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歐博思

What's the appeal of language exchanges?

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歐博思

If I want to make friends, make friends; if I want to be taught, pay a teacher.

 

At least that's my take. Thoughts?

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Mr John

In theory, sure. In practice, people are often a mixture of the two. If you're lucky, people from language exchanges become friends. But if you don't want to feel overly expoitative, I think a teacher is the way to go.

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Walkingtree

I have and use both. I use language exchanges with those who genuinely want to learn English, and pay for the rest. I always offer both up front.

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anonymoose

Anyone going into language exchange expecting to "be taught" probably has unrealistic expectations. But language exchange provides an opportunity to ask questions, and concentrate on language with a sympathetic partner. Friends may or may not be able to help, but are likely to get fed up if you persistently ask language questions. Friendships do, however, often develop from language exchange.

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studychinese

All of the replies above.

I would also add that for many people language exchange is thinly disguised dating. Perhaps even the majority. An old girlfriend put up a profile with only her age (22), gender, nationality, and a smiley face and got over one hundred messages from men in a single weekend. None at all from women.

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歐博思

@anonymoose: I don't often seek language exchanges, so maybe my language usage came across as a bit biased :P

 

 

Anyone going into language exchange expecting to "be taught" probably has unrealistic expectations.

 

 

 

But I did participate in a language "exchange" in university a few years ago one single time. I put exchange in quotes because we never really did any of the official language partner activities and instead just became friends.

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realmayo
If I want to make friends, make friends; if I want to be taught, pay a teacher.

 

... and if you want to learn, language exchange is one option worth considering.

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dandmcd

The appeal of language exchange is it gives people a chance to meet people, whether it just be to make friends and learn about other cultures, practice for exams, or a FOB foreigner wishing to know someone who can help them out if trouble arises.  Often it does lead to dating, but just like any activity, for example joining a running club, gym exercise class, hiking and traveling group, these are all different ways to meet people and enjoy a mutual interest in something.

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LiMo

I suspect the biggest draw for many is that it's free. Don't forget there are a lot of people short on cash these days.

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Johnny20270

Odd as this many sound I find language exchange pretty useless until you get to the upper beginner level (i.e. comfortable with constructions, use of 把 etc) My biggest problem was that everyone who wants language exchange has good English already and you just revert to English in minutes no matter how hard you try. I have seen other language partners in Beijing having the same problem.

 

The other myth is having a Chinese girlfriend (who speaks English) will improve your language. Actually it can have the opposite effect. You let them do everything, order in restaurants, supermarket, buy cinema tickets, sort out issues, browse websites for you etc Seen it too many times. Every western Chinese learner I know has the same feedback. I have had the same conversation over and over again with my gf, 请说汉语。 She says ok, ok  and reverts back to English in about two minutes. Frankly pisses me off lol

 

I realize its a defeatist attitude and I am trying to change it, ..... but well .... always just a battle

 

The only real progress I generally make is with my private language teacher, who draws the language out of me like drawing blood. :) Painful but works. 

 

Hope other people are having better experience than me!

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edelweis

we absolutely need a thread with those 100 best Chinese insults.

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studychinese

Back to language exchanges.

The way I see it is language exchanges are definitely inferior to getting tutoring, on italki, for example. If you want be taught a language a language exchange is not going to do that for you. In addition, there is an opportunity cost. In theory a language exchange should be 50/50 of the time being spent in each language. That means that 50% of the time you are not speaking in the language that you are learning! On italki you could speak 100% of the time in the language that you are learning, with no wasted time (and it is wasted time!). Worse, quite often the language exchanges are not 50/50 when they speak your language better than you speak their language. In that case it can be worse than 90/10 in their favor!

 

What good things can I say about it? Well... if you are looking for a romantic partner then language exchange can be a good thing as it is often the motivation of both men and women that participate in them. Also, if you absolutely cannot scrape up the under $10 an hour for italki then language exchange could be for you, too.

 

When can language exchange be good? I would say it can be good when your Chinese is far better than the English of your language partner, and you are able to 90/10 them in your favor. Of course they are not getting much out of it but that really isn't the point, is it?

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studychinese

I don't view language exchange in the stark moral terms that you do, Demonic_Duck. I am dealing with language exchange as it really is rather than an idealized version of language exchange, which is by far the exception, not the norm.

 

Any time that you are spending teaching someone else is time that you are losing to study your target language (its called opportunity cost). Do I consider that a waste of time? Yes, absolutely. It is the reason why I don't do language exchanges. Instead I just speak with non-English speaking Chinese people, or use italki.

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Johnny20270

yeah I see where studyChinese is coming from. I didn't come to china to help strangers or make friends. If that happens along the way great. I actively avoid western people and fluent English speaking Chinese. I don't want to waste my time having random talks with Chinese people in English. Not meaning to sound callous but there is no reason to come to china for that. I can do all that in my own country. I don't get involved in any of school outings. Most of the younger lot do, but China is a adventure as much as a language learning experience for them so understandable. 

 

I (now) had a lot of somewhat annoyed of people on Wechat because I deleted them. My evenings were spent talking English to strange girls about dumb stuff.

 

If I was a fluent Chinese speaker, situation would be different.  

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Demonic_Duck
I don't view language exchange in the stark moral terms that you do, Demonic_Duck. I am dealing with language exchange as it really is rather than an idealized version of language exchange, which is by far the exception, not the norm.

I'm hardly advocating giving up all your material possessions and devoting your life to serving the poor. I'm advocating valuing other people's time the same as you value your own. I wouldn't say that's a particularly high moral standard.

 

Any time that you are spending teaching someone else is time that you are losing to study your target language (its called opportunity cost). Do I consider that a waste of time? Yes, absolutely. It is the reason why I don't do language exchanges. Instead I just speak with non-English speaking Chinese people, or use italki.

I'm familiar with the concept of opportunity cost, though it's of dubious applicability to social interactions*. If you look at it from a purely self-interested standpoint, the cost is singlefold - the time you spend helping someone else with their target language. The benefits are manifold - the help you receive with your target language, the social value (i.e. possibility of making a friend, and any material or immaterial benefits that come from that friendship), the additional understanding you get of your own language (teaching or explaining things often provides this), and any non-language-related knowledge you gain from the exchange.

 

If you look at it from a broader angle, considering benefits to other people as well as yourself, you can simply double both the costs and the benefits.

 

Sure, some language exchanges don't work out too well. No problem, you've wasted maybe two hours of your life, it's not the end of the world.

 

* I like Jed more than I like my sister, and I always enjoy any time I spend with Jed more than I do spending the equivalent time with my sister. Therefore, I should never spend any time with my sister, because by doing so I lose the opportunity of spending the equivalent amount of time with Jed.

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studychinese

Demonic_Duck, I am going to be a purist and say that what you are saying is potentially disastrous advice for a Chinese language learner new to China.

How many foreigners have you seen enter a kind of English language bubble? Surrounded by 'helpful' English speaking Chinese friends, often met through language exchanges and the like. Once these people fall into the 'social interactions' of associating with the English speaking Chinese people they lose all the opportunities to deal with problems themselves, and sacrifice their learning of Chinese. I have seen this in Japan, Korea and China.

 

The only way to prevent it is to reject it. Minimize interactions with English speaking Chinese people, maximize interaction with Chinese people that cannot speak English. Avoid hanging out with large groups of foreigners - one or two foreign friends is OK, especially if they are motivated learners of Chinese. A hard nosed attitude IS required, and it need not infringe upon anyone else.

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AdamD

This is what I get from language exchanges:

 

  • If I'm working on an assignment or revising for an exam, I can ask questions.
  • If I want to practise new words and grammar, I can do so with a range of people and get a range of views.
  • If I want to refine my pronunciation, having several people pick up different mistakes is invaluable.
  • If I'm lacking confidence, I feel comfortable in a room full of people who are fighting the same battle.
  • If I'm not in the right head space, I can help other people. Helping English speakers with Chinese always helps me. Always.
  • Over-polite Chinese people praising my Chinese are inevitably countered brutally honest people telling me how crap I am. The latter is more useful to me, but the former can give me a boost in my off weeks.
  • People who go to Chinese–English languages exchanges are among the hardest working, most dedicated people I've ever met, and I love being around people like that.
  • Dinner, pool or 三国杀 always happens after language exchanges. That's always fun, and I'm more confident speaking real-world Chinese with those people than I am alone.
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