The Language Exchange

The Language Center hosts the Language Exchange, available to any GWU student, staff, or faculty learning a language. The Language Exchange is designed for those who wish to practice a foreign language with other members of the GWU community. A language exchange involves two speakers of different languages who practice these languages together. For example, a student who is fluent in Spanish may want to practice her English. She will then be paired with someone who is fluent in English but who also wants to practice Spanish. In this way, both students learn and assist. Partners have the independence to structure their meetings according to their needs.

To apply for a language partner, complete the online application form. Students requesting any language are encouraged to apply. However, students most commonly request language partners for Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. Once you have submitted your application, you will be contacted when a partner that meets your needs is found. Some applicants of less common languages may be placed on a waitlist if a partner in that language cannot immediately be found. Students will be matched on a first come, first served basis. Your registration is only valid for one semester. If you have not been matched, you must reapply at the beginning of every semester. This is done to clear our database of any participants who have left the GWU community (graduated, study abroad, sabbatical) or are too busy in the new semester. After being paired a partner, participants must complete a participant agreement, but then it is up to them to contact their partner and arrange a meeting time.

Student Incentives

Not only does the Language Exchange allow students to improve their language skills, it also allows them to gain civic engagement hours! Indeed, if students log one hundred hours of civic engagement in their Noble Hour account in one year, then they will The President's Volunteer Service Award and Commencement Cords.

Language Exchange Policies and FAQs

1. How do I know my "learning level"?

Choose the level that best matches how long you have studied the language. When you contact someone for an exchange, you can provide more details.

  • Total beginner: never studied the language (starting from scratch)
  • Novice: studied the language less than one year
  • Intermediate: studied the language for about two years
  • Advanced: studied the language for more than three years

2. What should I write under "qualifications"?

Include anything that describes your knowledge level and experience with the language. Be honest and as specific as possible.

Some examples:

  • Studied or lived abroad in country where language is spoken
  • Completed significant coursework towards a major or minor in this language
  • Fluent (bilingual, native speaker, etc.)
  • Able to explain grammar (or literary concepts or other specialized topics)

3. What happens after I apply?

After you submit your application, the Language Center will attempt to locate a partner that best suits your preferences. Students will be matched on a first come, first serve basis. If a partner is found, we will contact you with more information. Not all applicants are guaranteed a language partner. If you are not contacted by the Language Center, then that means a language partner could not be found this semester.

4. Where and how often should my partner and I meet?

This is decided by you and your partner.

5. What should we do at our first meeting?

The first meeting is a chance to get to know the other person and to decide about your future meetings. If it's a good fit, you should clarify your goals and set up a schedule that works well for both of you.

6. What should I do if I no longer want to be with my language partner?

Please email the Language Center at [email protected] stating your partner’s name and why you would like to switch.

7. What should I do if I no longer want to participate in the program?

Please email the Language Center at [email protected] if you no longer wish to participate in the Language Exchange Program.

8. Professionalism and Privacy Policy: Language Exchange participants must treat all students with respect and confidentiality. We observe applicable laws, policies and professional codes of conduct. If you use abusive language or deliberately waste tutor effort in a way that denies service to others, we will end the partnership. This includes any language that speaks offensively of a course or participant. We protect the privacy of your question. However, people who make threats or use offensive language forfeit their privacy. Threats are taken seriously. If you tell us that you plan to do something illegal, you can expect there to be serious consequences. We will contact the George Washington University and internet service providers to report violations.

Tips for having a successful exchange experience:

Make your goals as concrete as possible (e.g., pass the next quiz in Chinese, review verb forms in Spanish, write a paper with fewer grammar errors in French, practice informal conversation in English, etc.). Set realistic expectations about what you can accomplish. Spend equal time on each partner's language needs. Be respectful of your partner. Consider cultural differences and recognize that this is an opportunity to learn about different cultural perspectives as you develop your language skills..Be considerate: contact your partner ahead of time if you can't make a meeting.