A common question that ESL learners ask is where to find English conversation partners. Maybe you are taking an ESL class in college. Or maybe you are already working, but there is not much opportunity to speak with your American co-workers. This blog offers some ideas on where to find native speakers so you can improve your English conversation.
Where to find English conversation partners
One of the places to find English conversation partners is a library resource. Many of the public libraries in the Greater Seattle area have a program called Talk Time. It is a free program for anyone who wants to improve their English. Some focus more on conversational practice, some are not. Since you do not need to register for these programs, you can drop in and visit a few to decide if it’s suitable for your needs.
If you decide to attend Talk Time, know that it is run by volunteers. Some of these volunteers were teachers, some are simply interested in meeting people from different countries. If your group is focused on conversational practice, the smaller the group the better. The reason is, the ratio of volunteer to attendees is smaller.
Find meetup groups that share your interests and hobbies
In addition to using Talk Time, the article Where to find native speakers to practice English suggests three other ideas. One of them is to find meetup groups that share your hobbies and interests. There are even groups specifically to practice languages. I heard of a group that meets in restaurants. During dinner, American members spend half the time practicing Japanese, and Japanese members spend the other half of the time practicing English.
Host a small gathering
Another way to practice conversational English is to host a small get together yourself. Invite a few co-workers that you feel comfortable with to your home. Everyone HAS to talk to the host! Provide tea and snack, or if you want, have a BBQ. Potluck is popular here, so if you don’t want to cook for a group, you don’t need to. The purpose is to get together. (And YOUR purpose is to have English conversation with native speakers!)
Exchange language practice
However, if you do not have co-workers you want to invite home, try conversation exchange. For example, some university students are studying foreign languages. Or some professionals may want to relocate to another country. Because of that, they need to get better in the new language. If you find an American who wants to practice your native language, see if she is interested in a trade. Spend half an hour on each language. You can check the bulletin board of a college student center or cafeteria. If you want to put an ad there, first find out if you need to get permission from the department in charge of the bulletin board. If you don’t see a sign saying that you need permission, maybe you can just put your ad on the bulletin board.
Build up your listening skill
While most of these ideas I offered are on conversation practice, some ESL learners are at a stage where they need more listening practice. If that’s the case, you might consider building up your listening skill first. One way to do this is to spend time in a coffee shop. Get a cup of coffee and sit near a table where native speakers are talking. You’ll hear different speaking pace, accent, intonation, word order, pronunciation. This is excellent training for your ears.
So, finding a group with your interests, hosting a small gathering, and trading language practice are some of the ways to find English conversation partners. If you find this blog helpful, here is one on How to learn English in a natural way.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org