From the Guardian (with bonus traditional Gruaniad typos, I’ve corrected the URLs below and emailed the editor): Going local in Colombia, a story with some really good links to sites where you can swap language skills, as well as great reason to try it:
I met Luz Marina in London through Gumtree.com, a classified ads site most commonly used for job adverts and house lets, but with less well-known branches for making travel contacts and swapping skills (namely languages). [The direct link for London is http://www.gumtree.com/london/language-tuition_546_1.html] It was the latter that brought Luz Marina and me together.
She became my temporary Spanish teacher and we had a month of conversation practice across numerous London bars and cafes until she went back to Colombia.
Now, one year on, we’re driving around Bogotá together, having lunch in the bohemian Usaquén district and sipping coffee around stylish Parque 93.
It’s not a scenario I would have predicted, but I imagine language lessons have produced many more long-distance friendships. It’s certainly become an increasingly popular thread, with Thai, Russian and Turkish just some of the languages currently offered in exchange for conversation with native English speakers. (See also friendsabroad.com and www.voxswap.com.)
Next week, I hope to take the same concept on the road and use www.mylanguageexchange.com to combine Spanish lessons with seeing Cartagena, Colombia’s colonial gem on the Caribbean coast. Cristobal’s profile says if I meet him he’ll be my “best friend in the whole world”. I’m slightly scared by this level of enthusiasm, but my curiosity about the man behind such a statement is too great to resist.