The Linguist

The Linguist 53,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Vol/53 No/4 2014 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 23 FEATURES Partnering up The global desire to learn English means there is a wealth of opportunities for language learners in the UK to engage with a conversation partner, but which qualities make for a good partnership? Antonio Lupher has facilitated thousands of language exchange partnerships through his site and thinks the key is finding common ground: "While it's obviously important to find native speakers of the language you are learning, it's just as vital to make sure that you have something to talk about." That may be more important than any difference in proficiency. "As long as both participants are patient and eager to learn, it doesn't matter if there is a huge difference in their language levels," claims Lupher. "I'd suggest not approaching users as potential teachers – most don't have any pedagogical experience to speak of – but as potential friends, with whom you'll improve your knowledge of the language by just getting to know them." As far as the mechanics of the exchange go, every situation is different. "You might find that you and your partner wish to identify and correct every mistake. On the other hand, it can be just as useful to write as much as possible back and forth, not worrying too much about mistakes, but simply improving as you go along." The experience has been compared to blind dating. Lupher sees this perception as inevitable, and true in many cases. "As in any context where you meet new people and form new friendships, language exchange partners can turn into something more. We've heard from many users who have ended up marrying their language partner." Alternatives to one-on-one There are many variations on the simple one-to-one meet-up, and group exchanges can be found in most big cities. Franglish organises multilingual 'speed-swapping' events in eight cities in France and two in England, with around 30,000 members. During the two-hour sessions you have seven minutes to get to know each participant. Derek, a semi-retired cab driver from London, hadn't spoken a word of French since his school days but wanted to be able to talk to people during holidays in France. "I thought about lessons but then I saw the word 'Franglish' scribbled in a second-hand guide book to France, so I googled it and thought I'd give it a go." After three sessions, Derek has absorbed enough French to hold a basic conversation. "It's all about keeping it on a topic you can cope with. One guy I was speaking to last week started talking about the pros and cons of the euro and he lost me," he says. "One-to-one is ideal because you can concentrate on what they're saying more, look at their lips and keep up. When there's another person involved I kind of get left out." Sarah, aged 26, came to Franglish to reproduce what she was listening to on her Michel Thomas audio lessons. "I find it terrifying every time and nearly don't come, but when I'm here I really enjoy it. If it was left to me, I'd probably never switch into speaking in French and simply stick with helping the other person with their English, so this makes me do that. Plus, here they keep an eye on time, so you're both getting the same out of it." Sarah also picks up language-learning ideas and tips at events. "One guy tonight has given me a fantastic idea to print off the scripts to films and read along when watching in French, instead of having the subtitles on and missing the dialogue." Another partner, Anne-Sophie from Normandy, has been in London for two weeks and is keen to immerse herself in English at every opportunity. "I do these group sessions here and I also have a one-to-one exchange partner – this works better for me, as I feel I have more time to express myself and this gives me more confidence." Steven Annonziata, co-Founder of Franglish, says their seven-minute concept gives each speaker just enough time. "Most importantly, if you want to have fun and make progress, you should be creative. Don't say the same thing over and over again, just ask a different question every time you meet someone new and you'll see it takes you to very different subjects," he says. The merits of language exchanges stretch beyond the chance to learn a new language, offering an opportunity to broaden social, cultural and professional horizons. Antonio Lupher thinks these aspects can be just as important as the linguistic ones. "By discussing topics like culture, mutual interests, current events, you get the additional benefit of exposure to possibly quite foreign perspectives and can gain a much more thorough understanding of the people who speak the language you are learning." SPEED-SWAPPING Franglish language exchange sessions (above, left and far left)

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