by

japanese-language-partner

This is a request. No, it’s a plea. Consider this the voice of all the Japanese who wish they had a nice Westerner to practice their English with, but can’t. I’ve been talking to a lot of Japanese people about finding English-language partners, and there was quite a consensus… So much so I was able to create a little list. First, let’s see who these people are.

What kinds of people are looking for English-language partners?

Of course, when I say they are looking for English-langauge partners, most of them are willing to help you with your Japanese too. It’s a two-way street when it comes to language partners, right? You help them with their English, they help you with your Japanese, and everyone wins! Now, this isn’t an official poll, nor is it scientific, but these are the things I’ve noticed in regards to the types of people looking to practice their English.

The Overachieving Type: Most of the people who want English language partners are overachievers. I’m not saying this is a bad thing (it’s good, in fact!), but if you’re looking for a language partner you’re really going above and beyond. In the Japanese school system, English is very text-based. You learn how to read and write, and that’s about it. Listening and speaking get swept under the refrigerator, and isn’t so important for testing, which means people don’t really study it. Those that want to practice speaking and listening are doing so because they really want to learn English for the sake of learning English (and not for school). Thus, overachiever.

Girls Girls Girls! Maybe it’s the readership of my other blog, but it seemed like I was talking to a lot more girls than guys. Maybe it’s because girls are smarter? Who knows. It does seem like a lot more girls are looking for language partners than guys though. Something interesting I also found was that most of them tended to be younger (like high school / college), even though there is a huge amount of middle-aged Japanese women trying to learn English as well. I suppose it must be too embarrassing to do one-on-one interaction? The housewife crowd tends to learn more via website resource, television, cell phones, books, and casual learning schools.

How to Not find a Japanese Language Partner

As I was talking to people, I found that there were a lot of things that people didn’t like about language learning partners, and these are all things you can avoid to increase your success rate! Once again, no scientific polling or data happening here, just basing this off feedback and opinion.

creepy-dude

Don’t be hella-creepy: Especially with the girls. So many girls I talked to said that they were afraid of getting a language-learning partner because of all the hella-creepy Western guys trying to hook up with them over Skype, and whatnot. A lot of the Japanese who have never tried to do language-partner studying cited this as a reason why they haven’t tried, as well. This kind of stereotype is pretty prevalent, and it’s up to you to change it! If you’re a girl you’re at an advantage – there are way fewer of you (because you aren’t hella-creepy) and you are in higher demand. Most Japanese that want language-partners prefer a girl over a guy (Japanese guys included… careful, they might be creepers, though it’s not as bad from what I’ve seen).

Don’t push for personal info: The Japanese culture in general is pretty timid about giving out personal info. Mixi is a great example. On there, people very rarely put up their real picture, and it’s hard to find people’s actual names. There’s also the whole 2chan thing, where everyone is anonymous. The worst thing you can do is immediately ask for personal information and scare someone off. This can come off as being creepy, so take things slowly, cowboy (or cowgirl).

Don’t be shy! The Japanese are already known as being a pretty shy group of people. By being nice and outgoing, you’re making it easier on your language partner! Practice speaking your Japanese first, mess up a little, make them feel not so shy about trying to speak English (another notoriously hard thing to get a Japanese person to do). It’s a little extra effort, but if you can make your partner feel good about speaking English (and not embarrassed) you’ll have a much better time. Sometimes you have to pretend to suck to make the other person feel good.

There you have it – totally unofficial, unscientifically based data to help you have more success in your language-partnering endeavors. Best of luck to all of you! If you have any tips or tricks, please post them in the comments! And remember, don’t be a sketchasaurus-rex!

[image 1, image 2]

  • caughtredhanded

    You're definitely onto something here, you know. I did have a Japanese language partner (of course, it was a girl), and sometimes we would just sit there over Skype, not saying anything at all because she was too frightened to give even an inch. It did get to the point where we just said our goodbyes and parted ways because there just seemed to be nothing I could do to get her to say anything.

    Your post may be unscientific, but it's sure as hell right!

  • hino

    well ur so right ..!!!!!!
    i did have a Japanese language partner and as u said japanese r shy or i dont know what's wrong with him he never talk if i didn't but to be honest he help me lots with my japanese
    he answer all my Q but never talk about anything out language i have many Q
    about the culture too but he never answer if the Q wasn't about language .. :S

  • http://www.senshuu.com/ Sen

    I'm hella shy, especially when it comes to talking to people I haven't met face to face (text chatting is fine, TALKING is agghh) but I do want to find a language partner eventually. It's generally easier for me to be motivated when the other person is a good conversation-starter. Two shy people just can't get anywhere, lol. Common interest helps too. At least then I can get started.

    Good advice here.

  • http://nadiah.blogspot.com/ Nadia

    I'm currently teaching English to pre-school kids -university. (was kinda lucky to find them studying English in one place) I mean, not text book English, but rather talk to them, and help them doing their homeworks and stuff.
    I find that, these students never had to make sentences on their own. All they had to do is translate, translate and more translation. I wonder, if that is the way I learned Japanese, I wont be talking as much as I do now.
    The level of English that they are doing at least until Senior 3 was not easy at all! I'm having trouble figuring out those bombastic words that they use.. 困るわ~先生も分からないしさぁ!
    and yet, they can't speak. やっぱ、使わないと意味ないでしょ。

    ^-^””

  • ~H

    I've noticed that too. It's hard to find other married Japanese women to practice with. I'm female myself, and most of the Japanese people I meet online who want to talk to me/do language exchange are men. I had a bit of problem with this on Livemocha, actually, with random men trying to chat me up as if it were a dating service. Most of the Japanese men have been very polite and kind, though. Some of them are even quite outgoing and friendly. I'm just afraid my Japanese is going to start sounding masculine, lol.

  • Peehnut

    Do you know any Japanese people that want to learn Spanish?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Not as many… I maybe have met one a good 6ish years ago… It's mostly English, unfortunately. Korean / Mandarin might be second / third place is my guess

  • St

    “Sometimes you have to pretend to suck to make the other person feel good.”

    The basis of many abusive relationships :-)

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    It all makes sense now!

  • St

    Here are some tips for Japanese girls as to how to present yourselves if you want to find a palpatable (i.e. non-creepy) male English language partner:

    -You have a Japanese boyfriend.
    -You have never read manga, you never watch anime
    -You go to a university that suggests you are intelligent, but not toudai, because every manga/anime protagonist goes to toudai or falls in love with someone from toudai.
    -You wear baggy trousers. Do not wear loose socks or a school girl uniform. Do not show any skin.
    -You are more intellectually cosmopolitan than most Japanese language students coming to Japan to live out orientalist fantasies would want. You are actively interested in more opaque or high-brown aspects of western culture, like Husserlian philosophy or 1960's avant-garde theatre. If you prefer to go with Japanese culture, take hobbies that western boys in their twenties couldn't care less about, like tea ceremony or ikebana. You are not aspiring to become a geisha.
    -Avoid “amae” behaviour at all costs.
    -You have a big brother who is a gazillionth degree black belt in this or that and who is extremely protective of his little sister.
    -Chances of your language partner understanding 体よく断る are slim, so be curt.

  • St

    Sorry 'high-brown' should of course read 'highbrow'.

  • I Love Monkeys

    You're opinions are intriguing good sir. Correct; you have achieved a realm beyond human boundaries.
    Also, I think a lot of kids are learning the Japanese language for all the wrong reasons.
    nice pic btw lol

  • WeIdon

    I would like to be/have a language partner, but I should probably work on my japanese first, right? Oh, btw, I haven't given up on EduFire; MTurk is taking longer than I had expected…

  • Joaner

    Hey, is there any source that I can use to find a japanese partner apart from Mixi?

  • WOTDsctoo

    The hook picture is goooooold. I love it. XD

    And the content is pretty solid too, haha.

  • Facebook User

    I just looked at this today, after having my first language student yesterday, and realized that I'd done all of those things out of nervousness! Wow. At least I was doing something right ^_~

  • sleepytako

    Great post. I see those people here all the time. Ewwww~

    It reminds me of the greasy haired otaku who's hairy belly was always falling out from under his shirt in my study abroad group. He was always complaining about finding people.

    So don't be creepy, but also try to look nice. Even if you're sweating out a 2L bottle of water every hour–like me.

  • http://twitter.com/Riechanster Riechan

    I have 2 language partners ^^ One boy, one girl. They're both great, we never talked on skype yet tough … it's me who's scared and embarrassed talking Japanese :D This vacation I am going to spend more time studying Japanese and will be able to talk to them ! jeej!!!!

  • rainbowhill

    If you're a guy, without a doubt, the best language partner you cant get is another guy. There is rarely any confusion about your motivation so the relationship tends to be built on the understanding that you won't be hitting on your partner any time soon. You also won't end up sounding like a girl, or even worse sounding like a kawaii anime character. Guys will teach you guy stuff, how to sound rugged with out coming out too rough. They may even be able to give you better insights into the Japanese psyche, which of course will make it easier to understand girls, at least a little easy than next to impossible.

    You won't find guys in the normal places you find girls though, for obvious reasons. You may find them involved in sports, or board games. I found a disproportionate number of guy friends through YouTube and to a lesser extent, blogging and Twitter.

    In Japan the best guy friends I had were physical, and we routinely took the opportunity to throw each other in to the tatami at the dojo. Sometimes you've got to have a little pain to make some gains, even in learning a language.

  • burden_ataraxia

    How do you go about finding a language partner?

  • Leah

    How many Japanese people out there are wanting to get an English language partner, but don't care so much about teaching Japanese? I have language partners around the world, but they all help me with Spanish. I'm afraid of coming off as an otaku creepr if I'm not asking for help in exchange, even though I'm a girl.

  • Sammer

    Interestingly, when I was looking for a Japanese language partner, mostly girls and women tried to contact me and quite a few quickly lost interest and some even had other intentions as it turned out.
    When a female friend of mine tried to find a Japanese language partner with the same online resources, mostly men contacted her with similar results. :)

    It's quite hard to find a good language partner. Out of the dozen or so people I had contact with initially, I still have contact with only three, and one of those is my girlfriend. Don't judge me by that, it just happened. ;)

  • http://www.ieatmypigeon.wordpress.com IEatMyPigeon

    My friend – a man – tried to find a Japanese language partner. The idea was that it would be a language exchange. He ended up getting dumped by his (male) partner rather early on. The excuse? My friend was too advanced in Japanese. My other male friends who spoke very little Japanese and had female language partners never got dumped.

  • http://bridgetbeaver.blogspot.com bridgetbeaver

    well.. I went to a foreign language university here in Japan (a gaidai) and our campus was 70% female. Studies have shown that the females are more physically and emotionally adept at communicating than males. It's just science, man.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/CHESTERlikesSUBARU Chester_King

    SEXIST !

  • http://www.myspace.com/redbrainmatter YoyoKirby

    Ctrl+F and search for sype in this post.

  • Anon_chan

    Uhm… How exactly can someone be more physically adept at communicating?

  • Franzeska

    I don't like talking over the internet (or even on the phone), so I like doing in-person exchanges. (Luckily for me, I live in a big city where this isn't too hard.)

    All of that advice about not being a creep goes 1000x for in person exchanges. So does the gender ratio.

    In my experience, most of the Japanese men who come to the US are busy professionals who aren't spending their time on language exchanges. Their wives, however, are often hanging around the apartment with nothing to do or they have other, less time-intensive careers. There are also quite a few students, and they tend to be female. I can't say for sure why, but my guess is that academic guys get the most benefit from staying in Japan and pursuing a very conventional path to success. Women, whose career opportunities aren't as hot, are more likely to choose a less conventional program.

    The upshot is that there are lots of Japanese women looking for exchange partners around here. Every single one I have ever had has told me about getting deluged with creepy e-mails after advertising for a partner. (Maybe it's because I usually use Craigslist where all of the other ads are either personals or requests for coke dealers…) Not acting weird and creepy is important, but what really gets me is that it's clear that most of these cases weren't just miscommunication: the guys really were looking for dates and were fairly upfront about it. They were also often replying to ads that clearly said “NO GUYS”. Yeesh. I'm surprised anyone keeps posting ads after experiences like that.

    Here's my advice for using Craigslist: If you're female, you're all set (assuming you're in an area that has Japanese people).

    If you're a guy, you need to differentiate yourself from all the creeps out there. If you are gay, you can probably get away with responding to ads that specify “no guys!” (No, really, a lot of the people who say “women only” in half of their ads say “women and gay guys only” in the other half.) If you are straight and married or in a serious relationship, I would not respond to these ads. Instead, you should place one of your own, making it very clear that you are unavailable and are only interested in language study.

    If you're a single straight guy, you really, really need to differentiate yourself from the creeps. If you have any experience teaching or you have relevant degrees, that's a plus. If you've done exchanges before, that can also reassure people. Basically, anything that's true and that makes you sound more like a serious student should go into your ad. Avoid mentioning how much you “just LOVE Japan” or which parts of Japanese culture you're especially into. Yes, it's good to seem interested and respectful, but every ad I've ever seen that mentions this stuff manages to make the guy sound like a creepy weirdo who only wants to meet exchange partners who are fellow Kabuki geeks or something. It's not just anime: the same thing happens with just about any aspect of Japanese culture you mention. Listing your hobbies makes it sound like a personals ad!

    “I want to learn Japanese because ___” usually also ends up sounding like a personals ad unless the blank is filled with something like “Japanese is really hard and I am a huge foreign language nerd who likes a challenge. By the way, I have taught English professionally for ten years.”

    Things that *should* go in your ad: How often you'd like to meet, what part of town you can meet in, what times of day you're free, what kind of place you normally meet in or would like to meet in (aka Starbucks), the fact that you are not looking for a relationship

    Do not offer to meet in a bar! (Yes, this should be obvious, but apparently, a lot of the guys around NYC are confused about this.) Restaurants are also a bad idea. You should meet in a coffee shop or a public place with other people around where your exchange partner could leave quickly should they want to.

  • Franzeska

    There are plenty on Lang-8. (The ratio isn't in your favor, but the absolute number of people isn't bad.)

  • Franzeska

    You could try meeting people through lang-8 and then asking if they want to chat. I've never tried that, but I do correct a lot of people's English on there who don't speak languages I'm interested in, so I think there's less of an expectation that you necessarily have to be completely reciprocal.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Men are better at parallel parking, so take that!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    What? You don't use the step-child of sKype, Sype?? You're missing out man.

    [typo corrected, thank you!]

  • http://www.myspace.com/redbrainmatter YoyoKirby

    You should discuss talking etiquette. “omg baka daysu kawaiii~XD” 'Nuff said.

  • http://www.talktotheclouds.com/ Clarissa

    Kinokuniya sells a book called something like “Improving Your English in Japan” and it includes a whole list of “Don'ts” for language partners, which was just awesome. As I recall, it included not complimenting your foreign partner on his/her chopstick use and not asking them if they could eat sushi, haha.

    Anyway, formally or subtly setting a topic at the beginning of a session can help. Safe topics include food, vacations, weather, etc. Sometimes a conversation-starter is helpful, like a photo or a new phrase to teach (like the phrase “comfort food”). Having http://www.alc.co.jp and images.google.com on hand can be helpful if not overused.

    And no matter how much you're dying to talk about it or think it might stimulate conversation, it's better to not harass your partner with “controversial” topics like whaling or sexism and discrimination against foreigners in Japan. No matter how fair-mindedly you think you're approaching the topic, your partner will likely feel embarrassed and not want to bring up the topic in Japan. (This goes triple if you're discussing it in English in an English-speaking country, giving you a ridiculously unfair advantage.) Maybe later, when you're very good friends and your friend initiates the hard questions…

    As for finding a language partner if you're a guy, I don't have any advice other than to not be like the guy whose sign I saw at a local college–it specified “women only,” causing much twitching and uncomfortable laughter among the Japanese girls I was with at the time. He would have had more luck with them if he'd left it off (otherwise, he came across as a serious student).

  • Anon_chan

    How about just.. Everything involving vehicles. Ever. Except crashing them.

  • Beki

    I can totally relate to this. I myself have been searching for language partners in the U.S. especially through my university, where some of us have the advantage of being able to apply to be paired up with one. However there are few Japanese exchange students who actually participate in that program and out of the majority of those who actually apply, many of them are so shy they never set up a meeting once paired up. But not every student is so lucky to be paired up since there are so few to begin with. Anyway, this is my case exactly. I tried for several months to find a female language partner (since I am a girl and from what I understand the Japanese language seems to be some what gendered) and was having no luck. It seems at the time most of the girls who were willing to tutor or just practice speaking got snatched up by the boys first. So eventually I settled for taking anybody I could get. The first partner I was paired with was a guy. At first he seemed really nice and respectful so I thought it would not be so bad. After only the second meeting he started asking me personal questions like about dating and marriage and I noticed he was starting to hit on me. I figured if I try to practice Japanese with men they may end up trying to taking advantage of me and not actually trying to help me improve my speaking ability or their own. I gave up for almost a year looking for a conversation partner all together. Till one of my classmates told me about his Japanese friend who was not creepy and would be willing to help me. At first I turned the offer down because I thought its just not worth it. I thought it is would be too distracting if he turned out to be creepy. Eventually I accepted practicing with him through e-mail. For 3 months we communicated that way about general topics that were not personally specific. After about 3 months went by we finally met in person just to hang out and practice because both of us had nothing better to do at the time. Upon our first meeting to my surprise; I was immediately attracted to him! At the end of the night we hung out he asked me if I would like to hang out again the next day and I said yes. We met the next day and talked all day long and he told me he asked me if he could date me. I was insanely attracted to him (because he was super charming and not even remotely creepy) so I said yes. Now 2 and a half years later we are married!!! I guess that is why I can relate to this post.

  • riechan

    wow; that's a great story !!! :D And did you learn much Japanese … ;) ?

  • Sephasaurus

    Did you seriously correct yourself on such a ridiculous “typo,” if you even want to call it that? Wow.

  • manjitsingh

    hi iam manjit singh from india now a days i learn japanese and iwant to speak and write as well if any body teach some words me for dificult to catch mail me, manjitban@gmail.com iam waiting regards manjit singh

  • Chris

    hey im from germany and omg!! i love this site *__*

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  • Cameron

    Wait… I ended up dating my language partner…

    Hmmm…

    Better not tell the other creepy guys >.>

  • Mari

    I had a Japanese language partner once… He's a boy, I'm a girl. We Skyped several times… But the last time we Skyped… He kept asking me to buy a ticket to Japan so I could hook up with him. DX It was straaaange… And I was embarrassed. DX

    I didn't speak to him after that.

    I want a female partner!!!

    Do you know of any girls willing to practice with another girl? :(

  • Alex

    In my city, finding Japanese people is tough, and even when I do manage to find a partner, I always have to start over because they move back a semester or 2 down the road. I had 3 partners in the last year and only 1 is still in town. Finding a teacher was equally complicated. I'm at number 3 now. My previous partner wrote on Mixi for me and found someone who knew someone… and then that teacher also introduced me to another partner.

    Now, I'm 35. I'm married. I got kids. I've very serious about my studies and I'm NOT looking for a relationship. But I do realize in retrospect that even the girls who did agree to become my language partners were kind of scared of the implications of having a man as a language partner at first. Shouganai ne. I wanted to find a guy but there weren't any that were interested!

    Once you have a partner and you've somewhat established their trust, ask if they know anyone else who might be interested. Establish a network of Japanese connections in your area (even on Facebook).

    Another thing: I wonder if saying “I've been learning Japanese for X amount time” might sound less creepy or scary than “I'd like to learn Japanese because…”. If you sound serious, then it sounds like you're after the language opportunity, not an encounter.

  • cheru

    LOL. I have a friend who joined the Japanese club just to get Japanese girls. I don't know his real purpose but that is what I speculated. He would go in there and come out asking, “so did you see any cute one?” -_- and then, “I hope I get to partner up with a cute Japanese girl as my Japanese study partner.” -________-

  • http://twitter.com/untmdsprt Jenny

    I had the same problem. I had to keep dumping people who had a high level of English and didn't care about me speaking Japanese.

  • welcom2wondrlnd

    Hey, I am learning Japanese- I'm not very good yet! But I wouldn't mind talking to a Japanese person – help them improve their english, while I gradually improve my Japanese. I'm european (irish) so it wud be european english rather than american if that alright…

  • Haddie

    please please please can you tell me where (besides mixi) i can find a japanese-language-partner, i really need some one to practice my japanese on and i can help with their english!!!

  • Jenny

    I'd love to find people to practice Japanese with. I also get the mentally insane who are desperate or will talk to me like a complete idiot or a native Japanese. >_< Why is it so hard for people to lower their level to yours?

  • よくヂスをされる

    Frankly, as much trouble as most of you are having finding a language exchange partner, you probably don't have the problems an Asian-American guy has. Once some Japanese girl in my city (the Big Apple) responded to my ad (written in Japanese, stating that I am Asian-American) was eager to meet for language exchange after a few e-mails and a phone call. However, when I sent my photo so that she would be able to find me at the big cafe we were going to, I got a text message back a few hours later saying, sorry, but she didn't realize that I was of Chinese origin (I guess the word “Asian-American” must not be well-known among Japanese), and that didn't want to meet with someone of Chinese origin. Nice. It's not a stretch of the imagination to think that my low response rate has something to do with not being white. Well, there's not much I can do as I guess this attitude is common among Japanese, other than jettison the ones who have this attitude. Sometimes, even these types will do language exchange, but only as a last resort, I guess. This doesn't leave me with a lot of partners, though, unfortunately.

  • umiko

    lol i actually met my “language” partner after I moved BACK to America from Japan where I was on a year exchange program. He was a friend of a friend living here in America. I wanted to be able to keep up on the japanese that i had learnd and he had a good grasp on english already. Now a year and a half later we are married. and its still hard to get him to speak to me in japanese sometimes.

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  • Pingback: How The Japanese Address System Works()

  • http://www.japanesephrases.org/ Japanese phrases

    A lot of great advice. ST's was especially good for Japanese women.

  • Pingback: How To Get Into Mixi (Without A Japanese Cell Phone Email Address)()

  • midorigreenchan

    I'm an American-born Japanese and I'm a girl but I don't want to Skype cuz I'm not that great with talking to strangers…face-to-face. Kinda creepy. I speak English too, so I can help with both if you need me! maybe with AIM or something?(:
    私わアメリカうまれの日本人と女の子だけれどSkypeわしらない人と見てしゃべるのがすきじゃないの…なんか ブキミなの。え-語もしゃべれるから手伝いでもいるんだったら私にたの見なさい!!AIM わどうかなー?

  • midorigreenchan

    I'm an American-born Japanese and I'm a girl but I don't want to Skype cuz I'm not that great with talking to strangers…face-to-face. Kinda creepy. I speak English too, so I can help with both if you need me! maybe with AIM or something?(:
    私わアメリカうまれの日本人と女の子だけれどSkypeわしらない人と見てしゃべるのがすきじゃないの…なんか ブキミなの。え-語もしゃべれるから手伝いでもいるんだったら私にたの見なさい!!AIM わどうかなー?

  • http://www.sixsingles.com/search/girls-in-japan/ dating japanese girls

    @minda.. it is not fair..

    dating japanese girls

  • engynihon

    hi Koichi san ^^ お元気ですか
    here's my problem … i have been STUDYING English for about 15 years now, i am just okay with it though , i wonder if that is a big problem itself, since it's not my tounge lang. when i talk in english with a japanese language partner i feel a little scared myself, and keep checking english garammar and stuff all going into my head cuz i don't want him/her feel disappointed hmm is it a problem ??
    よろしくお願いいたします

  • engynihon

    what a wonderful story ^^ wish u happy marriage

  • Ketrikken

    I met my Japanese language exchange partner through the internet site meant especially for seeking someone for that purpose (it's really a great resource, though limited only to Germany residents). She is a young housewife, and at first I was afraid we won't have anything in common but it turned out great. We've been meeting up regularly for almost half a year now, and she is as much passionate about learning English, as I am about Japanese. Ironically, I was expecting her to be shy and introverted but she turned out to be much more outgoing than me and also, shockingly, she is not reserved about more or less personal topics.

  • http://twitter.com/onceuponajooks Matthew de Verteuil

    Citation? Good luck with finding one based on scientific evidence. The purpose of communication between men and women may differ, but the ability to do so is the same regardless of sex.

    You might find studies that “suggest” or “imply” these findings. The majority of them are likely based on pseudoscience or conjecture. These “studies” you refer to are likely produced by feminist-interest groups who prefer to push a social agenda over scientific discovery.

    Don't slander the good name of the scientific method with your drivel, thanks.

  • Jonathan

    Hi Engynihon,

    I can completely relate to what your saying. I'm an English speaker learning Japanese. At first, it was really easy to try and speak Japanese because even if I completely messed up, no one seemed to care and everyone was very patient. Now, it's been about 5 years since I started and I feel like I'm going in circles at times. I have a hard time saying things because I am embarrassed that my level is so low even though I've been doing this for quite some time.

    The times when I feel that I'm doing well is when I have a partner that doesn't care about all the mistakes, as long as they can understand what I'm saying.

    I think you need to just talk and let yourself make mistakes. After 15 years, you really can't worry about those things anymore otherwise you will never get anywhere!

    Good luck!

  • Jonathan

    Hi Engynihon,

    I can completely relate to what your saying. I'm an English speaker learning Japanese. At first, it was really easy to try and speak Japanese because even if I completely messed up, no one seemed to care and everyone was very patient. Now, it's been about 5 years since I started and I feel like I'm going in circles at times. I have a hard time saying things because I am embarrassed that my level is so low even though I've been doing this for quite some time.

    The times when I feel that I'm doing well is when I have a partner that doesn't care about all the mistakes, as long as they can understand what I'm saying.

    I think you need to just talk and let yourself make mistakes. After 15 years, you really can't worry about those things anymore otherwise you will never get anywhere!

    Good luck!

  • Pingback: What A Police Negotiator Can Teach You About Learning Japanese()

  • engtojap^_^

    So where do you find language partners anyway? I just tried skype with no success. It seems there is no one online….ever! I am 28 and speak english fluently and would like to talk with someone in Japan. Any recommendations on where to find people to practice with, what software i should be using, etc? Thanks.

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    I'm hella shy, especially when it comes to talking to people I haven't met face to face (text chatting is fine, TALKING is agghh) but I do want to find a language partner eventually. It's generally easier for me to be motivated when the other person is a good conversation-starter. Two shy people just can't get anywhere, lol. Common interest helps too. At least then I can get started.

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  • LittleGreen

    I really liked this article! I have never looked for a language partner myself, because when I was in Japan I gave private lessons in Finnish and had made a lot of Japanese friends anyways. But I did get to follow my fellow exchange students' episodes with language parnters. In the university I went to, they had a program for language partners that allowed for languages other than English, and paired people with similar interests.

    The thing is, the majority of people studying languages are female. That has nothing to do with whether girls or boys are more apt in languages, but it's just a fact that any language faculty consists mostly of women. That means most of the people looking for language partners are also women. That's good for the guys looking forward to being paired up with Japanese girls, but not so good for those who'd like to meet guys to learn guy things.

    Anyways, it is also my experience that in much the same way that Western guys want Asian girlfriends, Asian girls want Western boyfriends so that they can brag to their friends! I think that also contributed to the amount of girls participating in the program and hanging around in the international lounge, talking to guys. Especially the German boys were always surrounded by girls. Of course, being Japanese, they don't want a creepy dude, but if you're a nice, normal guy and don't come off too aggressive, you have great chances of actually getting a girlfriend! (As my exchange happened years ago, some of these people are married with their former language partners!) However, it should never be the aim of the language pairing to get a boy/girlfriend.

    And yes, just like some other girls have experienced, we also need to be careful of the “polite and reserved” Japanese men, although it is a little less likely than Western men going for Asian women. I had to stop teaching some students, because they seemed to think it was a good way to get a girlfriend.

    Either way, I'd recommend getting a language partner of the same sex, for the simple reason of Japanese being a gender-specific language. Girls don't want to sound too manly and boys don't want to sound too girly! The best way for this is trying to make Japanese friends, that way the conversations will come naturally. This, of course, isn't always possible if you live outside Japan, although I've noticed I end up finding Japanese people even in the middle of Finnish countryside…

  • Rsm3180

    midori, I would like to take you up on that offer actually. I'm studying Japanese in college this coming fall because it contributes to my career goals, I've been doing some self study for over a year now when I have time. I'm also trying to learn Korean and that has been my main focus, but I think having a reliable language partner for this fall would go a long way in improving my language speaking skills. I am male, no I'm not interested in hitting on you. I'm only interested in what I can learn so your safe, no creepy otaku here. ( Anyone else that reads this with strictly learning purposes in mind feel free to reply as well, male or female.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/editapps.php#!/profile.php?id=745604179 Rsm3180

    My contact for serious language exchange only. http://www.facebook.com/editapps.php#!/profile….

  • Attila

    Great place to find a language partner is http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/ I just recently made an account on there and in my first week I had a dude from japan message me, and yesterday we talked on skype for the first time! It wasn't awkward at all, hes a really cool dude and his english is a lot better then my japanese. I def recommend this website

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    Those that want to practice speaking and listening are doing so because they really want to learn English for the sake of learning English .

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J7HI5L4LRHW5756PRFS3JBY57Y Ingvar

    Hi i need some feedback for my site. Its supposed to be a good place for finding a serious language or skype partner. Where you can write a bit about yourself and (soon) also be able to write reviews about people youve met there.. it a work under construction but what do you think?
    http://linguar.com

  • N/Anickname

    I sure as hell need a language partner. I think I’m actually going in circles when learning Japanese, too much input without output makes my little Japan go round in circles without me getting anywhere! Thanks for the great post Koichi !

  • Hullooo

    I have the same problem right now! My language exchange partners end up speaking English all the time, so I don’t benefit. I’m going to start dumping them too.

  • UKChan

    Great comment! I have been on language exchanges with “polite and reserved” Japanese men. The biggest problem I’m experiencing with them is that they don’t show their feelings, so after the 10th language exchange, I get some extreme indication of their interest, e.g. emails that say “lets go away together for the weekend” or “I know a great love hotel we can go to.”

    It’s only then that I realise the language exchanges were “dates” in their mind. I’d say that’s MORE creepy than the Western guy who hits on you the first time you meet him. At least you can say no, and move on…

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  • Johnrabeisi

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001148862711 Anke Meiering

    I hope some of them want to learn German :)

  • Zezen

    A great article, Koichi! I have found it by googling the keywords.
    I have also read the comments. I have not realized that a simple language exchange could be such a touchy subject…

    First of all – there are some double standards at play here ;). A sizeable number of you mention “creepy” language partners, of whatever sex they may be, and then end up marrying exactly the type of person that you had been trying to avoid. At least you take it in a stride and write about it – it helps.

    But more to the point – pure language exchange and advice to the seakers of language exchange partners. I have tried Lang-8 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lang-8) and http://www.language-exchanges.org/ for that purpose. Couchsurfing.org and their local meeting is also a great place to hook up with a willing expat.

    (No, I have no commercial interest in any of them, I am but a user – and my account there is zezen, in case somebody wanted to exchange their Japanese for, say, Polish.) Ciao!

    A Pole

  • http://www.jgeeks.com/ JGeeks

     This post is right on. I was tutoring a Japanese girl once and couldn’t for the life of me get her to speak. She was exceedingly bright and aced the grammar tests I gave her — but could barely say more than one or two words. My Japanese wasn’t so good at the time either — might have helped if I could have spoken more, with some of those intentional mess-ups.

    Any thoughts on how to start one of these conversation practice sessions (once you have a partner, I mean)? Or tips for when you get stuck?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Hard to say since it depends a bit on the person, but things like bringing prepared topics (and emailing them beforehand letting them know what topics you’re covering, is probably good) help a ton… gets rid of the ‘what should we talk about I dunno” issue, and if you warn them ahead of time they can at least study a bit beforehand… you could even create a list of vocab words for the particular subject, which would give them direction and things to prepare for conversation practice.

    That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head. If all else fails, there’s always a beer or two to get the embarrassment out of your systems! :D

  • http://twitter.com/soundtrip2011 Meg

    I like the idea of preparing a list of topics and vocabulary and emailing it to your language partner beforehand. I met with a Japanese girl from the language school I go to and it was awkward because we had no idea what to talk about. The questions I asked her were the ones she either didnt have an idea about or was not interested at all. :(

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  • ram

    hi am frm india …i need a good language partene for me..any body theer….pls cntact me…..007.ramasubbu@gmail.com….frnds……..

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  • Sandy

    I see this is quite an old post, so maybe too late to comment, but I found it very interesting. I’ve been learning Japanese for only a few months, but I’m itching to practice conversation and wondering when is the right time to start looking for a language exchange?

    Too soon and the conversation will dry up after the most basic exchanges, I imagine. How long did everyone else wait before starting an exchange?

    My Japanese class is frustratingly basic. The other students will only use Romaji, and the level of conversation I can engage in with the other (English) students is really limited. So I’ve been going to the local Japanese supermarket every week just for the chance to say the occasional ありがとうございます or すみません (in between practicing reading the labels)! I should really not be using my local supermarket as a learning centre, should I :)

  • Jonobugs

    Sandy, this topic is ongoing, so even though it’s old, it’s still relevant.

    I’m not sure if my advice is any use for you but I do have loads of experience as I live in Japan.

    I think the first and foremost thing you need to do is to find an exchange partner that you have something in common with. That is probably just as important as finding one at the right level. Unfortunately, it’s not easy! がんばっれ!

    There is nothing wrong with getting practice at your supermarket (if they speak Japanese). Why not try something a bit more challenging? Ask where they keep a product, or ask them ABOUT a particular product. This will require some research and study on your part as you will need to make sure you can at least ask the question properly. Don’t be shy about it. Most people are very generous when it comes to this sort of thing and you have a somewhat ‘captive’ audience as the workers are there to help you. You won’t find a better audience than that.

    Good luck!

  • http://twitter.com/tongueoutnet Tongue out!

    Try this language exchange network http://tongueout.net/

  • bill

    haha. Most of the Japanese girls looking for language partners are in fact looking for boyfriends. It is only “creepy” if they don’t like the guy. I refused to have girls as language partners since they were flaky, neurotic, unwilling to speak Japanese and always looking for romance. You could tell this article was written by a nerdy guy since he tries to white knight and act like these girls are innocents just looking to practice English.

  • http://www.mybrillgamesite.com/ RyanfaeScotland

    “will make it easier to understand girls” – HA, as if this was possible in any language!

  • 希夢

    I think it’s fine to find a language partner and talk to them. I’m shy so I usually only IM them but I’ve had over 20 people from http://www.japan-guide.com that I’ve talked to and if they’re being flirty or whatever I just ignore them. I just casually talk to them. For some reason guys are easier to talk to than girls even though I never talk to guys in the real world o.o
    Also, I usually suck at starting conversations in English but it’s easier in Japanese. I don’t feel as shy writing in a foreign language. Possibly because the writing script is so different and my brain doesn’t really process what the other person thinks of me xp
    FYI, I’m a girl.
    Native language: English.