A Week of Conversation Practice

When you don’t live in a country that speaks your target language as its main language, you have to do some more work to get speaking practice into your daily life. Conversation exchanges are great for this!

I have to admit, conversation exchanges make me uncomfortable because I always fear I am not going to have anything to talk about. If you’re like me, this plan may help you get through that fear of talking and help you progress in your language project much faster.

My language learning goal is always about connecting with other people and discussing things we’re both interested in. Being afraid to talk to people is not going to get me closer to those goals. It’s actually great to get asked questions about my language because it makes the questions I ask about other languages feel less stupid.

Planning a conversation a day for 1 week about the same topic

Pick a topic

Go with a topic that will improve your vocabulary. Odds are good that you’re going to have trouble pronouncing new words you encounter, just like we did when we were kids. It takes some time for our tongues to get used to the new movement patterns. It also takes some time for our ears to sort out the new sound patterns and recognize the word in everyday speech. Practicing speaking and listening to these words every day for a week is going to accelerate how quickly you are able to recognize them.

Meet with a teacher

The point of pronunciation practice is to focus on specific areas that are giving you trouble. It’s hard to know what areas to focus on when you don’t know where the problems are.

Like a physical trainer that helps direct your exercise routine, a teacher is going to be able to give you feedback and guidance on what parts of this topic you should focus on. Whether it’s individual sounds, intonation, or rhythm; having a professional to help is going to really help.

Plan Your Conversation Exchanges

Does the thought of having to schedule 7 conversations with 7 different people stress you out? Here’s a hint to make the task a little easier- tell people about your goal.

In your intro message (your teacher can help you compose it), tell them you’re taking a conversation challenge to improve your pronunciation and vocabulary on the topic you’ve chosen. We love to help people with challenges and all of those sites are full of language learners like you who understand what it’s like to learn a language.

Then ask them if there’s anything they are working on.

That second question is vital. This is an exchange. You want to be able to help them as much as you hope they can help you. People sign up on language exchange sites because they are hoping you will contact them.

Two sites I recommend:

  1. italki
    • My “hands down” favorite. This site lets you search for a traditional conversation exchange or trade conversation time with multiple people by letting you charge for informal conversations. I started teaching on italki to earn credit to take lessons.
      Help people in any language, use credit to learn the one you want.
  2. The Mixxer
    • This is a more traditional exchange where you trade conversation time with the same person. It’s a non-profit, hosted by a college that contribute to language learning research.


While you two schedule a time to meet, plan what each of you wants to work on and talk about. When it’s your turn to practice English, you two will talk about your topic. When you switch, you talk about their topic.


Plan a break day for the end of your project. Your brain needs some time to rest after such an intensive project. Let the information settle. Come back to the topic in a few days for better long-term recognition.

Use the rest day to think back on your previous week, all the people you met and conversations you had, let yourself feel really good about all your work. Stay away from thoughts about what could have gone better, start with what went well.

BONUS: Reconnect with your exchange partners.

If you had a particularly good time chatting with one or more of your language buddies, send them a note to plan another casual conversation. It’s a good idea to have a general plan of what you’re going to talk about the first few conversations to take away some of the anxiety about not having the vocabulary to feel comfortable talking. Planning your topic allows you to do some prep and practice- in case you worry about feeling too lost.


Just getting started is the hardest part. When you schedule sessions with another person, it pushes you to follow through because we are much better at committing to someone else than we are to ourselves.

Doing this 7 day speaking intensive helps establish a habit and gets you out of your head and actually talking- which is the whole point of learning a new language!
Intensive projects are especially useful if you suddenly find yourself under a deadline to learn something- like an upcoming trip or job transfer.

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to sign up for the Pronunciation Habit newsletter for more great access to pronunciation practice techniques. Feel free to like this post and share the knowledge with your friends on your favorite social network. (I’m @soundmeaning on Twitter!) We can all use all the help we can get with our goals.

Happy Practicing!

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