As someone who's studied multiple languages, the key to gaining fluency is, in theory, very simple: you just have to speak. But, as anyone who's spent time studying a foreign language also knows, that's exactly the most nerve-wracking and ego-crushing part of the process!
One of the best ways to get the courage to speak, regardless of your level of study, is to work with a language exchange partner who can provide a safe and encouraging environment to do just that. Language partners help you practice what you're learning in the classroom and also expose you to how native speakers use their own language.
I've had language partners in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic and each partnership brought me new linguistic and cultural understandings -- and occasionally, a real friendship that evolved along the way. I found that the key to making these partnerships meaningful was by entering into them in a thoughtful way. Here are a few ways you can do the same.