Currently, with all social networks and internet, it seems that everybody suggest [citation needed] that the primary way to learn a language is to find a language exchange partner.

Beyond the obvious disballance problem (some languages have more learners than others, so finding a partner for everyone might be impossible), I think that it also decreases the flexibility. If I learn alone, I can do it whenever I have time.

Is there an evidence that such approach is significantly more successful than variants like:

  • after getting basic from school/classroom training, learning alone using internet materials, Anki/SRS, graded readers,
  • classroom learning, even if the teacher is not a native speaker (or even better, if is), and I understand that this has significant financial cost
  • language speaking clubs, where several learners meet weekly/monthly and try their best speaking L2, even if no native speaker is present

Language exchange partner will be unlikely a qualified teacher, and for many languages (especially English) there is almost too many learning resources and some are of quite high quality (so many that it might be hard to find the really good ones)

I am not against speaking, I am concerned that placing all bets on a single approach increases risk of failing ("I could not learn because I found no partner").

So is there evidence about how successful is "language exchange" approach as compared to old-school alternatives?

  • I think the reason people do the language exchange is because it is the only way to get the speaking opportunity. No one wants to talk to you unless you speak fluently, but in order to speak fluently you must practice it with native speakers. That’s why they use the language exchange by sacrificing their time. These people suggest language exchange as a way of complementing the lack of speaking opportunities, not for replacing other ways of learning.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 16:17
  • I disagree with "in order to speak fluently you must practice it with native speakers". I had near-zero exposure to native speakers and I learned English good enough to get a job in USA. It might be easier and more fun to practice exchange with native speakers, but (for reason in my question) it might not be possible for many learners. Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 20:01
  • @Peter M. This only works for a select few languages like English in which L2 speakers outnumber L1 speakers and foreign accents are common. If you want to be taken seriously as an L2 Spanish speaker, you absolutely need to reduce your accent enough so as not to sound like a gringo. For this, regular practice with native speakers is key.
    – K Man
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 22:46
  • By "language exchange" approach, do you mean specifically the activity of talking to a native speaker in exchange for letting them practice with you in your native language? Or do you mean practicing with native speakers in general? (Teacher, tutor, acquaintances, etc)
    – Evelyn
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 15:02
  • 1
    @Evelyn - "the importance of practicing with native speakers" is worth separate question - maybe already asked. I know that when I was learning English, I had no such opportunities. Just fellow learners and self-study. So I believe it is less important that commonly believed. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 21:04


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