Do you need a native speaker to practise speaking with or is it possible to make progress with a non-native partner or even on your own? How would you even find a native speaker to talk to anyway? Keep reading for some answers to these questions!
On my Facebook page, people often say that their English isn’t improving because they don’t know any native speakers to practise speaking with. I suggest that they try to find a non-native partner instead but they say that they can’t learn anything from somebody who is the same level as they are.
Native vs non-native partner
Yes, it might be ideal to have a native speaker to talk to. With a native speaker, you can hear real language and they can tell you what sounds right or wrong. However, it isn’t easy to find such a person and it isn’t absolutely necessary. It’s probably easier to find another learner to talk to and you might even be less nervous than with a native speaker. And by the way, most English speakers can’t explain grammar rules to you, unless they are qualified teachers or language experts, because we don’t learn grammar rules at school.
Let me tell you about my experience of learning the piano. When I was a child, I had lessons once a week. I was supposed to practise every day between lessons but, as you can perhaps imagine, I didn’t always do it! Eventually my parents refused to pay for any more lessons! When I got older, I started lessons again and practised a bit more regularly. Now, I just practise on my own and don’t have a teacher.
Do you think that learning English might be similar in some ways? I can get better at the piano by practising without an expert! Similarly, you can get better at English by practising with another non-native speaker or even by talking to yourself! Sometimes I go to YouTube instead and watch expert pianists playing the piece I’m trying to learn. In the same way, you can use YouTube to help you with your English!
Practising English with a non-native partner (or by talking to yourself) is mainly about developing your fluency and confidence. You and your partner might also teach each other some new vocabulary because it’s very unlikely that you will both know exactly the same words. Also, you can use a dictionary to find words when you get stuck.
It’s true that practice with a non-native partner might not be so helpful for correcting grammar or pronunciation errors because your partner might not know when you are wrong or how to correct you. If you want somebody to correct all your mistakes, you might have to consider paying for lessons.
Even if you have lessons, you should practise speaking in between lessons as well. If you practise English for one hour a week with your teacher or in your class and do no work the rest of the week, your progress will be slow. You will get better much faster if you practise every day.
So my advice to you is to get some language input by having lessons, reading English, watching videos or films, listening to songs and so on. Then practise speaking with a partner as much as you can to use the language that you’re learning and build your confidence and fluency.
How to find a non-native speaker partner
1. First, you should try asking all your friends if they are interested. It’s very likely that you have a friend who is learning English or maybe you can find a friend of a friend. This is probably the easiest way.
2. The second easiest way is perhaps to try social media. You can find other people who are looking for a partner on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit and many more. I have a Facebook group which you can join.
3. Don’t just look at social media pages for learning English. What are your other hobbies and interests? Join groups and follow pages related to your hobbies where the conversation is in English and join in!
4. There are many apps and websites that you can try, such as italki, Hallo, HelloTalk, tandem.net, and conversationexchange.com. I’ve never tried to find a partner this way myself so I can’t tell you if they are any good or not.
How to find a native speaker partner
1. As I suggested above, you can use social media and join groups based on your hobbies and interests. Many online groups are international communities. I don’t recommend posting that you are looking for somebody to practise English with though. I doubt it will be successful. Instead, just be friendly and chat to people naturally.
2. Find a language exchange partner. This is an English speaker who wants to learn your language. You help them with your language and they help you with English. Search Google for “language exchange partner” and you’ll find many sites and apps. I have to say, I don’t know how good they are though. Or advertise on a local website
3. Pay for lessons. I’m British and I offer one-to-one lessons online. I’m also hoping to start some group lessons soon. Click here to find out more.
For more tips on how to improve your speaking, you might like my English Speaking Challenge e-book. Click the button to download it.
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