What is an intercambio, and why you need one.

An intercambio is a language exchange partner. Someone who is looking to improve their English (or whatever your native language is) in exchange for helping you to improve your Spanish. The best way to improve at something is to do it, so it is vital to take every opportunity to speak Spanish (especially with a native Spanish speaker). There are many different ways to find intercambios. You can search online for language exchange websites or apps, or you can ask your friends, family, or colleagues if they know anyone who is interested in learning your language. Once you’ve found a few potential partners, be sure to chat with them online or meet up for a coffee to see if you’re a good fit. When you’ve found someone suitable the activity itself couldn’t be simpler. You meet up somewhere not too noisy and you talk together, for half of your time in Spanish, then switching to English.

two intercambios chatting
An intercambio is the best way to improve your Spanish

An intercambio provides a way for you to practice your Spanish in a natural and informal setting, also offering insights into the culture and customs of the local people. Secondly, they can help motivate you to keep learning by providing a real-life reason to use the language on a regular basis. It’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes when learning a new language, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. A good language exchange partner will be patient and understanding, and will want to help you improve your skills. Once you both get over your initial awkwardness and a connection is formed, chatting freely with someone for an extended period of time is a fantastic way to build your confidence in speaking and understanding Spanish.

During my first, blissful months in Barcelona when I had no steady job and not much money to spend, I filled up my days with meeting intercambios for coffees and having long conversations about whatever. This habit has dropped away recently with work commitments taking more of my time. But today was a public holiday in Spain, so I called a friend of mine who started off as an intercambio, and we met for a good 90 minute chat over coffee and great Ensaïmadas. Talking for so long in Spanish in a non-stressful situation was great positive reinforcement for my language learning and always gives me a huge confidence boost.

One often overlooked advantage of using intercambios as language exchange partners is the opportunity to expand your network and make lasting friendships. As someone who taught themselves Spanish with the help of many intercambios, I’ve discovered that these language partners can evolve into genuine friends. While the initial goal may be to improve language skills, the connections formed during these exchanges can lead to meaningful relationships beyond language practice.

In a foreign country, especially when living or studying abroad, having friends becomes essential. Intercambios offer a unique chance to meet locals or fellow language learners who share your enthusiasm for cultural exchange. These friendships not only enhance your language journey but also provide a support system, enriching your overall experience in the new country. By fostering these connections, intercambios create a sense of belonging and facilitate a deeper understanding of the local culture, customs, and way of life. If an intercambio ever invites you to some activity or to meet some of their friends, grab it with both hands! But be prepared. We know that meeting new people and talking with them in Spanish can be daunting, so be prepared with some Spanish conversation starting phrases.