We firmly believe that intercambios de idiomas, or language exchanges, are a great way to improve your Spanish speaking skills. In addition, they allow you to get out there and meet new people! We have seen two main types of intercambios since living abroad here in Spain—in groups or one-on-one. Here we are going to focus on group intercambios but if you want to learn more about one-on-one intercambios you can find more on this page.
With Facebook groups and Instagram pages it is now easier than ever to find a place to carry out group intercambios, or a group meeting where a bunch of people who want to exchange (intercambiar) languages can meet up and talk. Even with the current situation, where people aren’t really meeting up in person, these are a great way to meet other people, including native Spanish speakers, who are also looking to improve their language skills.
Who goes to group intercambios?
Back when we were meeting up in person, you could find all kinds of people that frequented intercambios. From travelers who were just passing through the city and want to meet up for a drink, to locals who are looking to improve their language skills, to foreign residents in the city who want to improve their Spanish, all kinds of people enjoy these language exchanges. Of course, we also found that, depending on the type of exchange that we attended, we found different types of people.
Now-a-days, you will find that most language exchanges are held virtually and the people who attend vary just as much. You may find that most people at some of the intercambios you attend are from one country or culture or you may join a group that is a big mix. If you are interested in improving your Spanish language skills, make sure to find a group that has enough native or fluent Spanish speakers so you can practice some of the time. In general, the nice thing about intercambios is that people are there to share with you, which means that whoever is attending is looking to talk and learn.
How serious do I have to be to join?
One really great thing about group intercambios is that they are really informal which means you can go with the intention only to meet people independently of the languages they speak, or you can go ready to practice. In our experience, this kind of intercambios tend to be casual meet-ups as compared to one-on-one intercambios which tend to be more structured. However, it is also possible to find very organized ones where they will ask you to “sign up” with the languages you speak and then organize you accordingly or events that are run in a speed-dating style so you have a limited time to speak with each person.
No matter the style, these group meetings are mostly about practicing your language skills, meeting people, and having fun. Therefore, if you’re turned-off by your experience at an intercambio of one style, we suggest giving the idea of intercambios another chance and seeking out one that is organized differently. If you are looking for a really intense language exchange, however, we might recommend trying a one-on-one intercambio as those tend to be more organized and language learning focused.
What languages can I practice?
When we were meeting in person for intercambios, the most common languages that we would find in Granada were Spanish and English. However, it was not unusual to see people who were native speakers of many other languages either. Although we don’t really recommend meeting in person right now, one of the great things about the whole situation is that most of these language exchanges have moved online, making it possible for you to practice any language you want. We have done some virtual intercambios and the mixes of who was participating was truly incredible!
What is important here is that you find a group that is able to consistently offer you the language that you want to practice. In addition, it is beneficial if others in the group are interested in learning your native language (or another language you are fluent in). By ensuring this flow of language knowledge, you will be able to establish good relationships with the different people in the group, making the experience more beneficial for everyone.
Should I expect to become friends with other participants?
We did touch on this a little bit when we discussed one-on-one intercambios but group sessions are different. Because there are so many different types of people who join these larger language exchanges, there is a much higher probability that you can connect with someone there. At the same time, you shouldn’t expect that you will find your new best friend or that you will even see the people you like most more than once. Intercambios are a bit of a “luck of the draw” in that sense because sometimes you get lucky and really enjoy the people you are speaking with and other times you might feel a bit out of place.
On that note, it is important that you should know that neither Dani nor Claudia is the most socially outgoing person (although we did meet at an intercambio and can probably fake it pretty well). Therefore, we want you to know that while it can be intimidating to go to your first group intercambio, you shouldn’t be scared. You will probably find yourself pleasantly surprised and that the people are mostly warm and welcoming. In fact, we might even recommend joining a session alone because it will force you to be proactive in talking to others and meeting new people.
What are your experiences with group intercambios?