Around the world, international language exchanges have become a popular method of learning and practicing different languages, usually with native speakers. In addition to being a fun and interesting way to meet new people and share ideas on culture and learning, language exchanges can be useful when teaching English in Colombia.
MEET LOCALS, TRAVELERS, AND OTHERS LIVING ABROAD
Most people teaching English in Colombia have co-workers and friends they interact with on a regular basis. Attending a language exchange is a great way to meet new people and make contacts on both a social and professional level. Language exchanges typically include people of all ages, backgrounds and, of course, languages, coming together to share their culture through conversation. Most language exchanges also attract speakers of different levels of their native language, as well as a second or third language. By this standard, an English teacher may find new friends and colleagues within just a few weeks of regularly attending a weekly language exchange.
LEARN NEW TEACHING TRENDS, TRICKS, AND TIPS
It’s probably obvious that anyone teaching English in Colombia who regularly attends a language exchange will soon find them to be a great resource for trends, tricks, and tips from other attendees, as the topic of language teaching and learning generally is one discussed. Teachers may find themselves interacting with students and other teachers who live in their city, as well as travelers learning a foreign language during their visit to another country. This is sometimes a great opportunity to share ideas for creating successful lessons and also become familiar with helpful websites or the latest technology available for language studies.
LEARN ABOUT OTHER GROUPS THAT ARE IN YOUR CITY
Most people who are teaching English in Colombia have general interests or talents beyond the scope of instruction, lesson planning, and curriculum development. Many teachers are also skilled writers, designers, engineers, or trained professionals who formally did other work in their home country. A language exchange is a great place to meet people involved in other types of groups in your city, such as a writing collective, a design co-op, or a league of chess players. Often, the people attending a language exchange will also attend other professional or social groups, so be sure to ask what other types of events they go to or where to find more information about them.
FIND NEW ENGLISH STUDENTS
While soliciting people at language exchanges is generally not encouraged, they can be a good place to find new students while teaching English in Colombia. Some attendees of language exchanges may already be enrolled in university, or simply curious about improving their language skills before traveling abroad. Whatever the case may be, despite already knowing there is a desire for learning among your group, it’s usually a good idea to speak with the organizer of the language exchange before offering your services as a teacher or promoting your school or language learning institute to others.
LEARN ABOUT YOUR CITY AND UPCOMING EVENTS
Attending a language exchange while teaching English in Colombia can also be a great way to learn about your city and discover new restaurants and bars. Chances are, someone attending the language exchange will announce an upcoming special event or share with others some good places to shop and relax on weekends. Depending on the size of the language exchange group and the size of the city, the group may meet regularly in a defined location, or move around the city to different public areas, such as restaurants, cafés, or bookstores. In larger cities, it is easy to find several language exchanges a week located throughout the urban areas, while in smaller cities it’s more common to find weekly meetings in repeat locations. An added bonus to having a language exchange in a restaurant or bar is that the venue may offer a discount or special offer to attendees for bringing in a large crowd.
To find a local language exchange while teaching English in Colombia, try doing an Internet search with the words “language exchange + your city (and country, if needed). Local language exchanges may also be found by looking on Facebook or Instagram, by checking social media postings for universities and schools, or even by asking your students and other teachers.
Kate Dana is an independent writer and international educator currently located, and teaching English, in Barranquilla, Colombia. An avid fan of travel and snorkeling in blue waters, she has lived on the Caribbean coast of South America since 2014. Find her online at www.katedana.com