Having a successful language exchange

Exchanges vs Partners

If you live in a big city, you’ll most likely be able to find a language exchange event near you. You can search on Facebook events or on Meetup for language exchanges. The one I usually attend in Singapore is called Mundo Lingo. Mundo Lingo is an international language exchange event held in cities across the world. It’s a place I go to get language practice in, meet fellow language learners and build new friendships. It’s been wonderful getting practice in, but there are times I get tired or feel like the exchange hasn’t been helpful.

Unlike an event where many people mingle and practice together, having a language partner is a lot more personal and may or may not be face to face. You can meet a language exchange partner on an app like Tandem, HelloTalk or HiNative. I’ve also met partners on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook – just reach out to fellow learners or native speakers and see if there’s someone willing to practice with you.

A question I often get is “how can I get the most out of my language partner or exchange event?” Here are some things to keep in mind at exchanges or with language partners!

Practical tips

➡️ Communicate your expectations. Some people are only at events to make friends and I’ve experienced many who just keep talking in English even though we have multiple languages in common. It’s important to tell them you’d like to practice a language too!

➡️ Give and take. People often struggle with yielding languages. You want to practice your TL; your friend wants to practice theirs. You can set time limits and practice your TL for a while and then switch to practicing theirs. I find that many successful exchange events have language tables where you only speak one language per table.

➡️ Be open to corrections. Remember, we’re here to learn together! There’s no need to be embarrassed about making a mistake – that’s how we improve! (It’s always polite to ask someone if they’re OK with corrections before you interrupt or bombard them, though)

➡️ If they’re not serious, say bye. I’ve had a woman talk very ignorantly about South Africa to my face and she rambled on and on (in English). I soon realized she just wanted to debate useless things and wasn’t there for language practice at all. I politely excused myself and moved on to another group.

➡️ Schedule time. If you’re chatting to a language exchange partner online, it’s a good idea to set time in the week to intentionally practice with them (especially if you’re timezones apart).

Some pics of what it’s like at Mundo Lingo



See you at Polyglot Conference 2019!

Hello, friends!

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at this year’s Polyglot Conference in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference runs from 18 to 20 October 2019. You can buy tickets and get more information here.

I’d like to share with you the outline of my topic:

Holistic language learning through cultural immersion and culture shock: stories from a Third Culture Kid

Acquiring fluency in a language requires a holistic approach to learning: through immersing yourself in the language fully. With bringing a new language into your life so deeply, you’re sometimes met with culture shock too, in the form of adopting a new culture and linguistic identity. In this talk I’ll focus on the role that immersion and culture shock play in languages. I’ll discuss how to learn a language through the internet, pop culture, humour and stepping out out your comfort zone. With reference to how I learn Asian languages, I’ll discuss how we can create immersive spaces for ourselves to learn languages without necessarily needing to travel. You can expect to hear stories about faking it till I make it in Japanese, multilingual prank calls and accidentally going viral in Korea.

That’s it! I’ll keep the rest of the content a surprise – you’ll have to see me there or watch the YouTube recording after the conference if you can’t make it. I’m super keen to meet all my polyglot inspirations in person. I’ve been following notable polyglots like Richard Simcott for years, I’ve watched a lot of Bong Sou’s videos, and I’ve always wanted to meet MissLinguistic to name a few. Here’s the speaker list for 2019! I also know a lot of you who follow my blog will be there too! Here’s to a wonderful Polyglot Conference – the first in Asia! See you there!

In the mean time, feel free to check out my videos on YouTube, Tweet me, or ask me anything on my Tumblr.

A month of Spanish: resources & journey

Hello, friends!

I’ve been learning Spanish for one month now. Time flies! Some of my older YouTube viewers may recall that I often said Spanish is the one language I would never learn. Never say never! Circumstances have changed and here I find myself immersing myself in this beautiful language.

Here’s a video I made when I just started learning, about three weeks ago from today.

Let’s get into the resources I’m using. It’s easy to become excited about a new language and want to buy all the textbooks and courses and resources, but I am trying to approach this from a more minimalist perspective. I’m not using a single textbook. That being said, it’s important to remember that I’m participating in the Lingoda Marathon and I do take lessons 3-5 times a week, so I get most of my grammar and vocabulary from there.


I’ve actively been using Duolingo, too. I am happy to see that after posting this on my Instagram, lots of you joined Duolingo and started following each other! How cool is it that we are growing our language community day by day? (If you’d like to follow me, my username is LindieBotes)

Something really cool that I’m not sure you may know about Duolingo is how different the web version is from the app. I’ve only been using the app to complete the exercises and level up, but upon exploring the web version, I was pleasantly surprised. I knew there was a forum, but didn’t know there are word lists (WITH EXAMPLES!) and a dictionary. My favorite feature by far is to scroll through my word list, see the words I haven’t been practicing recently, and click on them to see example sentences.

Spanish Dict

Many people, including my mom who is also learning Spanish, have recommended Spanishdict.com to me. It’s fantastic for conjugating verbs! What’s more is they have vocabulary flashcards and activities too. Here’s an example: you learn a word and have to type it to repeat. You’ll do the same for a few words, and then it’ll prompt you with the English and you need to type the Spanish.

SpanishDict also has an in-depth grammar guide. Something I struggle with a lot are prepositions, and luckily they have a whole page dedicated to understanding prepositions.

Lessons on Lingoda

As mentioned above, I’m taking classes with Lingoda. It’s pretty simple to use because you can book a lesson according to your level but you aren’t obliged to follow the curriculum in order. This is good for people who already have a base in the language and want to skip the basic stuff like greetings. The lessons I’m taking are group lessons, so there are always different people in the video call, which keeps things interesting. I’ve found some tutors who are hilarious and fun and others who are serious and somewhat dry – so it’s really tricky to judge an entire platform based on a few tutors. The lessons are all very well structured and each time, a PDF document is followed with activities and questions. Tutors make sure to give each student a time to read or make a sentence, so I find it to be very balanced and well-run overall.

With teachers talking and explaining the whole time, it’s difficult to take notes. If you are going to use Lingoda, I suggest taking notes of important things in the lesson but taking time after the lesson to go through the PDF and really write down the details. Tutors also don’t ask or remind you to do homework, but at the end of each PDF there’s a homework section for you to practice on your own. Below are some of my messy in-class notes:

Language exchange

I’m also practicing with a language exchange partner from Mexico on HelloTalk. I’m also using a minimalist approach here. Language exchange apps make it easy for us to switch between people and always look for someone new. We rarely stick with one partner. I’m too exhausted, busy and tired to spend my time chatting to 500 people, and I also don’t want to be on my phone all the time (except when I’m on Duolingo, lol). So, once I found a language exchange partner on HelloTalk that I feel comfortable talking to, I just keep talking to them and I don’t send message requests to others.

Tandem is an alternative to HelloTalk but I find that message requests on Tandem are insane and I cannot keep up. It affects my mental health because I feel bad ignoring people who genuinely just want to talk. It’s just way too much. I deactivated my account on Tandem and will be sticking to HelloTalk for now.


It’s perfect timing that The Projector cinema here in Singapore has a Mexican Film Festival going on! I watched a movie this weekend called Sueño en Otro Idioma, and was really excited not only by the fascinating plot line but also by how much Spanish I understood after one month of learning (combined with my background in French).

Music is one of my main motivating factors for learning a new language. I’ve always enjoyed Spanish music, especially Spanish worship music. Here’s my Spotify playlist for Spanish!

Online friends

Something else I do is browse Twitter in Spanish. One of my good friends on Twitter is a fellow polyglot Ivan, from Venezuela. I find the things he retweets interesting. Though I don’t understand 100% of the content, by following people like Ivan I’m able to get a lot of Spanish on my screen and learn new words and phrases by seeing it often. I’m also close friends with Angela from Passion For Dreaming on YouTube, and she speaks Spanish too.

I’d like to give a quick shoutout to the Spanish community here on the internet. I’ve received so much help, encouragement and messages from you guys! Sometimes it’s hard for me to reply to your messages individually, but please know that I read each and every one of them and it really encourages me and keeps me going.

Thanks for following along with my journey. For more updates, you can find me here:

This post is not sponsored.

Arirang TV A Plus feature

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve had the opportunity to be featured as the second KOREATOR on Arirang A Plus. A Plus is an offshoot of Arirang TV and promotes Korean culture to foreigners through various TV shows like KOREATOR. The theme of this series was “Korean in Your Life” and they contacted me to make this fun feature:

It’s slightly unfortunate that the South African flag is upside down and there are some spelling mistakes, but overall the video was edited very cutely! I’m so happy to have been part of this project that helps promote the beautiful Korean language.

Check out A Plus on YouTube or Facebook!

Two Korean textbooks

Korean Grammar for Speaking textbook review

As a grammar fan and Korean learner, I was really excited when Song Won, the author of Korean Grammar for Speaking, contacted me regarding his newly released textbook series. The books are brand new – the first volume came out in 2016 (a revised version in 2018), and the second volume was only published in November 2018.

Korean Grammar for Speaking is currently available in two volumes, volume 1 focusing on beginners and 2 geared more towards intermediate students.

Content overviews

Korean Grammar for Speaking volume 1

This book is good for beginners who have some grip of hangul already. Although there are 10 pages dedicated to learning hangul, I find that a hangul-specific textbook/website/resource may have a better approach to help people learn the alphabet faster. Once you have a grip on hangul, regardless of the resource you’ve used, it’s good to use this textbook to understand grammar going forward.

I was surprised to see that the first unit in KGFS volume 1 is about numbers and how to read different types of numbers. Given the title of the series, I would have expected something conversational, like introducing yourself or speaking about hobbies. That being said, there are plenty of textbooks that do that already. For this reason, I think KGFS is good for someone who already has a basic grasp of greetings.

Right after the sections that teach/review hangul, you’re presented with numbers and questions like translating “When is your birthday” or “What is your postal code”?. If you don’t know the word for birthday, for example, you might feel lost. Once you are past the first 10 units, you’ll reach sections that start appearing more conversational, with questions and answers as examples.

Here are some example unit headings so you can see what you’ll learn.

  • To be
  • I do (polite)
  • Particles
  • I do (formal)
  • Will
  • From, until
  • Want to
  • As soon as
  • Please do it for me
  • Look
  • I heard, someone said
  • Know how to/don’t know how to
  • Will you?
  • Allowed to
  • Not allowed to
  • Because, so

Korean Grammar for Speaking Volume 2

The structure of the book is the same as the first volume (grammar units with examples and exercises plus a vocabulary list and test at the back). I’ll just bring out a few grammar points you’ll learn here so you can get an idea of what the level is:

  • ~나요
  • ㄹ/을 뻔하다
  • 던데요
  • 더라고요
  • (아무리)더라도
  • 는지
  • 잖아요
  • 는데요?
  • 다가
  • 하다/어하다/해하다
  • ㄹ 수밖에 없다/을 리가 없다
  • 버리다/어 버리다/해 버리다
  • 라고요/라고하다
  • 면 할수록

What’s different? (KGIU comparison)

The textbooks focus on commonly used grammar structures to make your Korean more natural. It’s different from Korean Grammar in Use from a few aspects. Both KGIU and KGFS have units based on a single grammar structure, followed by example sentences and activities, but the layout of each textbook is slightly different. Let’s compare.

Korean Grammar in UseKorean Grammar for Speaking
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced levels1 and 2 (beginner and intermediate)
Comes with a CDLinks at back of book for video lessons and audio clips
Lots of illustrationsNo illustrations
Glossy pagesMatte pages
Units arranged into chaptersNo sectional chapters, units are continuous
Index arranged by unit (vocab presented according to unit/grammar structure)Index arranged by verbs with batchim, verbs without batchim, adjectives with batchim and adjectives without batchim
Level test after each section2 big “Final Tests” at the back of books
Multiple authorsAuthored by a language learner himself

Pros and Cons


1. Quick and concise
Each unit teaches a single grammar structure with lots of example sentences on the left page and has exercises on the right page. There are no ramblings, culture notes or images, so if you’re keen to focus just on grammar, these books are great. That being said, if you’re looking for in-depth, advanced grammar explanations, this book may be too simple for you.

2. The book feels more human-centered
Korean Grammar for Speaking Vol 1. starts off with a few pages titled “How to study languages”, which is advice from Song Won the author. He provides the following tips:

  • Memorize the characters
  • Study grammar
  • Memorize words every day, little by little
  • Study with movies and TV shows
  • Talk to native speakers
  • Meet native speakers
  • Don’t ask why
  • Take the language as it is
  • Use the circumstances around you
  • Simplify

There’s also his “language autobiography” in the second volume which makes for an interesting read. At the back of the book he also provides links to his social media and his email address to contact him. Though I don’t recommend spamming him with questions, having a “face” behind the book makes the book feel more human and friendly.

3. Video and audio lessons
Song Won has made audio to accompany each lesson. Note that the audio files just read what’s on the page and don’t provide extras.

On the other hand, his video lessons are much more in-depth and he’ll mention some example words and sentences that you won’t find in the books. Unlie audio, video lessons are for both the first and second volumes.

4. Big focus on exercises
As mentioned before, each section ends off with a series of exercises. There are answers at the back so you don’t need to worry about getting them checked.

5. Textbook look and feel
These books have thin soft covers and nice paper for writing on. I found KGIU to have glossy paper which smudged pen easily. KGIU is also heavier and thicker. The design is simple, fonts easy to read, and uses a handy color coding system (conjugation changes in red, extra notes in green, subheadings in blue etc).


1. Not immediately “conversational”
First few units in the 1st volume focus on hangul, telling the time, reading numbers and saying days of the week/months. This is good for general knowledge but not directly focused on “conversational” Korean. The “conversation” part only starts later.

2. No long conversations
There are also no long-form conversations, and “conversations” are generally in the form of Q&As (e.g. “Have you ever met the president?” “No, I have not met the president”).

3. Exercises can get repetitive
Some exercises are just in the form of “Make a sentence using X grammar structure”. This may get boring for some learners.

How to study using Korean Grammar for Speaking

Use supplements
KGFS is best used alongside the audio and video lessons that Song Won has so professionally prepared and made available for free! That’s right, even if you don’t have the book and you’re reading this post, you can still check out his video lessons or his Soundcloud with audio!

What I did for the second book was to do the lesson first by going through all the example sentences and writing down vocabulary I didn’t know. I like to learn words in context, so I made sure to write the accompanying sentence too, so I can remember how the word is used.

Use a note-taking structure suited to you
I color coded my notes to have vocabulary words in one color, English translations in another color, and example sentences in a different color. This is optional and ultimately how you decide to take notes should not be forced, but a comfortable way that works for you!

Drill in the grammar and practice on native speakers
Unlike some textbooks that have phrases for you to memorise, these grammar-based books equip you to make your own sentences. This empowers you to start speaking because after the drills you’ll have a good grip on how the grammar works. Be sure to use the grammar structures you learnt so you can apply your knowledge and not let it get rusty!

Where to buy Korean Grammar for Speaking

Buy books and full videos one by one here
You can also take Song Won’s course on Udemy. There are e-books on iBooks for iPhone users too.
Ebooks are also available on Amazon, and will be on Google books soon.


This is not a paid blog post. I was sent the textbooks by Song Won free of charge, but promotion is done out of my own will to share content and tips with you, my readers.