You don’t need to wait until you can talk to get a language exchange partner. They don’t need to be able to speak to you (or you to them) in order to be “useful” in terms of learning (getting used to) a language.
Before you can actually talk to each other, your language exchange partner can still be your media pusher. One very important thing you can talk about with a language exchange partner while you still suck is: L2 music recommendations.
Ask him to tell you his favorite bands and songs and stuff. But you say: “I can just search YouTube”. Yeah, good luck with that. You can’t just say “Japanese music” on YouTube and really get the good stuff. That’s not how it works. That kind of vague search won’t bring you Rip Slyme in the middle of the night; it might work for movies (and even then, only the gay 1 arthouse ones that become popular overseas; you know what I mean). You need band names.
Language exchange partners can be like parents in that you can use them to shape your early L2 tastes and exposure. So a language exchange partner is more than just a well-trained mouth. He’s also a cultural conduit of sorts. That being the case, a good idea might be to choose language exchange partner not based on gender, age or even personality, but on musical taste. And you want someone who enjoys the music actively (seeks it out, knows who makes it, etc.) not someone who merely doesn’t mind that style of music.
Anyway, yeah…that’s it…just an idea.
- I can use this word because I’m only ironically homophobic online. In real life I actually commit hate crimes, but you don’t know that. ↩