Language exchange is very big here in Barcelona (and probably in the rest of the country, too). People have suddenly realised how important it is to speak English and everybody else who comes here as a tourist or wants to stay a bit longer will need to speak Spanish. This is how the idea of language exchange came to life.
You can find adverts everywhere, online, in libraries, language schools etc. Lots of people use it as a means for picking up guys/girls so you have to be careful how you do it but generally it works like this. You speak half the time in one language and half the time in the other. It is completely free (hence the ‘exchange’) and a great way to meet locals and use them as a source of information about the place you are in.
I have started online but instead of a one-to-one I went to a group session. It said that group is made up of students, mostly locals and Japanese but many other languages as well. The meeting was in an Irish bar. I got there early and had a nice chat with a Japanese lady then slowly the others started to arrive as well. Half an hour later I looked around and took stock of my experience. Half of the Spanish were anime fans and wanted to practice their Japanese, the other half left to watch the football, and I was sitting there in the middle chatting to this English guy from Bristol. I left soon after.
Next I tried my language school. They teach Spanish to foreigners and English to Spanish people. There is a form you have to fill out about the language you offer and the language you want to learn, your email and that’s it. I tried one who has already left the school and anyway I misread the advert and she actually offered English! I tried two others but none of then replied so I gave up on this line as well.
Finally I joined a library where they did intercambio. It was very formally arranged, I got a little group of people who were Catalans wanting to learn English. There were 5 of us all together. I was very nervous before the first occasion but it turned out to be a great experience. I have a group of elderly people, three ladies and one gentleman and we all learn together. We meet once a week and I even give them homework! It’s a great project and I’m very glad I didn’t give up on this idea. Here’s my little group.