Language Buddies

The Language Buddies program is a new program housed in the Fries Center for Global Studies that seeks to match or group interested Wes students, faculty, or staff members with one another to practice their language skills over academic breaks through a series of self-paced, conversational activities.

This initiative was launched as the "Winter Language Buddies" in December 2020. Given the high demand and over 135 participants in its first iteration, the now titled Language Buddies program is here to stay.


It was very cool, as a student, to have a different relationship with a professor and to get to know someone from a more administrative part of Wesleyan too. One great thing about the buddies was that I actually improved my French language skills--for the first two movies I used French subtitles but then we all decided to challenge ourselves and watch without subtitles at all. I'd never done that before for a full movie and it was a great challenge but worked out okay since we could all piece together what we'd been able to understand. A very fun program overall! - Annabelle Lesser, student

It was great! My buddy and I originally prepared questions to work on, but eventually just started meeting and chatting about our weeks, which is, in my opinion, closer to what I would want to practice in the target language. I feel much more comfortable in my ability to speak, since it had been so long. So, this was a great success for me, and a chance to get to know better a dear colleague. - Camilla Zamboni, faculty 


Interested wes students, faculty, or staff can sign up here by Monday, May 24, 2021. Buddy matches will be announced via email on Monday, June 7th, 2021. 

Please contact Natalia Román Alicea or Emmanuel Paris-Bouvret for more information. 

  • How to be a good language buddy!
    1. Aim to meet with your partner(s) once or twice per week for 1 hour 
    2. Talk about your expectations and method of communicating in your first meeting 
    3. Try to speak in the target language as much as you can and rather than switching to English, try explaining what you are trying to convey in various ways in the language you are practicing 
    4. If you need to speak English, make a conscious break or 'time out' to clarify and after you end the break, get back to speaking in the target language exclusively - the struggle is actually very helpful!  
    5. Since you may end up talking about personal matters, please remain mindful and respectful of your partners' beliefs, values, and/or customs 
    6. Most importantly, this initiative is not designed to be a language course. You should not expect your buddies to provide grammar explanations. If you all agree that it makes sense to go over grammatical concepts, you should feel free to do so, but this shouldn't be an expectation. 
  • Conversation topics

    Recommended: In your first meeting, start with these conversation starters to break the ice and identify your proficiency levels. Bring visuals like pictures or videos that help you introduce yourself to your buddy/buddies. 

    1. Tell your buddy/buddies a little bit about yourself. What is your name? How old are you? Are you a Wes student or faculty/staff? What is your major/field of study? What is your favorite food, music, sport, hobby
    2. Tell your buddy/buddies about your family. How many siblings do you have? What are their names? Describe them: Who is the oldesttallest, funniestShare your daily routine. What do you do during the day? What do you like to do for fun? 
    3. Tell your buddy/buddies about your summerWhat are you looking forward to doing? 
    4. Make sure to discuss a plan for staying in touch over the break! Consider suggesting WhatsApp or other instant messaging options like texting. 

    Browse the following resources for ideas for conversation topics 

    400+ Language Exchange Topics (organized by language level & theme)

    50+ Language Exchange Topics to Keep the Conversation Flowing for Days

    100 Simple and Fun Conversation Exchange Topics

  • Practice your target language with your technology

    1. Change your technology to the target language

    Practice saying the names of app content. Find the correct pronunciation or ask your buddy how they pronounce it.  

    2. Find and follow five social media influencers whose content is in the target language.  

    Make it a goal to check out their content every time you scroll through your social media. This may change your algorithm and may give you access to other kinds of content in the target language! Comment on their posts or consider responding to others in the comments. Discuss with your buddy/buddies the content of the comment section and look up the words you don’t know.   

    3. Find and follow five artists on your preferred music streaming service (Spotify, apple music, pandora, YouTube, others).  

    Unsure how to begin? Google _______ (language) artists. Find the artist on your streaming service and browse to see if you can find suggestions from the app. This often comes up as “you might like”, “fans also like”, and others. Don’t be afraid to go down the rabbit hole! Make it a goal to listen to some of their songs and follow/heart/like the ones you want to listen to again. Read the lyrics, sign along, and look up the meaning of words/phrases you don’t know. Consider translating the song and discussing it with your buddy.

    4. Find and follow news media sources in the target language. 
  • Web-based activities you can do with your buddy

    1. Do a “Haul” of your closet or a recent shopping trip! (A “haul” is a social media term for “show and tell”) 

    Hop on a Zoom call with your buddy/buddies. and show them the items! Try to describe the items: What is the item called? What color is it? Is it big or small? If you can, tell your buddy/buddies. what you use the item for, where did you get it, when was the last time you used it, or your plans for future use. Tell them what you like/don’t like about the item, etc. 

    2. Find and watch comedy clips on YouTube in the target language 
    Not sure where to begin? Try typing “comedy central _____” (type in language). Don’t be afraid to do a little digging and watch a few seconds before you switch to the next video. Talk to your buddy/buddies. about the clips and see if you understand the humor.  

    3. Follow a cooking tutorial and do it with your buddy/buddies!  
    Find the recipe for a traditional dish from the country/countries where the target language is spoken.  
    Practice the pronunciation of the items used in the tutorial. 

    4. Watch a movie together and discuss or watch separately and get together to discuss. 
    Use your Wesleyan Kanopy account or your preferred streaming service. Hulu and Amazon prime offer the watch party functionLanguage Learning with Netflix is a Google Chrome Add-On that allows you to compare the original audio and subtitles with a translation in your language, listen to subtitles one at a time and change the playback speed, and provides you with a pop-up dictionary that also suggests the most important words for you to learn. 

    5. Form a Book Club 
    This activity will require some research and commitment on both parties to find a book or an author from the country/countries where the target language is spoken and coordinate weekly or biweekly discussions about the book. Discuss what stood out to you, identify wording or metaphors you do not understand. Alternatively, you can both select a book you have read before and find a translated version. Discuss how it differs from the original, what meaning may have changed, and others. (I.e. Harry Potter in Hindi?) 

  • Language-specific: Russian


    Movies and videos

    1. Series «Кухня» - light, funny comedy about a restaurant; short parts (20-30 minutes each). First episode here. 
    2. Ералаш – series for children, very short, funny 5-10 minute parts (search on youtube) 
    3. Soviet cartoons with decent English subtitles 
    4. Cartoon «Маша и медведь» a very popular Russian cartoon; the characters to not speak too much, so it is easy to understand (search on Youtube) 
    5. Dubbed Russian songs 


    1. Working through the free interactive online textbook for the first year called «Между нами»


    Movies and videos

    1. Google 100 best Russian movies and search for those that look interesting on YouTube. Most Russian movies, unless they are extremely recent, are available there for free.
    2. Cartoon: «Смешарики» -  a cartoon for both children and adults. Each cartoon touches on a question/philosophical dilemma that can be used as a topic for discussion (search on youtube).


    1. Work through the 50 questions that every person should ask oneself. Complete these tests and games together on the Meduza site and then discuss.


    1. Watch Russian documentaries and interviews with Юрий Дудь (available on youtube) 
    2. The most well-known and influential independent journalist site  Эхо Москвы (an independent media source in Russia): You can find news, interviews, and blogs on current issues.
    3. Tests and games on the site of Meduza can complete them with your buddies and discuss.
  • Language-specific: French

    The French section has a list of online ressources:

    French films on Kanopy (Library One Search > A-Z Databases > Kanopy):

    1. Les 400 coups: Classical movie of the Nouvelle Vague by François Truffaut, the first of a series that is also available on Kanopy. The story of a young boy who gets into trouble. The other movies cover the sentimental education of the boy (and they are in color). The rest of the series is comprised of: Baisers volés, Domicile conjugal and L'Amour en fuite.
    2. Les parapluies de Cherbourg: Classical French musical with young Catherine Deneuve and very bright colors
    3. La Haine: the forebearer to the more recent Les Misérables (2019), about police violence in the underprivileged outskirts of Paris
    4. Au revoir les enfants: a beautiful Second World War movie by Louis Malle about a catholic boarding school that decides to hide a few Jewish kids. If you like this movie, there are other Louis Malle movies on Kanopy
    5. Fatima: a recent movie about two French children and their immigrant mother dealing with the clashes of cultures and generations
    6. Frantz (François Ozon): another beautiful Second World War movie about memory, loss and love (I don't want to give spoilers.) (Most François Ozon movies will please, but this is the only one available on Kanopy)
    7. Le Havre: in a port city, an old man helps an illegal young immigrant

    Atlantique Movie 

    A senegalese fantasy/horror movie about immigrants and zombies. What's not to like?

    Fren111 Student Suggestions:

Les Chansons de édith Piaf, et le film Amélie

Le livre Phobos

La série sur Netflix: “Plan Coeur”

    • Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (film)
Le film Pierrot le Fou
La série “Pour dix percent” sur Netflix

    • Les films de Céline Sciamma (ex: Gilrhood / Bande de filles)
    • Le film Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis

    For all levels:

    On TV5 Monde Langue Française, there are games, activities, and exercises for all levels. Students can work their way through it, and discuss and choose as buddies if they want to “discover”, “play”, or “learn”, and then choose their level. Buddies could make a program for themselves or watch short news spots and answer questions about them.

  • Language-specific: Spanish
    Collection of Spanish resources from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures 

    For Intermediate Spanish

    1. News in slow Spanish (

    For Intermediate-Advanced to Advanced Spanish

    1. El hilo ( new episodes every Friday. This podcast is about current issues in Latin/x America.
    2. Radio ambulante ( new episodes every Tuesday. Includes transcripts and has an application for Spanish language practice called Lupa.