Thursday, May 30, 2013

Intercambios: Way to meet Spaniards and improve Spanish

A great way to practice Spanish with native speakers and to meet new people is through intercambios.  The simplest definition of intercambio is a language exchange.  As a native English speaker seeking to practice Spanish, my intercambios in Madrid were with native Spanish speakers that wanted to practice English.  So it's the event, but I've also come to use the word "intercambio" as a noun for the person with whom I'm having the language exchange, as you'll see throughout the rest of this post.

If the intercambio is one-on-one, the norm is to talk half the time in English, then half the time in Spanish.  Do not talk in Spanish and have your intercambio answer in English -- it's so much more beneficial to both be speaking in the same language.


If you want to find an intercambio partner with whom you can regularly meet, check out these sites:
You could also post flyers around your neighborhood.  If you're college-aged, I recommend posting flyers at/near the universities.

Bar Intercambio Nights

Perhaps meeting one-on-one with someone is too intimidating for you, or maybe you don't want that level of commitment.  That's just fine, because numerous bars in Madrid have weekly intercambio nights.  These are a great way to meet people and to practice Spanish.

Grab a friend (or go solo), head to the bar, buy a drink (some bars have discounts if you say you're with the intercambio!), and start talking!  It's usually easy to figure out who's there for the intercambio if it's your first time.  Most intercambios have someone in charge, and that person tries to introduce newcomers to the other people attending the intercambio.  You can also just listen for English or French, or look for other foreigners.

Okay, so where/when are some of these intercambios?
  • Beer Station
    • c/ Santo Domingo, 22 (Metro: Santo Domingo, Callao)
    • Thursdays (22:00)
  • Café Madrid
    • c/ Mesón de Paños, 6 (Metro: Ópera)
    • Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (Starting at 21:00)
  • Downtown Madrid
    • c/ San Mateo, 21 (Metro: Alonso Martínez, Tribunal)
    • Thursdays (18:00 - 23:30)
  • J&J Books and Coffee
    • c/ Espíritu Santo, 47 (Metro: Noviciado)
    • Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights (20:00 - 22:00)
  • Madrid Hola to Hello Intercambio Meetup
    • c/ Huertas, 38 (Metro: Antón Martín)
    • Wednesdays (21:00 - 22:00)
    • Talk for 10 min in English, 10 min in Spanish, then switch groups
  • The James Joyce Irish Pub
    • c/ Alcalá, 59 (Metro: Príncipe de Vergara, Retiro)
    • I'm actually not sure what their current intercambio nights are, and I'm not finding it on their site -- please leave a comment if you know!
  • O'Neill's
    • c/ Príncipe, 12 (Metro: Sol, Sevilla)
    • Tuesdays (starting at 21:00), ask for Mark
  • The Quiet Man
    • c/ Valverde, 44 (Metro: Gran Vía, Tribunal)
    • Wednesdays (Starting at 21:00) and Sundays (Starting at 19:00)
Remember, the crowd changes from week to week.  Don't rule it out if your first time ends up being a "dud" night.  One night at a J&Js intercambio with my friend Izzy, we had to leave early because we couldn't stop laughing.  There was an Italian guy at the intercambio who was a replica of the character Buster from Arrested Development.  He also reminded us of Izzy's annoying Italian roommate at the time, and we just could not keep it together.  At a different intercambio later that year, a friend and I met two Spanish guys who wanted to practice English.  We actually then started meeting weekly just the four of us, going to a different bar each week.

Intercambio Groups

There are a few intercambio groups in Madrid that plan a variety of international/language-focused activities through their Facebook pages.

If you happen to be teaching English in Madrid, don't forget to tell your older students about intercambios, too!

Have you attended any of these intercambios before?  Let me know how it went in the comments!

No comments:

Post a Comment