Intercambios: What are they and why should you attend?

In my latest Expat Update I mentioned that I was making an effort to attend intercambios on a regular basis, so I thought today would be a great time to delve further into the topic of intercambios: what are they, why attend, and where to find them.

Intercambios: What are they?

Intercambios are simply a meeting between two or more people who are looking to learn or practice a new language. Your partner will “share” their language and in return you’ll “share” yours. Intercambios can happen anywhere – from a meeting between two people in a coffee shop to an organized event.

As mentioned above, an intercambio is an exchange of language. For me it’s a chance to practice my Spanish and help someone improve their English. For the most part, they are laid back events where you can wander around, drink in hand, mingling with others. In some ways it’s like attending a networking event, except that everyone starts off by apologizing for their language skills instead of announcing their job title and company.

Some intercambios provide a structure: 10 minutes of Spanish followed by 10 minutes of English, giving everyone a chance to practice their language of choice. Some function more like speed dating giving you three minutes face-to-face with someone and after that you move onto the next person.

Others are a bit more free form letting you and your partner(s) work it out. While it’s nice to be able to let the conversation just flow, there is the chance that one language will be dominant. The first intercambio I attended was more free form and we ended up speaking only English. Even though I attended with the goal of practicing my Spanish, I didn’t mind that I only spoke a word or two because I had such a great time talking about travel and Madrid with a wonderful group of girls.

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Intercambios: Why attend?

There are many reasons to attend an intercambio. My reasons were two-fold:

  1. Meet new people
  2. Practice my Spanish

For me, intercambios are the perfect combination of learning, and socializing with other expats as well as locals. In regular language classes I was meeting great people, but most of them were here to teach English (so were only in the classes for a week or two), were busy au pairs, or were only in Madrid temporarily. Not really the stuff of long-lasting friendships. Attending intercambios has given me the opportunity to meet more people who are here longer term.

It’s also a chance to meet and chat with locals, which as a non-Spanish speaker doesn’t happen organically just sitting in a café or walking down the street.

Intercambios are also the perfect opportunity to practice real world Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, my classes are awesome and include a lot of conversation, but there’s something about getting to practice those conversations you have in day-to-day life.

Intercambios also force me to try and fail repeatedly at speaking Spanish. In class when I’m stumped I can always revert to English and the teacher will throw me a language lifejacket and give me the word. But at the intercambio I’m in a position where I have to either figure out the word I was looking for, or figure out a way to explain it. It can be exhausting, but so very rewarding.

Finally, intercambios are an incredibly supportive space. Pretty much everyone is in the same vulnerable position of speaking a non-native language, so there’s no judgment, only support. There really isn’t a better confidence boost than when an almost complete stranger compliments you one your (obviously horrible) language skills.

Intercambios: Where to find them?

So, are you convinced that you should include an intercambio in your regular routine? Excellent! Let me help you find one.

Madrid is full of intercambios. No matter what day of the week it is, there’s an intercambio being held somewhere in the city. Here are a few of the intercambios I’ve attended or hope to attend:

MONDAYS

Speed Friending Intercambio
Roll Madrd, Calle Amaniel 23
Mondays at 8 PM
Entry Cost: €2

Speed Friending Intercambio is a mix of expats and locals looking to make friends and find a language exchange partner. Set-up like speed-dating, attendees get to know each other individually, three minutes at a time asking funny and unusual questions in both languages to see if they’re a good match to be language exchange partners. This is speed friending, NOT speed dating.

Note: you MUST RSVP for this event.

TUESDAY

Spanish & International Friends in Madrid Language Exchanges
El Parnasillo del Príncipe, Príncipe 33
Tuesdays at 10 PM
Entry Cost: Free

INTERLANGUAJES-FUN & BEER + TAPAS
The House Beer, C/General Yague, 6
Tuesdays at 8 PM
Entry Cost: Free

INTERLANGUAJES is for more than just English and Spanish. Anyone interested in learning a new language (Spanish, English, Russian, Chinese…) is invited. This informal but organized language exchange assigns attendees to a table with a native-speaker coordinator. With no more than five people per table, this quiet atmosphere is perfect for practicing and perfecting that new language.

WEDNESDAY

Free Multicultural Language Exchange
Cafe Madrid, Calle Mesón de Paños 6
Wednesdays at 9 PM
Entry Cost: Free

The name says it all: This free multicultural language exchange is a great place to meet new people, practice your skills, and open new possibilities with people from all over the world.

MADRIDBABEL: GREAT SOCIAL ACTIVITIES AND LANGUAGE EXCHANGES
La Excéntrica, Calle de las Fuentes 10
Twice weekly: Wednesdays at 8:30 PM and Sundays at 7 PM
Entry Cost: Free

MADRIDBABEL is an international social and cultural exchange group that organizes lots of activities, not just language exchanges. Its main mission is to encourage and provide the opportunity to practice a wide range of languages amongst people from all over the world as well as create a comfortable venue to make new acquaintances in Madrid.

J and J Books and Coffee
Calle Espiritu Santo, 47
Thrice weekly: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Entry Cost: Free

J and J Books and Coffee is an English language bookshop here in Madrid, which hosts three weekly intercambios. Mostly English and Spanish speakers (although other languages welcome) these intercambios are laid back, easy-going and the perfect way to make new friends and practice that new language.

Humpday Tapas and Intercambio
Café Cósmico, Calle de Juan de Austria, 25
Wednesdays at 8:30 PM
Entry Cost: €2

Can’t make the Speed Friending Intercambio on Monday? No worries, there’s another opportunity to attend every Wednesday.

Speed Friending Intercambio is a mix of expats and locals looking to make friends and find a language exchange partner. Set-up like speed-dating, attendees get to know each other individually, three minutes at a time asking funny and unusual questions in both languages to see if they’re a good match to be language exchange partners. This is speed friending, NOT speed dating.

Note: you MUST RSVP for this event.

THURSDAY

Madrid Hola to Hello Intercambio Meetup
Toulouse Lautrec, 38 Calle Huertas, Madrid
Thursdays at 8:30 PM
Entry Cost: Free

Madrid Hola to Hello Intercambio is one of the more structured meetups in the city. The first hour is spent rotating every twenty minutes between Spanish and English, while the second hour is free-talk. Organizers believe this helps attendees meet more people and expand their vocabulary, and it helps ensure that newbies don’t run out of things to say!

Madrid International Meeting
Masqcopas (+Kcopas), Costanilla de San Andrés 20
Thursdays at 9 PM
Entry Cost: Free

Whether you live here or you are traveling around, this is the perfect opportunity to meet other international people, make new friends, plan trips and activities, and practice other languages. It’s fun, and the food and drinks are cheap (Beer/wine 1€; Tapas 1€).

Spanish Exchange – Madrid
Bar Menta Madriz, Calle Arganzuela, 1
Thursdays at 9:00 PM
Entry Cost: Free

THURSDAYS = BEERLINGUAL is an event I haven’t yet attended but have had my eye on. Beerlingual is Madrid’s original free bilingual pub quiz. It brings locals and visitors from around the world together to meet new people, make friends, practice languages, and have fun. The questions cover pop culture, tourism, music, cinema, and an array of other topics. The winners even walk away with a prize!

Trivia AND language practice. Sign. Me. Up!

Spanish & International Friends in Madrid Language Exchanges
Beer Station, cuesta de Santo Domingo 22
Thursdays at 10 PM
Entry Cost: Free

FRIDAY

Madrid Language Exchange Meeting
Inpass Café Madrid, Calle Tres Cruses 8, Madrid
Fridays at 10 PM
Entry Cost: Free

A great intercambio for anyone looking to improve their Spanish, English or Russian, before heading out for a night on the town.

Spanish & International Friends in Madrid Language Exchanges
La Cruz de Malta pub, Victoria 3
Tuesdays at 10 PM
Entry Cost: Free

SATURDAY

Saturday Night Out Language Exchange & Party!!
Charlotte, Calle Trafalgar 8
Saturdays at 8 PM
Entry Cost: Free

Meet up in Madrid for face-to-face language exchange with nice people from all over the world living or visiting Madrid. Attendees have been known to practice various languages, including: English, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Chinese, Arabic and more!

Everyone is welcome, even if you speak just one language –there’s always someone who wants to learn!

SUNDAY

Sunday Language Exchange Meeting
Inpass Café, Calle Tres Cruces 8
Sundays at 8 PM
Entry Cost: Free

End one week and prepare to kick off the next by attending the weekly Sunday Language Exchange meeting. As they say: What can be better than having a lovely chat in an international company on a Sunday evening!

Spanish & International Friends in Madrid Language Exchanges
Beer Station, cuesta de Santo Domingo 22
Sundays at 7 PM
Entry Cost: Free

So there you have it: Intercambios! I’ve focused this post on intercambios in Madrid because they’re what I’m most familiar with, but that’s not to say that language exchanges don’t exist outside of the Spanish capital.

To find a language exchange in your city, check out meetup.com, or do a quick google search; you’re bound to find one or one hundred to attend!

What are your thoughts, feelings, reactions to intercambios and language exchanges?

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. All thoughts, feelings and opinions shared on this blog and in this post are my own.

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2 thoughts on “Intercambios: What are they and why should you attend?

    • Kate says:

      Try meetup.com, I was shocked at how many were offered, and in so many different languages! It’s definitely a helpful and fun way to learn and practice a language!

      Like

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