Looking to meet up with someone in Shinjuku or Shibuya to sit down for a conversation in Japanese? Or trying to make some Japanese friends to explore Japan with? Language exchange is the best way to go if you’re looking to either make friends, improve your conversational Japanese, or find a romantic partner.
Learning a foreign language can be very challenging when you don’t have someone to practice speaking with! There are so many directions you can take and different ways to study a language, but finding out what works best for you and your goals can be difficult. While practicing speaking a different language with a stranger may seem daunting, there are so many benefits to it!
This guide is broken down to feature the top 10 Japanese language exchange sites/apps. We have also provided you with some tips and tricks to make sure that you get the most out of this experience!
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Benefits of Japanese Language Exchange
Exposure to Native Japanese Culture
In a Japanese language exchange, your partner is normally a native of the language and culture you are trying to learn more about. This is extremely useful and helpful when first starting to learn the language. In a classroom, you can learn vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar, along with many other skills. However, there are some things that cannot be taught in a classroom, and culture is one of these things to an extent.
The best way to learn about Japanese culture is to experience it in the native language. Understanding the culture of the native speaker will help with understanding why and how the language is used.
Japanese language exchanges also give a proper picture of what talking to other Japanese people would be like. In a classroom, students are often taught polite phrases and sentences to use on all occasions. However, those phrases often change as time and culture evolve, something textbooks cannot keep up with at times.
It is a good way to test what vernacular works and what does not in popular culture. Also, it helps you understand the nuances that vary with the context or intent of the conversation.
You can learn how their society works and about their main festivals and how they celebrate them! Classroom curriculums often do not have enough time to go through all the festivals and cultural practices. A language exchange with a native speaker can help in that regard as a guide through the dos and don’ts!
Less Pressure Than a Classroom Setting
With a language exchange, you are in a friendly and informal environment. As a result, there is little to no pressure to get everything right as both speakers are both trying to learn and understand.
In a classroom setting, the difficult written exercises, preparation for assessments, and frustration that is likely to come up occasionally make sitting in a formal class challenging for some individuals. However, in a language exchange, you are connected to another individual who is facing similar issues and challenges as you are!
Language exchange is often described as an intimate encounter with the language within the comfort of a safe environment. You don’t have to sit in a foreign space and learn a foreign language.
You can do it from the comfort of your favorite coffee shop, library, or from your own home. Location is versatile and normally does not matter when you first start the exchange. Being able to learn a language whenever you want and at your own pace makes a world of a difference, most of the time in a good way.
It is important to remember that your Japanese language exchange partner will be feeling similar stress as you are when learning a language. Any nerves or fear that you have about asking your partner about the nuances of the language should not worry you.
This is a great opportunity to exchange tips, clear up any doubts, hone your skills, and most importantly, cheer each other on. In addition, it is a wonderful opportunity to make some friends to share your journey with!
Learn the Language Faster
Studies have shown that people often learn languages faster when they have a one-on-one connection with the teacher, or in our case, a partner. Engaging in real dialogue is a way that you can truly learn how to express and explain yourself.
You learn what you would most likely say or talk about on a day-to-day basis, phrases, and words you normally use in casual conversations. Textbook learning can teach you grammatical rules and vocabulary. But a grasp of the syntax and spontaneity of communication can only emerge by having a conversation exchange.
Speaking and engaging in a dialogue is the best way to reinforce and remember the language in which you’re speaking in. This is because learning a language is like building a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes over time.
You can learn all the vocabulary words and grammatical rules that you want. However, the only way to have what you learned stick in your brain and to retain it is to use it in everyday conversation.
Your partner can also help by smoothing out the rough edges with regular practice and provide motivation when it seems like you are losing focus or will. These are things that cannot be done in a classroom setting, as they are normally different for each individual. A big classroom cannot cater to your individual needs and struggles, but a language exchange partner can!
Japanese Language Exchange is Typically Free
One of the best things about language exchanges and exchange services is that they are normally free of charge!
An average Japanese tutor costs around $15-$20 an hour, just for basic language training and vocabulary. A general language class can often cost at least $13,000 for 600 hours of learning. This is both through a college or an outside third-party company.
On the other hand, most Japanese language exchange platforms offer free services to users. There are a few platforms that are paid, but a majority of language networking sites are free.
In addition, there are often requires textbooks and workbooks that can cause prices to increase the overall cost of a class or tutor. With these options, the money begins to add up and you will end up hurting your bank account if you do not have a lot of disposable cash lying around for this method.
Japanese language exchange allows you to have almost all the benefits of learning a language in class for little to no cost at all. You and your language exchange partner can meet, converse, share cultural differences, and/or practice language skills that actually work in the real world, and they can do it as often as they want, all for no money whatsoever.
This is not only a good option for those who want to learn the language firsthand but want to save money as well! Maybe for that future trip or plan to live in Japan?
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Drawbacks of Japanese Language Exchange
Minimum Level of Japanese Understanding
Before considering language exchange as an option for learning or improving your Japanese, you should have a minimum understanding of Japanese Hiragana and Katana. Hiragana and Katakana are the alphabet of Japanese and are fundamental knowledge that should be mastered before finding a partner. Without this knowledge, you will not be able to fully understand what your partner is saying.
Kanji is another portion of the Japanese alphabet and takes a lot of time to master all of them. I suggest learning and recognizing essential kanji and vocabulary that comes up in conversations often. However, this may not be necessary since you will have the hiragana and katana background to still comprehend what a person is saying.
Here is our Ultimate Guide to Hiragana and Katakana to prepare you for your language exchange partner.
Establishing Goals Outright
When talking to others and establishing good friendships, it can be easy to forget what your real purpose for using the app! When learning a new language through a Japanese language exchange, you should write out specific goals that you have for yourself before finding a partner. The goals can be as simple as learning 10 new kanji every week or complex like being able to explain where I live to someone in Japanese.
Once you have these goals written and communicated to your partner, this will be key to making sure that you are on the right track and are actually learning the language. To learn more about how you can effectively get the most out of this experience, check out our tips down below.
Finding the Right Partner May Take Some Time
While it is very easy to find people to talk to on the different Japanese language exchange sites and apps, finding the right partner may take some time. By ‘right’ I mean someone who is consistent, has the same learning intentions, and whose free time coincides with yours.
Often, I find my partners having full-time jobs and will not be actively using the app until after their shift or late at night. This poses a problem to myself who likes to use the app during a different time and has a time difference also acting as a detractor. Therefore, it may take a couple of people to find the right partner that works best for you. Try not to let this discourage you from using the app! I’m sure you will find someone who speaks Japanese and is usually available when you are.
Keep trying! 🙂
Some Might Be Looking for a Romantic Partner
Once in a while, you will come across some people on Japanese language exchange sites who are looking for romantic partners rather than trying to learn a new language. This can be seen as both a benefit and a drawback, depending on your intentions with language exchange. If you’re looking to learn Japanese and open to finding a romantic partner, this aspect will be a benefit to you. However, if you’re serious about learning Japanese or already have a significant other, this may come across as frustrating to you.
If this situation happens to you and you would like to avoid it, it may be a good idea to ask your partner their intentions for being on the app before doing the actual exchange. Often, you will find that people are pretty respectful to others' relationship status and will back off once you have set boundaries! This will be super helpful in setting the focus of the language exchange so that it can be mutually beneficial for both of you.
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Top 10 Sites/Apps for Japanese Language Exchange
When there are so many different options for Japanese language exchange, it can be hard finding the one that works best for you. Therefore, we have compiled a robust list of our top 10 picks for Japanese language exchange that you can use to find a partner today!
"The app is about making language exchanges on your smartphone as easy as they can be"
HelloTalk is a widely used language exchange app with a community of over 25 million users learning over 150 different languages! Much similar to how WeChat and KakaoTalk are interfaced, you are able to search and directly chat with a native speaker in the targeted language you choose. You are also able to learn multiple languages at the same time! This option is ideal for you if you’re looking to chat with multiple people online and make friends!
This app also allows you to directly call someone or video call to get that same in-person interaction. Having these features are great if you’re not in Tokyo and want to have direct conversations with your partner. Facial expressions, gestures, tone, and pronunciation are things you can only get through conversing through voice messages, video calls, or in person.
HelloTalk also has a moments tab where users are able to share posts about a certain subject, ask a question, or share their daily life stories. This is an amazing way to start up conversations with people in your targeted language and get feedback on your grammar or mistakes. It is a very encouraging community where people are able to like and comment which is also another way to find a partner with the same interests!
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 5/5
Finding a partner that is consistent, can speak to you in your native language, and share the same interests/goals as you can be very difficult! What I will say is that this app does a great job of helping you accomplish each of these goals.
HelloTalk has a green button to indicate whether a person is online which can save you the time you spend waiting for a reply. The profile that each person creates also gives you a brief introduction of themselves, their interests, and their posts. This gives you insight into the type of person they are, whether you share the same interests, and where they are located (if they choose to share this).
With the instant messaging feature, you are able to chat with multiple people and hold several different conversations! You will not only be able to improve your Japanese but also be able to make friends and possibly meet them. There are many couples that HelloTalk has featured who met through the app with the intention of learning each other’s languages. If you are looking to find a romantic partner and learn a new language at the same time, this may be the option for you!
OTHER BENEFITS 5/5
The app itself has a learning functionality that helps you learn basic vocabulary in different categories. While it does cost a small fee to get the full functionality of all the different categories, it includes a lot of interactive learning games that help you learn efficiently.
This will depend on how close you have gotten with your language exchange partner. If you two are near each other and are willing to get a coffee or lunch together then this is a good way to practice your conversational Japanese! Meeting up with a local also means that you will also get exposure to some of the hidden gems in Tokyo and possibly develop into becoming closer friends. Importantly, you can meet up even more often and continue to practice your Japanese while learning more about the culture!
"There is always a friendly language partner ready to strike up a conversation, and the staff are professional & helpful!”
Tandem is another very popular language exchange app available on both iOS and Android devices. The app itself is very similar to HelloTalk where users are able to chat and instant message native speakers in their target language (Japanese). They have voice call, video call, and transliteration features embedded in the app as well which makes the conversation flow smoothly between you and your partner! This app is ideal for you if you’re looking to make Japanese friends or a romantic partner!
Unlike HelloTalk, Tandem doesn’t have a community where you can post and ask questions to get corrections. However, Tandem does have unlimited languages and people you can meet, unlike HelloTalk which requires you to pay to learn more than 1 language.
You are also able to put yourself on an ‘offline’ mode where you can continue conversations with a partner without getting disturbed by others on the app! This is something that is unique to Tandem where you can prevent getting distracted from new messages and focus on a conversation with a specific person. It can be super helpful when you have established some good conversations and found a good partner!
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 4/5
Finding a partner on Tandem is just as easy as HelloTalk where you can message multiple people at once. They also have a feature where you can see who is online at the time.
The user profile is very similar to the dating app Tinder where you are able to see up to 6 photos which give you insight into the person’s interests, or appearance! This can be a positive or negative factor depending on your level of seriousness when learning a new language.
Some users may have the intention of finding a romantic partner rather than learning a new language. However, this applies to all language exchange apps. If finding a romantic partner is one of your intentions, then this app may appeal to you!
If you want more information on dating in Japan, check out this extensive guide to Japanese Dating Apps.
OTHER BENEFITS 5/5
One great part about Tandem is that you are able to upload 6 pictures onto your profile which really gets you to know more about a person and their interests. If you find that someone shares the same interest as you, this can be an amazing conversation starter that could possibly turn into a long term friendship! Many people have found this feature to be very effective in making friends through the app. This feature could also help you find a romantic partner as well!
The app also allows you to get tutored by a certified language tutor! Lessons range from 20-60 minutes depending on your preference and prices range from about $20-$25 an hour! This is an awesome perk if you are looking for formal tutoring from another person and using the app makes these services a lot more accessible.
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“Top reasons why people like HiNative: 1. Get advice on pronunciation 2. No private messaging to practice conversation 3. Get answers not just on language, but culture also”
HiNative is a global Q&A language learning community where millions of users are asking questions related to the language they are learning and natives can answer with a specific translation or give corrections. This website is ideal for you if you’re looking to ask and answer questions about your targeted language!
This is a pretty active and encouraging community where users in different countries are freely asking questions and looking for feedback from native speakers to teach them about natural ways of saying a sentence.
The photo below shows an example of some of the questions that users may ask and the answers that follow. This is a great method of learning Japanese as you are able to see the Romaji and Hiragana of a Native’s reply which helps you effectively understand their translation. One of my problems as a Japanese learner is that I’m not very familiar with Kanji. Therefore, this feature is SUPER helpful in getting me familiarized with Kanji that I haven’t memorized yet.
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 3/5
Finding a partner on this website is pretty hard since native speakers are only able to answer questions rather than strike a conversation through chat. Thus, this app wouldn’t be the most user friendly for finding a partner. However, I did notice that a lot of native speakers will put their emails or social media accounts in their self-introduction, encouraging people to message them about any questions!
Striking up a conversation maybe a little more difficult depending on whether you have the social media accounts that they have or if you don’t like having to reach out to them through a different app. However, if you’re looking for a partner, I suggest taking the initiative to message them if they share their profile! Many native speakers are very friendly and want you to reach out to them.
OTHER BENEFITS 3/5
You are able to earn points and climb to higher levels on this website which may give you some incentive to answer or ask questions! If you are a competitive person, this may be a good website for you that motivates you to help other language learners! You are also able to gauge your level of fluency in your native language depending on the number of points that you have accumulated!
Your profile on the website also features your language and countries of interest which may be a great conversation starter for those who are familiar with that language or country!
“No cost to browse and interact with people on the site · Simple and straightforward design is easy to use and isn't distracting”
OkCupid is a widely used dating app where users are able to ‘match’ each other and develop relationships through instant messaging conversations. While this is intended to be an app to find a romantic partner, it is also versatile in helping you find a language partner in the language you’re looking to learn.
Much similar to dating apps like Bumble and Hinge, you have to build an extensive profile with some information about yourself and your interests. On OkCupid, you have to answer a couple of questions to have them get insight into what are some of the things you find important and they try to match you with meaningful connections!
You are able to direct messages and chat with others through the app. However, you are not able to video chat through the app. If you’re looking to video chat with your partner you will have to use a third-party app.
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 2/5
Finding a partner may be pretty difficult depending on your intentions! If you’re looking for a romantic partner to do a language exchange with, this will be your best option! However, if you’re not looking for a romantic partner and are looking to only have a partner to do a language exchange with, it’s going to take a couple of people to find the right person with the same intentions!
Since this is a dating app, the information on your profile will determine who wishes to partner with you. Each profile is built with a couple of photos of yourself, a brief description, age, and your interests and hobbies. Many others will match with you if you guys share the same type of interests! This will make it easier to engage in conversations with your partner in your targeted language.
For Japanese, this is a pretty popular app for dating in Japan. Therefore, it should be fairly easy for you to meet someone who is interested in dating and is looking to practice speaking in Japanese with you.
OTHER BENEFITS 3/5
To increase your visibility or choose 4-5 star rated people, there is a subscription with OkCupid starting from $4.96 to $9.95 a month. This gives you the extra perks that come with your account in making your experience a lot more efficient in finding a partner in Tokyo. I suggest exploring the free version first before purchasing this added benefit!
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“I joined a meetup group for people that are 50+ and have made some fantastic friends - couples and singles.”
Meetup is a great website where you can host and join different meetup events to meet with others in your area. For Tokyo specifically, there are a variety of different meetup events for foreigners to gather to practice their Japanese. Creating an event and joining it is super easy, but will cost about $9.99-$23.99 a month. This is ideal for you if you’re looking to do a language exchange by meeting up with people for events of your interests.
The website is very easy to use as you can easily type in the location you’re looking to meet up in and for what purpose. If you search ‘language exchange’ in Tokyo Japan you’ll see a lot of different events (a lot are recurring) where you can meet up with others with the same interests!
For each event, there is a date and time followed by the number of attendees. There are both a lot of in-person and online meetup events which gives you flexibility and freedom for how you choose to meet and interact with others! There’s no limit to the number of people that can attend so I definitely suggest giving one of these events a try!
You could even look up some of the things you are interested in, like anime or Japanese culture and there will be events in Tokyo available for you to join as well! These are great opportunities to meet with people of the same interests who may be looking to meet foreigners of different backgrounds. You could also form friendships through these events!
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 5/5
Finding a partner on Meetup is super easy! There are small events ranging from 5 people to large events with over 30 attendees. Each event gives you the ability to hold a conversation with someone which makes finding a partner super easy!
These events are very encouraging where each session is held in groups of 4 that change every 40 minutes. In other words, you will be able to hold multiple group conversations with many people from different backgrounds!
Topics are free to explore or if you don’t have anything to talk about the host will give you some to talk about. Overall, these events seem very friendly and engaging in a sense where you will be able to effectively practice your Japanese and get the most out of this experience!
OTHER BENEFITS 4/5
Under each event, you are able to see who is attending and their profile which gives you an insight into who each person is, their interests, and their level of Japanese. This is an awesome way to get a sense of the person before initiating a conversation with them!
After befriending someone at an event, you could also see which events your friends are attending in the future and also attend them as well! The website also gives you the ability to message the person to ask questions or get to know them better.
“Was only planning to stay for like half an hour... ended up being 2 hours but we learnt so much while we were there and the coffee was DELICIOUS”
English Only Cafe is a Canadian-inspired cafe located in Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo where people can get in touch with foreign languages and cultures, make friends and meet other people who are studying abroad in Tokyo. The cafe hosts a lot of different events, lessons, and services and has visitors from over 100 different countries!
They are known to have a fashionable and cozy atmosphere, which brings out the comfortability in everyone to initiate conversations with one another. You might be able to meet your best friend in Tokyo there. This is a great method of learning if you’re looking to practice your Japanese in a cafe and meet people of different backgrounds!
Every day, the cafe hosts international meetups and language exchanges in Tokyo! Since it is a cafe, they also have a variety of drinks and snacks on the menu. There are even meetups for holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and more. This is a great place to find some people to explore Tokyo with. If you are in Tokyo and looking to make friends or sit down for a conversation, I definitely recommend coming here!
For the daily language exchange events, there is no specific level requirement for any language and these events are free of charge! These are usually 30-minute sessions alternating between English and Japanese conversation time so that both language speakers are able to practice and learn each language.
You are also able to pick a topic of your choice since conversations are done in small groups of 3 or 4. This is a very effective method if you’re looking to practice your speaking and listening and make friends at the same time!
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 5/5
Finding a partner at the English Only Cafe is extremely easy! In fact, you’ll get 3 to 4 people to speak to since these daily language exchange events are done on tables that seat about 4 people.
Anyone in the group can initiate the topic of the conversation and everyone is encouraged to participate in the conversation! This method brings a fun and safe environment where others can feel comfortable speaking to one another. There is hardly an awkward interaction. Everyone is very easy-going and fun to speak with!
Also, seats will change every 30 minutes so that you are able to speak with different people and sit in new groups! This allows you to make new friends and learn more about different cultures and backgrounds. If you’re looking to meet friends from different countries, you should definitely check out this cafe!
OTHER BENEFITS 5/5
The cafe hosts a lot of different meetups and events for specific groups of people! They offer specific times for Korean to Japanese Language Exchange, International Meetups, English only Meetups, Spanish to Japanese Language Exchange, and more! Having these specific events provides a sense of community and comfortability for people who join in!
For Females: English Only Cafe offers a Joshikai = ‘Girl’s Day Out English / Japanese Language Exchange’ every Sunday and Wednesday! This is a day where you can meet other females of different backgrounds who are either interested in speaking Japanese or are native Japanese speakers.
Girl’s Day Out is a great way to meet and befriend other females with the same interests! For more information about you can attend this event, check out their website!
“Easily find a language partner in your area”
SewaYou is a popular language partner finding app where you are able to find a language partner closest to you in your targeted language. To find a language partner, there is an interactive map where you can find someone closest to you.
After messaging a couple of people you are able to choose your own meetup place at a time that works best for the two of you to practice speaking the language you’re trying to learn. This is a perfect app for you if you’re looking to meet with a native within your area to do a language exchange!
The app is built with an interactive map that shows all of the language partners in your area who match the languages you are looking to learn. You are able to pin on the map your preferred meet up location without having your GPS location being tracked. So if you’re looking to meet up in busy, trendy areas like Shibuya or Shinjuku, you will surely find a language partner who is willing to meet there as well!
The app also gives you the ability to chat with others directly! There are built-in language tools like translation, message correction, voice message, and video call which allows you to smoothly converse with your partner. These features leave you with little to no gaps in understanding the conversation.
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 4/5
Each person on the app has a profile that gives you insight into the type of person they are, a brief description of themselves, the languages they speak, and their interests.
This gives you the freedom to choose someone who seems relatable to you and your interests. Starting a conversation is super easy and can easily help you find a partner that is just right for you!
You are also able to set your free time in the day to show others your availability. This gives others and yourself the freedom to pick and choose a day and time that works best for each other.
The interactive map is also super helpful in helping you find partners that are in the same area as you. To your benefit, this gives you plenty of opportunities to meet up and possibly get you a friend to explore Tokyo with! Definitely give this website a try if you’re looking to meet and make a friend in the area.
OTHER BENEFITS 3/5
You are able to message multiple people at once which allows you to find the right partner! This also gives you the flexibility to meet up with multiple partners as well! Having this accessibility will definitely help you make friends in Tokyo.
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“In my opinion, the Speaky platform looks great and modern. It’s nice to use it and everything is nicely laid out.”
Speaky is a language learning app that is available on iOS and Android devices. The user interface is very similar looking to iMessage which allows instant messaging and voice memos, emojis and pictures to be sent. Very similar to how HelloTalk and Tandem work, you are able to share your interests and passions and chat either through video calls, voice calls or directly from your browser.
While the community maybe a little bit smaller than HelloTalk and Tandem, you are able to see the total of people online and engage with others in over 180 different countries. This is an ideal app for you if you’re looking for a smaller community of people to find a language exchange partner.
Speaky shares a lot of common features with HelloTalk and Tandem! I would say it is more similar to Tandem where the only aspect that they do not feature is the community where people are allowed to post statuses and receive comments or feedback. I would definitely give this app a try since it is free for access to such an extensive community of language learners. You could meet and conversate with a lot of different people on the app!
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 4/5
Finding a partner on Speaky is just as easy as HelloTalk and Tandem where you are able to see who is online at the same time as you. You are also able to view a person’s profile which features a picture, a brief biography, interests, and languages that they specialize in. This allows you to find more about a person before engaging in a conversation with them.
Most of the community is pretty dedicated to language learning, unlike some apps where users are looking to develop romantic relationships or find friends to meet up with.
OTHER BENEFITS 2/5
To make the signup process a lot easier, you are able to link your Facebook account to the app and have that information transfer over to Speaky. This cuts down the time it takes to build out your profile with interests and pictures when looking for a language exchange partner.
“One thing I love about websites such as ConversationExchange.com is that they serve as reminders that language skills have value in the open market! It’s like a special kind of currency you can use to purchase other skills.”
Conversation Exchange is a free website where you are able to meet up with a native in your area for free and practice your targeted language! The website features 10 different languages where you are able to find a partner in your targeted language and message them. This website is ideal for you if you’re looking for a partner either through direct message, penpal, or video chat!
Conversation Exchange has a lot of different resources on their websites like tips, tutorials, and conversation topics that help you in your search for a language exchange partner on the site. These are super helpful in getting acquainted and in getting the most out of your language exchange experience!
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER 2/5
Finding a partner on Conversation Exchange is pretty easy where you can contact them as a penpal by exchanging formal message-like letters with a native. Or, you can also text, voice, or video chat with another person directly!
You are also able to find a language partner through the filters they have which include the languages they know, level, country, time zone, age, and type of exchange (face to face, pen-pal, or chat software). This option makes it hard to find a partner that shares the same interests as you. You are also not able to really know how the person looks like either since the profile contains very basic information.
On a brighter note, you are able to still converse and find a partner in 3 different modes which gives you more flexibility when finding a partner.
OTHER BENEFITS 1/5
Conversation Exchange also offers a lot of blog posts on how to learn languages effectively through their website or through alternate methods. They provide some resources that can help you as you engage on your journey to find the right language exchange partner.
“A great educational site where everyone is both a teacher and a leaner.”
The Mixxer is an entirely free, non-profit website hosted by Dickinson College and is open to anyone looking to practice with a native speaker in exchange for help with their own. It is designed to connect language learners worldwide so that everyone is both a student and a teacher. The website offers six languages, particularly Japanese and English, but many users can help learn other languages, such as Arabic and Korean. This is an ideal website for you if you are looking for more speaking practice!
FEATURES - 3/5
The Mixxer starts by having you create a user account listing the languages you speak and the ones you wish to learn through their service. You must also specify if you have a Skype account and whether you want to share it with the public.
Once logged on to your account, you can begin your search for users who can help you learn the language you are interested in, message or call them on Skype, and send them private messages through their platform. However, it is standard etiquette to just hop onto a Skype call without speaking to your exchange partner first. If a user you would like to talk to is offline, they will receive an email notification with your contact.
In addition to contacting individual users through Skype and messaging, you can post publicly accessible writings that any user from The Mixxer can go through and correct you on to improve your writing skills.
EASE OF FINDING A PARTNER/TEACHER - 3/5
As stated previously, this site was created by a Japanese teacher from a college in Pennsylvania, USA. On the one hand, this means that the website is run without a budget. However, this advantage can also be seen as a disadvantage. Because it is a small college website, it cannot attract millions of members or moderate users to behave ethically and professionally.
On the other hand, the website was created purely for the needs of language students, with no suspicious business goals to prioritize. There are even free conversation starters to help users structure their sessions productively.
Most users join with the enthusiasm to learn and teach others their languages in exchange for their education. They are dedicated to what they are learning. In this case, it is quality over quantity, and the people you will meet here are more motivated than most in learning a language.
If you see a person you would like to start an exchange with, you can connect with them right away and begin your conversation. However, if they are no longer online, you can send them a notification, which they will receive in their email. Or, you could always find someone else on the platform to talk to. While there is not a massive pool of learners on the forum, thousands of people use it every day!
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Instructors can connect with prospective students either using means of their own, search for teachers who are interested in doing a class-to-class exchange or use the event feature.
The event feature allows the instructor to create an invitation to a sign-up page on the Mixxer website, asking users matching a specific language profile if they would be interested in having a language exchange between their students at a particular given day and time. At the time of the exchange, the instructor will assign the registered native speakers to each of their students, who then call their assigned partner on Skype.
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Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Your Japanese Language Exchange
Japanese Language Exchange Tip 1: Recommended Japanese Language Level
Another wonderful thing about language exchange is that it is perfect for all language levels to use. You do not need to have advanced knowledge of the language, nor do you have to be a novice beginner. However, what is really important is engaging in a language exchange with a partner who is at the same level as you in your desired target languages.
For example, the best pairings are either two beginners learning each other’s languages and vocabulary or two advanced individuals learning more high-level stuff in regards to language and culture.
The most important rule in language exchange is to not engage with someone who has a more advanced or more basic level of language proficiency than you do. Studies have shown that when there is a noticeable difference between your language level and that of your partner’s level, conversations naturally lean towards speaking the language of the more advanced partner. This gradually becomes a more unfair and less educational exchange for the less advanced partner.
Always try to look for fair exchanges when you decide to pursue this option of learning. If you end up a little more advanced than your partner in your language level, please make sure that you give the other person in the exchange an equal amount of time to practice their desired language as well.
It is not bad for there to be a slight imbalance when it comes to your and your partner’s level of language. However, it is important to remember that this is a learning experience for both of you and that you should also motivate your partner to practice their language as well.
But, we recommend finding a partner with the same level of language knowledge as you, just to make the language exchange run a bit smoother.
Japanese Language Exchange Tip 2: What to Ask Yourself
The first step when deciding to use a language exchange platform is to ask yourself a few important questions to better understand yourself and the reasons why you are learning the target language.
Your preferences will play a huge factor during your whole language exchange interaction with your partner. It is essential you know the answers to these questions before proceeding so you can tailor the best learning experience you can to your desired methods.
One of the first questions you must ask yourself is why you want to learn the language. People who have a serious reason for learning a language are normally more dependable and motivated language exchange partners. Examples of serious reasons include moving to another country or using the language for work.
Less serious reasons would include wanting to meet new people or use the language for an overseas vacation. Understanding this question can help you find the right partner to meet the needs and desired language knowledge you would wish to acquire from the language exchange.
Another important question you must ask yourself is how much free time you really have to donate to learning a language. While using a language exchange makes learning a language faster and easier, by no means does that mean that it will take only a couple of days to learn! Learning languages is complex and takes a long time to do. The more time you can put down, the less time it will take to cut down that process. This also works the other way around as well.
If you cannot put aside a lot of time to sit down, learn, and engage in the language exchange, you will not pick up the language as fast as you would like. Depending on how much time you can invest in your learning, the time it takes to develop your skills can change drastically.
It is also important to ask yourself to list general preferences you already know that you have when it comes to your learning style. Are you visual or audio learning? Do you need structure or do you like taking your learning and going with the flow? Are you looking for speaking practice or do you prefer written messages? If you prefer speaking practice, would you rather have video meetings or meet in person?
Knowing your preferred method will help you choose the right website or app. For example, some websites list people’s cities, so you can easily make plans to meet partners in person. Knowing these key things about yourself will help enhance your learning experience before you even start your language exchange.
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Japanese Language Exchange Tip 3: Start Your Expectations With Your Partner
Once you understand what you are looking for in your relationship with your language exchange partner, it is important to communicate with them as well. Your partner cannot read your mind and neither can you! That is why communication is so important before you even start engaging in the language exchange.
Let your partner know about your needs and wants from the beginning. Let your partner know what kind of exchange you want, your availability, and your expectations. Explain to your partner things such as how long you would like meetings to be and how frequently you would like to meet. Discuss whether or not you would like to meet in person or online and if you plan to meet in person, decide between noisy places or only quieter places to meet.
Make sure that you have made the proper arrangements before you begin the exchange. For example, if you are using Zoom or Skype, then make sure the internet connection works. If your partner is in another time zone, make sure that the time is agreed upon and both you and your partner are aware of the time difference. However, remember to not be too rigid with your plans.
While you may want to meet in person every week on Tuesday, it is always good to offer other possible available times where you can meet. Every person’s schedule and life are different from each other and what you may want is something that your partner cannot do.
Your expectations on feedback is also a very important standard to set. Let your partner know how would you like to receive feedback. Some people prefer harsh and blunt call-outs for mistakes while others prefer to be told in a bit more of a softer tone. In these cases, make sure to let your exchange partner know how they can comment and point out your mistakes in writing and in speaking.
Expressing your expectations to your partner before you begin your exchange creates a higher chance of the interaction working out well. By setting these expectations, both you and your partner skip over the awkward stage of how to communicate and can go straight into starting the language exchange you wish to have.
Japanese Language Exchange Tip 4: Be Prepared With Conversations
Please remember that you are meeting up with someone who probably has a different culture and lifestyle to you, and you have probably never met before. If you do not come prepared to your exchange, things can either get awkward between you two pretty quickly or you could end up going around in circles, talking about the same mundane topics every single meeting that you have with your partner that does not challenge either of your language abilities or become boring to discuss.
It is common to run out of ideas of what you would like to talk about with your language exchange partner. It happens in normal conversation in your own language so it is safe to assume that the same can occur in a language exchange. However, this can kill the momentum of the conversation and eat away at your practice time.
Having more topics prepared and ready to go makes sure that you do not have to miss out on valuable practice just because you are drawing a blank. It will help prepare for any gaps in natural conversation and teach you how to feel comfortable holding a conversation on any topic which comes up.
Before starting your language exchange, create a whole long list of discussion questions, which can range from ‘what is your favorite childhood memory’ to ‘do you believe in global warming’ and any other topics you could think of in between. If you are only at a basic level of understanding of your desired language, it is best to focus on questions such as ‘who is in your nuclear family’ or ‘what do you do for a living’.
However, if you are at a more intermediate level of language, try to challenge yourself with more difficult questions so you can learn more words and phrases and offer a more unique experience for you and your language exchange partner. In addition, this will give you a chance to look up and research any related words to that topic or pre-write your own responses, whichever ones you know will take time to understand and curate a response.
Japanese Language Exchange Tip 5: Focus on Your Conversation
The fundamental thing that must be understood when engaging in a language exchange program or platform is that the main goal is conversational practice. As a result, it is important to let your partner speak freely, even if they make mistakes.
We recommend giving only one or two corrections after each piece of dialogue, not only to keep motivation and morale high but to make sure that the exchange does not make a rigid or nasty turn. Also, if you would like, you could correct your partner only if they are struggling to think of a word or cannot finish their sentence and are asking for help.
If your partner is trying to speak fluently, you should try not to disturb the tempo that you created through your conversation. It is important to just keep talking and let the mistakes happen. Mistakes are the stepping stones to success. It is impossible to learn a language without mistakes. Hence, your aim at such exchanges should be able to communicate rather than construct correct sentences.
The more you speak and listen, the more structure you will be able to apply. These are normal and okay; it is actually encouraged to make mistakes so that your partner can fix them.
It is your job and your partner’s job to correct the mistakes the other person makes. So, do not be afraid to make mistakes with your partner as well! Just make sure this is what your partner wants and believes as well.
It is important to remember that your relationship with your language exchange partner should be similar to a friendship. The whole concept of an exchange is to practice and have an informal conversation. Your partner can help you correct your pronunciation, accent, and vocabulary. Nevertheless, do not expect them to be able to teach you the finer nuances of grammar.
Language is all about communication and conversation. Communication can only take place when two people are engaging and exchanging ideas. Talking to people in language exchanges will sharpen your language skills and create great friendships. And it doesn't hurt that you get to learn Japanese culture along the way.
Japanese Language Exchange Tip 6: Find What Works Best for You
If your learning style is quick, easy, and cheap first-hand language practice, a language exchange program and/or partner may be the best way for you to learn a language. Language exchange has a lot of perks, but just as many drawbacks as well.
The super casual nature of a language exchange may mean that you might have a hard time getting the quantity or quality of language practice that you really need in order to improve. However, advantages and disadvantages aside, every language learner should attempt a language exchange at least once.
It is important to understand that a language exchange program is only one option out of the many that you can use to start learning a new language. After reading all of the information we have presented, it is okay to feel like a language exchange might not be the best option for you! You may even feel as if a language class fits your needs better and that is okay!
If you feel like a classroom setting is better suited for your learning style, you should take a look at classes held by Japan Switch.
Japan Switch offers online and in-person lessons as well as group and private lessons. They have a lot of options and choices to help you customize a course that works best for you, your learning style, and your schedule. Many of the options are not as expensive as offers from other language lesson companies as well, which still gives you a cheap option.
Good luck in your search for a Japanese language exchange partner! While reaching out to a stranger of completely different background and language may seem intimidating, know you're not the only one!
Japanese native speakers are also looking for partners to practice other languages like English, German, and more. So you're not alone in this journey!
Hopefully, this guide helped you in efficiently finding a Japanese language partner and in effectively improving your Japanese language studies!
If you're looking for other resources on how to further your Japanese studies, check out this extensive list of guides that may be useful.
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