My first language exchange

Over the past 10 days I have been seeking language exchange partners and am very excited to have done my first speaking of Spanish with a native speaker.

I reached a clear point during the SSISpanish course (I’m on level 1) where I just felt the next step for improvement was definitely to try out my skills in conversation with a native Spanish speaker!
I feel that the big difference for me is that the SSIS course has given me a great confidence and strength in my language learning, whilst keeping the whole experience enjoyable.
I really had no doubts that I would be able to get by and hold a basic conversation.

I signed up to two language exchange websites - My Language Exchange and italki.
I now have four exchanges in Spanish-English. One by email, two by whatsapp and one for live face-to-face Skype conversation. Each way gives me something different.
The whatsapp format is a good one for keeping up with general learning.
We do this by writing short texts using both English and Spanish, and then also recording the sentence in our native languages so that the other can hear how it is said.

I held my first (small) conversation in Spanish via Skype two days ago. I learnt so much through the process.
However, it was my exchanges comments on my Spanish level that were most interesting, and I thought I would share them.

She explained that she was surprised by my Spanish level as it was good, and my Spanish was much better than she was expecting.
She remarked on how, unlike other beginners she has spoken to in the past, I was confident and willing to jump into into having a go at talking in Spanish. Also, unlike other beginners, she remarked how she could actually have a conversation with me in Spanish because I could express my own thoughts and ideas, and I could form my own sentences. I did not just repeat memorised phrases or have only the odd disjointed word.

I was really pleased by this observation as this is, of course, what the SSIS way of learning is all about!

The parts which for which I realised I needed more experience were on my listening skills - I really struggled to pick up and understand what my exchange was saying and asking me. I kept having to ask for what it meant in English. Though once I knew, I could then answer ok in my basic Spanish.
The other was that I realise I need to access a wider vocabulary on the subjects I’m likely speak about.

My first exchanges have been positive experiences that are taking my Spanish learning to a new level, and I’d really encourage anyone to have a go at trying out their Spanish in conversation.

I’m really happy with my progress, and can definitely say that the SSIS course is preparing me well.

Any tips for continuing to improve my listening skills?


Hola Natalie :slight_smile:

Chipmunks, first of all :slight_smile: The sped up listening exercises in level 1 are really good, since they get you used to listening to very high speed talking, making normal native speakers feel much slower…

Also, just listening to stuff in general. Find a podcast or radio channel that you can have playing in the background so you get more and more used to the sound of Spanish. No need to even pay attention. As long as you hear it, it will help :smile:

Hmm… Any music, tv shows, movies, audio books… Don’t worry about trying to understand everything!

Good luck, and good job for throwing yourself into conversations like that! :grin:


Superb work, Natalie - well done for jumping in! You’ll get huge benefits from carrying on getting into as many Spanish conversations as possible…:slight_smile:


Hi Natalie,

I also got a language partner to practice with when I was about half way through Level 1 (I’m now about half way with Level 2).
SSiS kept on giving reminders at the start of the sessions about practicing with a native speaker, and even suggested where to look for partners.
I went with Babelvillage, and after one or two attempts to set something up that floundered due to incompatibility regards time availability etc, I finally did succeed to get an excellent partner who lives in Barcelona, and is available at mutually convenient times. My partner is also very patient!

I have now been talking with my partner for about 6 weeks at a frequency of about twice a week for up to an hour at a time.
Normally, I prepare some things to say in Spanish and I get corrected as I speak. Then, my partner asks me a few questions, and I have to respond. This is really valuable, as it is an area in which you have already pre-prepared, but have to respond quickly and form new sentences on the fly.
I do find that as time goes on that I am consulting my prepared crib-sheet less, but nevertheless, for a conversation to last a meaningful time, some preparation is essential.
We then do the same in English, so that my partner’s skills also improve.

I agree completely with your comment about understanding Spanish - I also find listening and understanding more difficult, but the suggestions above about listening to podcasts sounds useful, soI’m going to try to discover something useful in that area. The listening exercises in L1 were also useful - sadly there are none in L2.

I also think that SSiS is excellent, and I can’t imagine that I would have learnt nearly as much by a traditional route. (I was encouraged in the first weeks of my efforts with SSiS, when I met a Welsh learner who was completely fluent. When I asked him how he had learnt, he told me about SSiW!!)

However, one thing that I have done in tandem with SSiS, is use a website called Inspired Beginners, and they have short podcasts that help with everyday situations. I struggled with it at first, but now I do find it useful. You might like to give it a try.




Yes, this kind of listening exercise is very helpful - and you’ll get to the point where you feel you know Ben and Marina quite well…:wink:

Our Level 2 listening exercises are going to be published very, very soon (it should actually be this week!)… :slight_smile:


@aran I’ve definitely found so much benefit from continuing to speak in Spanish with the languages exchanges. I’m continuing to learn so much and it challenges me a lot!

I’m also pleased to hear the Level 2 listening exercises will soon be available!


@Novem Thanks!
Yes I’m on the chipmunk listening challenge now. The more I listen to it the clearer it is beginning to become :slight_smile: I just find native Spanish speakers so fast, it’s like a blur of sound! :smile:
I do quite a lot of listening to interviews, music and podcasts. However, I haven’t tried TV shows or films yet! I will definitely try that!


Hi Emyr, thanks for your reply. That’s great that you too jumped right in and sought out a Spanish language partner! I’m glad you have found a good one! How is the language exchange going for you now?
I am still finding a lot of benefit from mine. It’s also been nice to get the feedback that I’m understood, i.e in my pronunciation.

Thanks also for the Inspired Beginners (Notes in Spanish suggestion). I have looked out the website and can see this will be really helpful for listening skills :slight_smile:

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To compliment the Notes in Spanish suggestion by Emyr to help listening skills, I’d like to add the link to these very good Spanish listening activities I just recently discovered on YouTube with a lady called Maria.


Excellent - sounds as though you’re doing absolutely brilliantly! :slight_smile: :star: :star2:

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Hi Natalie, thanks for putting up this link. I’ve listened to Ben and Marina for a few years now and was looking for something new. They have been really good and I’ve learnt a lot from them especially as I got to the Advanced series and Marina came into her own. Maria on her Youtube channel is completely different and since following your link yesterday I have watched about 5 of her videos and am about to do the listening challenge Sie7e - Tengo Tu Love. I like challenges.


Glad you found Maria’s videos helpful, Rohini.
I have, they just add something a little different.

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I go to a language exchange here in Spain. The organizer suggests a topic for the next meeting,with a list of useful vocabulary. It has been very useful for everyone, with different levels of knowledge. I have tried a similar idea with a Spanish friend I speak to on Skype. She and I rarely use the vocabulary, we just talk - but it has made me expand my vocabulary.
Listening to Spanish radio or TV is good, or Utube Spanish .