Language exchange: who to choose?

Quick question that I believe is an important one.

When looking for a language exchange partner, would you recommend searching for one that has little knowledge of your mother tongue to force you to speak the target language or would you prefer someone that speaks more of your native tongue so that you can get explanations?

How does your current level effect which type of language exchange partner you search for?

I have done quite a few language exchange things and they have almost always been with people who speak my native language better than I speak theirs (an English speaker learning German will usually have this problem). In general, I don’t think it matters what level they are at. What matters more is how well you get on with the person and how patient and generous they are. If they just want to speak English with you all the time, and you have to fight to get a bit of a conversation in Italian, then I would suggest that they are not a good partner.

I agree with CPJ.

It really doesn’t matter too much whether an exchange partner has a much better command of your native language - what is important is whether the person gives you a fair deal. A bad exchange partner would be one who wants to dominate all or most of the exchanges with THEIR target language, while selling you completely short in return.

For sure there are some people out there who are like this - but I think it is a question of personality as much as anything else. A guy with an average level in English is just as likely to be an arrogant and selfish person as is someone with a very good level. On the other hand, I have had exchange partners in the past who had a really excellent level in English, but who were able and willing to switch this off completely at the given time in order to ensure a fair 50:50 split between languages.

(BTW If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself dealing with someone who is clearly being unfair to you, you should be absolutely brutal about “dumping” that person and finding a new exchange partner. Life is simply too short to be screwed up by selfish a**holes!)