How to get to the next level in Spanish: Complement your online courses with language exchanges

How to get the most out of online Spanish courses

Since the beginning of the pandemic and lockdowns, there has been a boom in opportunities for online learning. Unfortunately, most online Spanish courses don’t take you much beyond level B1. If you have reached that level, you probably still find it difficult to participate in real  conversations  with native speakers.You’re not alone! Many high intermediate-advanced  learners express this frustration.

If you are serious about improving your Spanish, our online Spanish courses aim to help you fill that gap in your knowledge and skills. We focus on colloquial language spoken at native-speaker speed. But when you are studying online, there is sometimes a tendency to be a passive consumer of the lesson, listening or watching the audio or video, or reading a text, only once, rushing through the exercises, and then considering that lesson “done”, possibly within an hour or so. This won’t work. You have to  put in the effort if you really want to move ahead.

Ideally, we recommend that you complete one lesson a week, repeating each component of the lesson until you understand everything, can distinguish every single word in the audio or video, score 100% in all the activities, and can read aloud, chiming in with the actors or presenters, keeping up with their speed and copying their intonation.

In the pronunciation lessons, repeat the lesson, especially the interactive component, until your pronunciation sounds more like that of the virtual teacher. In fact, the only way to improve pronunciation is to listen and repeat many times, not only for an hour or two one day but also during the days and weeks that follow, until you can automatically coordinate the position and movement of your tongue, and your lips, your teeth as well as the flow of air through your mouth. In order to produce more authentic Spanish sounds.

Intercambios lingüísticos

How to participate in language exchanges

We realise that in Real Spanish, as in most language-learning websites, there is a missing component: authentic conversation with native speakers. For this reason we recommend that you find a partner for a language exchange through online videoconferences.

Online communication

Online communication

A language exchange enables you to practise in conversation with a native speaker of your target language. Two people who are learning each other’s languages and whose level in the target language is high enough to maintain a conversation (even though it may be filled with errors), learn from each other while talking about topics of mutual interest.

You can work with a language partner in another city or country from the comfort of your own home. You learn the language in a more natural way, talking about everyday topics that interest you both. You learn what life is like for your partner, as well as interesting information about the history and culture of his or her country. Right now there is no shortage of important things to talk about: in each country the situation is changing every day.

Language exchange

Intercultural communication between two people who are learning each other’s languages allows them to connect emotionally with the target language and culture. Language exchanges are an excellent way to supplement online language learning. You can improve your listening comprehension and oral expression, speak more fluently, and learn some colloquial — all in a relaxed low-pressure environment. This is very important because it helps you to stay motivated to learn the language.

Suggestion for a successful language exchange

  • To get the most your of your language exchange it’s important to think of the needs of the other person, offering feedback according to his or her preferences. For example, do you want your partner to correct you as you speak? Sometimes it’s better to let each other speak, even if you make mistakes, because this helps improve your fluency. But you can make a list of the most important mistakes and to over them at the end of the session or send the list afterwards so that your partner can review it later. It’s helpful to offer different ways of saying something and explain how to use them: e.g., in formal or informal contexts.
  • Decide how long the session should be according to each other’s availability and divide the time so that you speak each language for half of the session.
  • Make a list of topics that interest you and try to find some common interests. Look for articles, blogs, videos etc. online and send them to your partner before the session. During the session you can ask about some of the linguistic and cultural content.
  • If your partner’s level in your language isn’t very high, make sure to speak slowly, using basic vocabulary and grammar structures.
  • If necessary, ask your partner to repeat or to speak more slowly or ask him/her to explain the words or expressions that you didn’t understand.
  • Show interest in your partner’s cultural background, asking for information about his/her country and showing respect.
  • Use and teach useful phrases that help to manage the conversation. For example:
    • – Sorry, I didn’t understand, can you repeat please?
    • – Sorry, I didn’t hear that very well, what did you say?
    • – Could you speak more slowly, please?
    • – Would you please explain the word ________?

Have you ever participated in a language exchange? Tell us about it below!

Check out our other blog entry related to this topic:

Why learn Spanish online?

Real Spanish: online Spanish courses and mini-lessons for people who are serious about improving their Spanish.

If you have other comments, questions or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you!


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