When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter? In Japanese? SLOWLY, a free mobile app, will help you find a pen pal to write to in a variety of languages, including Japanese. No stamps or visits to the post office necessary. All letters are sent through the app itself, but not instantaneously — slowly, as the app name suggests.
Although writing letters in Japanese can be a daunting task, not to mention to more or less a complete stranger, I felt safe finding a pen pal on the app, with its strict ground rules and security features. I created a nickname, customized an illustrated avatar, and chose topics I want to (and do not want to discuss) in my letters. As for language skills, you can list all the languages you're comfortable writing in, and what level you are at, from "Interested" and "Beginner," all the way to "Fluent" and "Native."
SLOWLY is a wonderful way to practice putting your thoughts into Japanese — without the hassle or expense of postage stamps, or the stress of email.
You can choose to have the app automatically match you with people, or you can turn off that setting and find people on your own. I was able to narrow down other potential letter writers by language, topics, region (country), age range, gender (women, men, non-binary) and even astrological sign. I was surprised and delighted to find and read the profiles of Japanese writers of all levels from around the world, not just in Japan. I found two people who sounded compatible with me, and sent each of them a letter in Japanese.
A week after I wrote and sent the letters, I got a notification that a letter in response was on its way. I eagerly awaited the letter's arrival. Once it arrived, it was a little hard for me to look up words I didn't know on my phone. Using SLOWLY's web app, though, made it a lot easier for me to select and copy words that were new to me and also draft my response.
For intermediate to advanced learners who want to hone their writing and reading skills in a social setting, SLOWLY is a wonderful way to practice putting your thoughts into Japanese — without the hassle or expense of postage stamps, or the stress of email. Bonus points for an app that incorporates endearing illustrations and cute design. In a world of endless group chats and video calls, having a pen pal from another country to write to every few weeks has been educational in more than just language learning. For more tips on writing letters in Japanese, read our guide.