Let me say that again: your speaking partner doesn't have to be a native English speaker!
I understand why English learners want to speak with natives. It's a great way to practice your pronunciation, learn about common slang/idioms/phrases used in English-speaking countries, and improve your listening skills since natives don't usually slow down their speech unless you ask them to, among other things. However, finding a native speaker as a speaking partner is challenging, unless you connect with an English teacher or you find someone on a conversation app (if you're interested in something like that, try HelloTalk!). If you're simply trying to improve your spoken English, though, finding a partner who's a learner just like you will still be helpful! Here's why:
1. It will help you increase your confidence. It doesn't matter whether or not you speak with a native English speaker - learning to speak in English with someone else WILL help you gain confidence in your English speaking skills! You can only get so far by yourself, so why not practice with someone who is also looking to grow more comfortable with their spoken English? Developing your confidence with another learner will also better prepare you for situations where you might have the opportunity talk to native speakers in the future. ; )
2. It can be really helpful to find someone who has the same level of English as you. Most language classes divide students based on their language levels so that beginners are placed with beginners and advanced learners are placed with advanced learners. This is how teachers ensure they are learning content that is appropriate to their levels. If you're an English learner, a native speaker will always have a higher level of English than you until you've mastered the language yourself. That's not a bad thing, but if you only practice with native speakers, it can be frustrating if you're always the one doing all of the learning. It's a very one-sided relationship. Why not try to find someone who has the same language level as you so you can help each other improve?
3. A native speaker won't be able to sympathize with you the way a non-native speaker can. Native speakers grew up knowing how to speak English, which means they don't always know the reasoning behind certain grammar rules and they don't always understand why certain aspects of the English language are more challenging for English learners than others. If you have a non-native speaking partner, your partner will likely be able to understand your frustration or confusion when it comes to certain aspects of learning the language.
4. You will learn more than just English from your conversations. One of the reasons why I love teaching English learners is because I love learning about other cultures! It's so easy to learn about the cultures of English-speaking countries (especially America) because those cultures are very popular on T.V., in music, in books, etc. It's not as easy to learn about cultures from other countries (especially if you're not familiar with the countries to begin with), so having a non-native speaking partner will help you learn about another culture too!
If you're interested, follow me on Instagram @racheltutorsenglishonline and find my most recent post on connecting with a speaking partner. Good luck!
Of course, if you are still interested in working with a native speaker, that's perfectly fine. You can learn more about my conversation classes here and chat with me! =D