How to find the perfect language partner: 10 life hacks
Many complain that you will not find an adequate and sociable language partner during the day. Sound familiar? I will gladly share with you the secrets of finding a foreign friend for communication.
This article is more focused on italki, but other platforms are generally similar in functionality. I often cite the Chinese as an example, and two out of ten pieces of advice are given purely for them.
I will also clarify that the essence of these life hacks is competent "face control". This is more suitable for popular languages, where your main difficulty is to choose good and interesting interlocutors among the crowd of foreigners thirsty for communication :)
But I believe that you will find a couple of useful things from this list anyway :)
1. Make sure the person appears online
Choose a platform that shows when a person last visited their page. On some it is not indicated, and you may write in vain to people who have not appeared there for a year or two.
Italki lists this information. From my experience: there is no point in writing to people who visited the site 1-2 months ago. Maybe they will come back someday. But you need it now!
2. Choose profiles that are complete and seem interesting to you personally
By the way, it is also better to fill out your profile and describe in detail what you expect from communication. Even if you prefer to take the bull by the horns and actively search, your completed profile will generate more interest from those to whom you write.
I do not write to those who did not bother to tell about themselves in their profile. Maybe they are actually interesting personalities, but if there is an opportunity to choose (and there are a lot of Chinese on any platform), then I will find the right person much faster through hard screening.
I try to look for those who write in their profile: "I only need serious language partners who will communicate regularly." You have no idea how many people are hammered into language exchange after the first contact. Not even because they didn't like you. They are corny lazy.
3. Avoid those who learn the language "for fun"
If a person's profile states that they are studying your native language, this is not always the case. Quite often there are such people: “someday I would like to learn Russian” or “I studied English a year ago, now I quit” and so on. And this important point is not written in the profile!
This is normal. C'est la vie. There are few people who study the language seriously and steadily. So mentally prepare yourself for the fact that your language exchange partners will fall off for good and not very good reasons.
Signs that a person is actively interested in language exchange:
he writes texts for verification in a notebook (this is on italki)
he checks and corrects the texts of other people (most likely, this person is responsible and patient)
he asks questions about the target language or answers questions about his native language.
By the way, when you yourself write texts in a notebook, the correcting ones then often knock on friends.
4. You must match the level of language proficiency
Look at the language level - you must have at least 1 common language that you both speak well (this can be English as a common language or the native language of one of you). Ideally, of course, in both languages for exchange, the level would be sufficient for communication at least on simple topics.
Yes, you can start when you are a beginner. But be prepared for the following: if you and your partner are both beginners, then either you will mainly communicate in a third language, which both know well, or your language partner will take over the lion's share of the practice.
Sometimes it’s not bad - when my Chinese was very weak, I just wrote simple phrases, asked, "how can I say this?" and learned about culture (the common language was English).
Important: if a person is a complete zero in the target language, then your language exchange can end very quickly.
Firstly, in this situation, he will receive little language practice. Secondly, many beginners hope that a language partner will chew on the alphabet, pronunciation and help them get a quick start in the language.
But you are not a teacher and should not take on this role (and do not, unless you want to practice on cats). Such an exchange has chances only if your language partner is already skilled in learning languages and does a lot on his own or with a teacher / in a group. Then everything will go smoothly - you will just be additional help for each other.
5. Don't just write "hello" or "let's be friends"
Are you familiar with the situation when a stranger knocks on your friends in contact and at the same time does not write anything? You are perplexed: what does he want? Okay, I see that we have mutual friends / interests, but what next?
It's the same here. It is clear that the person is being added to friends for language exchange. But to immediately show yourself actively interested in communication, you need to write a little about yourself and your interests, the level of language and plans for communication (“I have a chat, we can correspond,” “I would like to call on Skype on weekends,” etc. ).
6. Agree on the format of communication ashore
People have a lot of different expectations for language exchange. In order not to be disappointed in the future, discuss this point in advance.
What makes sense to ask a potential partner for communication:
how often you will communicate;
whether you will call and / or correspond in the chat;
how much time will you devote to each language (usually 50/50 or 60/40);
whether you will communicate informally or want to be real teachers for each other (the second option is used less often and is usually analogous to "an average teacher leads you through the textbook");
what topics do you want to discuss;
whether you will agree on topics in advance or choose them on the spot;
whether it is possible for you to correct each other's mistakes and how many (usually mistakes are either not corrected, or only the most gross ones are explained).
When you have agreed on everything, it would be good to find out about the person's free time. Decide if you will communicate on specific days or spontaneously.
These issues are discussed in more detail in the article How to get the most out of language exchange with a native speaker.
7. Write to 7-10 different people and don't be limited to 1 language partner
You have already understood that people are just people: they will forget about communication, be distracted by the ebullient offline, just stop being interested in the language. Therefore, depending on your free time, choose several language partners for yourself so that your foreign language practice “does not stand idle”.
And to find one good companion, you have to write at least 5-7 people. Some of them will ignore you, some will turn out to be uncommunicative, with someone they will not coincide in their free time or interests. Remember: "anyone who wants to find gold will have to go through more than one river."
8. Consider dialects
Of course, this is not a critical issue in all languages. But in a language as popular as Chinese, this is very important.
See the place of residence. Find out where the person is from. Southerners can speak with a noticeable accent. Some of them speak Cantonese as their mother tongue, and they know Mandarin because they have to know it. Mandarin speakers are still preferred.
Consider traditional hieroglyphs. They are used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. If your choice is simplified hieroglyphs, and the level is still far from high, then communication will not take place. It is very inconvenient to correspond, the “alien” set of hieroglyphs hurts the eye and gets in the way.
9.It's easier to connect with English speaking Chinese
The Chinese, who speak English well, have a lot of contact with foreigners from the West and have a better understanding of the Western mentality. They are more relaxed and better at making contact. They have delved into the culture of Western communication, so there are fewer awkward moments with them.
You may be outraged that I am just too lazy to understand their culture, and in general, "if you love the language, love their country with all its cultural characteristics."
Yes, encounters with unadorned culture can be more interesting and original than refined communication "in the Western manner." But over and over again you come across people with whom you cannot find a common language (figuratively speaking). You just want to communicate, just practice the language, but you cannot decipher human behavior.
Why did he answer that way? (for example, answered “yes” to the question “First option or second”)
Why is he telling me this? (complains about English homework - hints that I can help?)
You can ask again a hundred times, you can ask questions head-on (and then feel embarrassed if it turns out that you said something incorrect), but you just want to speak your foreign language, and not play games.
It's up to you to decide what you want for yourself. But I warned you about the pitfalls of the "neo-European" Chinese.
10. Don't limit yourself!
I don’t know about you, but many of my language partners believed that a language exchange was messaging on the platform you met. Or even e-mail correspondence.
The truth is, the exchange will be the way you want it. You want to be in touch regularly. The Chinese use WeChat - great, install WeChat. They will communicate more often and more willingly on their native platform than on some Skype or VK. Brazilians love Whatsapp. Ask your foreigners where it is more convenient for them to communicate.
Don't like audio and video calls? Great, look for those who only agree to correspondence. This can be a conversation of interests. These can be answers to questions in the style of "How to correctly say ...?" or "Tell me about this holiday of yours."
Not sure what to talk about? Chances are that your new friend will have a hanging tongue and suggest a topic for conversation. But themes can be prepared in advance. This is also useful when you cannot give spontaneous comments in a foreign language.
You don't have to choose clichés like "holidays", "cultural features", "work". What you want - talk about that. I'm serious, some people are afraid that they have to adhere to a serious, academic format ("this is STUDY"). Nothing like this! You have complete freedom of choice!
Little time? You don't have to communicate every day, or even every week. Just arrange it in advance (see point 6).
I have catastrophically little time, and we talk with one Chinese woman once a week for an hour. We have allocated a specific day and time, call up for an hour and chat for half an hour in Chinese, half an hour in English. I have a second language partner, with whom we communicate with "raids", spontaneously.
Can't find anyone on italki? Try other platforms. When there were almost no Swedes on italki, I found them on Speaky. Other major sites are Conversation Exchange, InterPals, MyLanguageExchange.
What tips for successful searches for language exchange have you collected?
Please share if you have any unusual difficulties in finding a language partner (super-rare language, closed or unfriendly foreigners, etc.)? Have you found ways to get around these complications?
Friends, this topic is important, share your opinion!
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