When people find a language exchange partner (such as via Reddit's r/language_exchange), they often seek out a native speaker. However, this typically comes at a cost: spending time teaching them your native language in return.

I'm interested in comparing:

  1. Language exchange with a native speaker: speaking for 1 hour with a native speaker, and in repayment speaking for 1 hour in your native language.
  2. Language exchange with a non-native speaker: speaking for 2 hours with a non-native speaker in your target language.

Question: Is it more productive to speak 2 hours with a student who is learning the same language, or 1 hour with a native speaker (and 1 hour in your native language)?

For instance, if I want to practice Chinese, I could talk with a native Chinese speaker and provide English language practice in return, or I could find someone else learning Chinese and not have to worry about "repayment".

  • When communicating with a non-native speaker, choose one from a different native background than yours. Otherwise you'll probably make similar mistakes that get unnoticed. Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


It will depend on circumstances.
On the one hand, progress is going to depend a lot on how much time you spend engaged in the language. On the other hand, practising with another language learner may result in lower-quality input, and you may acquire fewer natural expressions and possibly some incorrect expressions. So there are some things to consider:

How much language input are you getting outside of the language exchange? Comprehensible input is an essential part of language learning. If you're watching a lot of TV, movies, or videos in the language you are learning, then it may not matter that your language exchange partner isn't a native speaker. You will get sufficient time practising with your language partner, as well as sufficient authentic input from other sources. Of course it is important that this input is comprehensible. However, if you are not getting much input, especially from listening, then it may be preferable to have a language exchange with a native speaker, so that you can receive more input from them.

What is your language level? If you are a beginner, you may not be able to discern the differences between a learner and a native speaker. That is, you may not recognize their pronunciation problems, grammar errors, etc. But if you are an intermediate or advanced learner, you'll be able to discern these things better, and not accidentally acquire incorrect language.

What is your non-native language partner's level? If it's higher than your own, you may benefit more from speaking to them.

  • An additional benefit to speaking with a non-native speaker is that they can better understand what difficulties you might face as a learner.
    – user9600
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 12:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.