometimes in the thousands), while the smaller groups will appear toward the bottom of the list. Here is a list of the LinkedIn groups that I belong to where I was able to find native Spanish speakers:
- Association for Foreign Language Professionals
- Exchanging languages
- English Spanish Translator Org
- Spanish Immersion
- Spanish for Professional Purposes
- Spanish in the USA
- Spanish Speakers
- Spanish language professionals
- OPENRED: SPANISH/ENGLISH WORLDWIDE NETWORK
- Latin America Network
- SPANISH TEACHING
- Oportunidades laborales en Sudamerica – Jobs opportunities in South America
- Mexican Professionals
- Bicultural Latino professionals
- Language Experts!!!
- Marketing Connection LATAM
Once you are on a LinkedIn group page, there should be a button at the top that says “Join Group.” Some groups you are able to join immediately once you click that button, but other groups will take a few hours or days to join before the moderator accepts your request to join. I don’t believe that I have ever been refused entry to join a group on LinkedIn … most of these groups want to grow their group size as large as possible, so they will accept everyone who wants to join the group. For example, I am a member of a group called Mexican Professionals, in spite of the fact that I am neither Mexican nor (some would say) entirely professional. (Smile).
Once you are a member of the group, you can post a message on the group discussion board for all to see. At that point all you have to do is post something like, “Seeking conversation partner – I will help you learn English, if you will help me learn Spanish.” Actually, I recommend posting that message entirely in Spanish if you are looking for a Spanish speaking language partner (which is what I did). For example, “Le ayudaré aprender inglés si me ayudará aprender español.” Another thing you should put in the posting is your Skype ID, as well as to ask for the Skype ID of anyone who wants to become a conversation partner with you.
I posted a message like this written in Spanish on about 10 message boards, and I was FLOODED with responses. They poured in over the next 3 days … non-stop … I actually had to go into all of the boards about 3 days later and delete each of my postings (which also deletes all replies to the postings) because I had to work overtime to keep up with all the people who wanted to do a Spanish-English language exchange with me. (I deleted the postings after, of course, I had gathered the contact information of prospective language partners). Replies came from all over the world – Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Spain, Chile, from Latinos living in the United States, and from various other Spanish speaking countries. It appears that there are many more native Spanish speakers who want to find an English language partner, than there are native English speakers looking for a Spanish speaking partner.
I highly recommend that you do the courteous thing and at least reply to everyone who contacts you. Either reply on the message board acknowledging each of the people who replied, or send each person a private message via LinkedIn. Like I said, after only a few days I had to go back and delete my original posting to stop the flow of incoming messages. I now have the contact information of over 50 people throughout the world who are willing to trade Spanish for English with me. (NOTE: Don’t be giving out personal information – like a credit card number, duh! – because I expect that there are shady characters out there. Nonetheless, I am always careful and have never had any problems … I have only ever found nice people to converse with via Skype).
Now you have to go into Skype and send or receive a “contact request.” Skype enables you to make free calls through the Internet (not using phone lines) to any other Skype member throughout the world. It is a pretty amazing thing to be able to talk for an hour for FREE to someone living in Argentina or elsewhere in the world. Again, the key is that the other person must also have a Skype account … if you use Skype to call a cell phone or landline, it will cost you (although it is still only pennies per minute); but if you make a Skype to Skype call (one member of Skype calling another member of Skype), the call is FREE. I even have the Skype app on my iPhone, and I can use that app to call a Skype member (although I am sure that type of call counts against the total amount of data usage I am allowed on my iPhone). I think that you can establish a Skype account for as little as $10, and then you download the application to your computer. If you only use Skype to call another Skype member, you will never even use up that $10 it cost to join Skype … this is money that sits in your account and is used up if you should ever use Skype to call a landline or cell phone. If you only use Skype to call another Skype member, that $10 will stay in your Skype account. So … while you are in Skype, send a “contact request” to the Skype IDs that you received from people while in LinkedIn, and once they accept you will be connected. Or, perhaps a LinkedIn group member that saw your Skype ID listed in the group message you posted will send you a Skype “contact request” that you will find in your Skype inbox the next time you log into Skype, and once you accept that request that person will become one of your Skype contacts.
This is how you can find language exchange partners in Linkedin that you will converse with via Skype.
The other thing I might mention is that while you can certainly make voice calls using Skype, it is more personal to make video calls using Skype. If you have a webcam installed, and your language partner also has a webcam (which is usually the case), in Skype you can both see and hear the person you are talking to, while they can both see and hear you. Again, pretty amazing stuff, and it is FREE, FREE, FREE. You do have to buy and install a webcam, however you can get a very nice one for very little money. I researched webcams and found a highly rated one on sale at Best Buy for about $30, I bought the Logitech HD Webcam C510. Most of the Logitech webcams are highly rated and recommended, and range in price from about $25 up to about $90. My webcam also includes a microphone, so the only other thing I needed was speakers plugged into my computer, and I was good to go. (If I want to, I can also switch to a headphone set with microphone instead of using the webcam’s built-in microphone).
There are hundreds or even thousands of native Spanish speakers out there right now looking for native English speakers who are willing to do a language exchange. When I meet someone new via Skype, I usually suggest speaking for 15 minutes at a time in one language, before switching to the other language for 15 minutes, and then back again, etc. Most people are willing to have a least a 30 minute conversation, and I find it best just to schedule an hour so that there is a time limit. Also, keep an eye on the clock so that the conversation does not skew in favor of one language … the idea is to get an even exchange, spending 50% of the time in Spanish while spending the other 50% of the time in English. Some people have suggested speaking English to me while I speak in Spanish to them, kind of a two-language-at-once conversation, but I don’t feel that is a good idea because you need to hear Spanish as much as you need to practice speaking it, and your language partner needs to hear English as much as they need to practice speaking it. So go 15 minutes at a time in one language, and then 15 minutes in the other, then back and forth again.
I have so many Skype contacts that are language partners, that invariably when I log into Skype now I see that some of them are already logged into Skype. (You can see the online status of all of your Skype contacts). So, if I want to strike up a conversation, all I have to do is send a chat message to someone logged in to see if they are available for a conversation, or I can just call them straightaway via Skype to see if they pick up the call. (I usually poke them with a chat message first to see if they reply). But the other thing that I have found is that now when I log into Skype, my Skype contacts will see that I just came online, and sometimes one or more will send me a chat message asking if I have time to have a Spanish-English exchange right then. Therefore, you can be spontaneous and go online and see if you can find someone to converse with (which I do occasionally), or you can establish a regular schedule with specific partners to have a conversation at a specific time and day each week (which I prefer to do, and I have about 5 of those regular partners right now).
So let me say one more time, there are hundreds or even thousands of native Spanish speakers out there right now looking for native English speakers who are willing to do a language exchange. What are you waiting for? Go out and find them … and make some friends all over the world!