So I think this first post should be a helpful one especially to those who are not on language exchanges yet! As someone who loves Asia, but lives in England, I don’t get to interact much with any Japanese or Koreans, the only Asians I ever see are Chinese and there are very few in my area! Being on a language exchange has allowed me to break this norm and as a result I have many Japanese and Korean friends of all ages! I think in this post I’m going to just explain how I decided to get on a language exchange site and what it’s actually like, how helpful it is etc etc and I’ll make another post maybe on the DO’s and DON’T’s or how you should approach signing up to one and using it. So without further ado; here’s my shiz!
So how did I decide to sign up? Well! It was something I’d considered for a while (yes a few months is a while!) but I was too intimidated to try it. I thought maybe there was an age limit, maybe nobody would be interested, maybe it would be really difficult to find a language exchange partner. Let me just say that all these assumptions are WRONG. There’s no age limit, I have a Japanese friend who is 15! Nobody’s interested? SERIOSULY!? There are crap loads of people wanting to learn English, even just as many wanting to learn Spanish, French, German, Italian etc etc I even have a friend who’s learning Hawaiian! If you’re talking about people not being interested in you appearance-wise…GET ON PLENTYOFFISH.COM OR SOMETHING! It’s not a dating site, although some people do use it as one which I’ll address in another post. People who genuinely want to learn English or another language that’s not their own are not looking at how pretty or hot someone is. Is it hard to find a language exchange partner? Nope! If you’re inviting (not in a sexy way) and open to learn their language or are willing to help them with a language they’re studying they’ll come running. Trust me. There you go, all assumptions debunked by someone who knows their language exchanges oh yeah baby. BACK TO THE QUESTION AT HAND *ahem*! I just decided that if I was to ever talk to, in person, a Japanese or Korean then the only way for me was to get on a language exchange and get myself some Skype: ID’s.
Actually signing up? Like signing up to any other site it requires an email address and a password and blah blah blah but then it allows you to start personalizing your profile, so, picking a username, adding a description that people will see, usually your age and always your native language and what languages you’re studying. On most sites you can simply message someone or send a friends request but on some other sites they require payment (I’ll elaborate in the next post). I’ve actually signed up to numerous language exchange sites just to heighten my chances of meeting lots of different people, which has proved to be successful and I definitely recommend doing this! Some sites are more popular than others for one reason or another so if you’re not getting any attention in one place then move on to the next.
People will contact you! Now, you’re most likely going to have some people (who cannot speak the languages you’re studying) contact you because they want to learn your native language. Everyone gets this! English is the second most widely spoken language in the world, it’s a business language, everyone knows of it and most people can speak even a little bit of it, so of course I get requests all the time from people I just don’t have anything in common with. As harsh as it sounds, I have to either ignore or reject some request nowadays because in a nutshell – the longer you stay active on a lang exchange, the more people (regardless of what languages they speak) will contact you and keeping up with long paragraphs explaining why you can’t help them is way too much especially if you’re on more than one site. Of course! Helping somebody learn your native tongue who doesn’t speak the languages you’re studying is great! But, sometimes we start to think ‘..it’s called a language exchange for a reason…’ and if you’re not gaining any knowledge for your own studies then it’s not always as rewarding as it could be if they did speak what you want to learn. It depends on the person! I do have foreign friends who are Spanish and Turkish and Greek whom I’ve met on lang exchange sites and I help them with their English from time to time! Luckily, on a lot of sites there’s a option to search for someone who speaks:….. and is learning:… unluckily, a lot of people don’t use the and is learning:… option and just look for people who can speak what they’re studying.
What actually happens? Basically, contact request -> exchange info (Skype ID, facebook etc) -> text chat or talk online or possibly in person if you’re up for it -> help eachother with language and understanding of culture! I hear people worrying about how to actually teach someone a language. A lot of the time me and my Skype friends just talk in English about everything and anything! This is because since most of them are Japanese and they’ve learnt already a considerable amount of English, enough to hold a conversation, they just say to me ‘just talking normally is practice for me’ so we just talk and talk! You might wonder how this helps me with my Japanese or my Korean but I do ask a lot of questions about both language and culture so I like to think I’m okay in that field of understanding! I’m also still studying by myself and since Japanese people learn English in school and I’ve never learnt Japanese in school (only French and German) they can hold a conversation whilst I…can’t. I don’t know enough yet!
What you get out of it? Friendship! Satisfaction out of learning not only a new language and not only helping somebody learn your language, but learning about the culture! What people are really like over there!
So just remember, if you’re lost, there’s only one road and it’s easy! Just do it!
(blimey, need a cuppa after that one)