I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I really can’t emphasis this point enough: Couchsurfing.com is fantastic for language learners.
And not just for hosts/guests. It can be a godsend in your home town too and it needn’t involve a single couch.
I have raved about Couchsurfing’s Buenos Aires forum before (see: Top three ways to meet locals in Buenos Aires), but I have yet to mention the specific ‘language exchange’ subgroup. This thriving hub is where you’ll find all manner of people arranging group conversation sessions or requesting one-on-one meets. “My English for your Spanish”, “Your Italian for my French” etc. I even found a group of Argentinians wanting to get together to learn Dutch.
On Monday, I attended the weekly get-together of French speakers in Buenos Aires for the second time in a row. Ever since August they have been meeting at around 8.30pm for a relaxed conversation session over a few drinks in Bar Madagascar on Plaza Serrano.
I was a bit nervous about turning up for the first time, as my French is beyond rusty, but I found them to be a really friendly bunch. They insist that it doesn’t matter if you speak slowly, if you make mistakes or if you revert to another language when you get stuck. Everyone is welcome, no matter what level they’re at. The group is almost all Argentinian, although native French speakers pop along from time to time too. Indeed, it was a French friend that alerted me to the group. She’s a teacher (francesamedida.com) and now recommends her students attend these free sessions for extra practice.
The BA couchsurfing forum is particularly outstanding, but I am sure many of the other city forums worldwide are just as good for finding and arranging language exchanges. As always, if you don’t see a meet-up that’s already on the cards, you can dive in and arrange one yourself. As an English speaker, you’ll soon find there are plenty of people who’ll be willing to do a skill swap.
Recently, I have meet a lot of people who are here in Argentina to learn Spanish and as they approach the end of their trip they are worried about falling out of practice when they arrive home. Couchsurfing could be their best bet for keeping up those skills.