I believe that this question is on topic, given the discussion on this meta question.

Scenario: Unlike practicing in reading, listening and writing doesn't need to have another person to practice with, I feel it is hard to practice speaking myself only. There is a video from EnglishHarmony telling me the important of learning English with myself, but I still feel that I need someone real to listen and correct me. Since local English clubs only contain students who I think are not better than me (forgive me that it looks like I'm bombastic), and since I don't have any native friend, I think joining a language exchange site is my best choice.

Question: I have tried to contact many people from many language exchange sites, such as iTalki, SharedTalk, LiveMocha, suggesting about exchanging language, including that I am very enthusiastic and somewhat skillful in my mother language (really), but I still get no response. I think this is understandable since the native English people are overwhelmed by the English learners, therefore they are rare birds in such sites. I'm afraid that spending money is the optimal way to use these sites effectively, unless I want to spend time and effort spamming people. Do you think using money is a must in order to use these sites?

  • Can you clarify what you exactly did, please? "have tried to contact" isn't as detailed as I wish it could be. Could you also add what your native language is, please? It's important since some languages are widely known and others aren't. What I'm implying: Maybe your language isn't as "interesting" for people as you think.
    – Zerotime
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 10:13
  • I contacted people who was a native in English and would like to learn Vietnamese (my native one) in exchange. I focused on people who had strong reasons to learn Vietnamese, such as they had Vietnamese parents or loved/married a Vietnamese partner. Is that better?
    – Ooker
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 13:31

2 Answers 2


No, it's not but it's beneficial.

As I saw on iTalki, you usually pay the people teaching you your desired language. You don't have to use money on such services. Usually, there are persons offering their services for free or a low price. But those people are busy because they most likely receive a lot of requests by people like you. Somewhen you'll have the chance to pair up with a teacher but that takes time, money will make the process quicker by making you more attractive in the view of the teacher.

You can read a review about that site written by someone having more clues about it than me.

If you really wish to become better at a certain language, you should definitely learn to sell yourself. It's all about how you present yourself to the person you want to teach you stuff.

  • Don't make common mistakes in your request.
  • Show your motivation of learning the specified language (if writing to a more informal teacher, you can also use emoticons).
  • Specify your request, say what you want to do. Don't stick with tings like "Want to improve my grammar", say "Want to improve my grammar concerning simple present / simple past / conditional sentences / etc. ".

You must know that the people offering their services for free want to help you in particular problems. You won't find somebody who is so eager to teach you the whole language. For teachers, it's becoming as harder as less you, as a student, know about the desired language. In order to get someone, you should have learned the basics and be able to communicate in a basic manner.

Also, never cut discussions or conversations with your teacher. Most likely, you and your teacher will drive away from your original topic, and you will find yourself in a discussion. Don't stop that!

  1. It's good for you to use your learned stuff in a real time discussion.
  2. Your teacher gets a simple rest.
  3. You and your teacher can grow closer. By doing so, your chance to learn with him again increases rapidly.

As always: You can do it on your own, but with money, you can be faster.

  • Thank you for your answer. So, are you suggest me that if I want to learn a completely new langpage, I should take some basic courses before going exchange?
    – Ooker
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 18:57
  • 1
    @Ooker Yes. It should be fun for you and your exchange partner. And it gets less fun if you have to google everything. Learn some basics for yourself, and then you can go to the next step.
    – Zerotime
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 20:23
  • would learning the basics from Doulingo be good enough?
    – Ooker
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 13:53

This answer doesn't attempt to focus on language exchange sites only, but in general it will give you a good solution for the bigger question: how to connect to a native speaker?

In my experience, it turns out that these sites are not really effective to get you connected with native speaker (actually, I got one friend replied back to me on italki, but I still count that it wasn't really effective, although one is enough). The site I suggests is reddit. Here is my question posted in there: Anyone interest in learning Vietnamese or the culture?

You need to find the niche market. My niche market is r/Vietnam. Once you show how you can help them, they will be pleased to help you, and the post would be quickly upvoted. So far, five person have got interested in this post and actively pm me first. This is an unexpected result for me.

There is a subreddit exclusively for language exchange, but as I can see only popular languages are well-received; other non-popular languages (like Vietnamese) seems to get back to square one as in the language exchange sites: learner who are native in the popular languages and want to learn the less popular ones are rare birds. Your voice will be lost there.

The conclusion is that you have to search for niche market, where people who actually have an incentive to learn your language are the majority.

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