It is well known that Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. In addition to the three distinct writing systems, Japanese is also what linguists call a “high context” language, meaning social context greatly impacts how people communicate. For these reasons, it can be especially challenging to learn when and what to say in Japanese depending on the social situation.
One of the best ways to navigate these social and cultural elements of Japanese is through language exchange. A language exchange is when you team up with a native Japanese speaker and take turns learning each other’s language and culture. Language exchanges were traditionally done in person, but the rise of Jananese language exchange apps like HelloTalk has made language exchange possible from the comfort of home.
Benefits of Japanese Language Exchange
Practicing Japanese with a language partner is a proven way to grasp the language. Practicing real conversation with a native speaker lets you learn how the language is spoken and expressed in everyday life.
One major benefit to language exchanges is they combine learning and socializing. Many language partners end up striking a strong friendship. After all, what’s not to like about having more friends in different places around the world? Not only can you look forward to the delicious food and stunning scenery Japan has to offer, but also the chance to meet your new Japanese friends!
Another added benefit of language exchange is you get exposed to different world views. Perhaps you and your language partner share similar interests and hobbies. It can be fascinating to discover how these shared interests are perceived between your culture and Japanese culture. What is the same and what is different?
Finally, learning a language with someone else is fun and motivating. By bringing enjoyment to the language learning process, you’ll be more likely to reach your goals!
How to Start a Language Exchange with Japanese Partners?
In this guide, we’ll go through five steps for a successful Japanese language exchange.
1. Find the right partner
Finding the right partner can make or break your language exchange. Here are some recommendations to find the perfect language partner and get you learning Japanese in no time:
1.1 Shared interests
Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time communicating with your language partner. It is often easier to find topics to discuss and generally more interesting when your language partner has similar interests and hobbies to you. These shared interests act as common ground and can help you build a lasting friendship with your language partner. Language exchange platforms like HelloTalk do the hard work for you and help find suitable language partners for you with their smart pairing algorithm.
An effective language partner will take the time to listen to you speak and offer helpful corrections. Patience will go a long way in not just helping you improve your Japanese but also making the learning process fun and stress-free.
If you’re in Japan already, then it is important to find a language partner who has a similar schedule as you do. If you’re going the free route and using the internet for a language exchange, then it is important to think about time zones to determine when is the best time to meet with your Japanese language partner. There are a bunch of helpful websites to quickly calculate the time between cities and countries. Language apps like HelloTalk also include helpful features to find a convenient time to have a language exchange, including scheduling and synching language exchanges to your calendar, and status updates showing your language partner’s time zone and whether they are currently online or not.
2. Plan it out
Planning ahead and giving your language exchange a bit of structure will greatly improve your learning experience. You can opt to split your exchange into two halves. One period for Japanese practice and another for English practice. Or perhaps you can dedicate the entire session to one language and alternate each session. Having some topics or concepts you want to talk about ahead of time can also help you and your partner get the most out of your language exchange.
3. Learn some key phrases before your exchange
It is essential to learn a few key phrases. These survival phrases can help you express yourself when you need help or want to clarify what you have learned. Here are a few examples:
- “Could you please repeat that?”
- “Is that correct?”
- “Would you mind saying it again slower”
- “How do you say X in Japanese?”
- “What is another way of saying Y?”
- “What does Z mean?”
4. Ask for corrections
In life and language exchanges, mistakes are the best teachers. Learn to be OK with making mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or corrections. A great language partner won’t interrupt you but will naturally share the correct way to communicate. Here is an English example of a native speaker showing an English learner the correct expression without disrupting the flow of the conversation:
Learner: Hey, how was weekend?
Native English Speaker: Great! The weekend was so much fun. How was your weekend?
5. Practice makes perfect
Learning doesn’t stop when the exchange ends. Keep practicing. Write your to-do lists in Japanese and expand your vocabulary. All these new words and expressions can be used in your next meeting with your language partner. See if you can impress them with your new vocabulary and get more feedback on the nuisances of how to use those words like a native speaker.
Join HelloTalk Language Exchange and Learn 150+ languages for Free
HelloTalk is the world’s #1 language exchange app and home to a global community of language learners and culture lovers. One of the largest language groups is Japanese with millions of native Japanese speakers. Join over 35 million people from 190 countries who’ve made HelloTalk the hub for language and cultural exchange. Find language partners and practice with native Japanese speakers for free through text, voice, or video. The app also includes self-paced lessons, instructional livestreams, and intuitive language tools such as translation, transcription, and transliteration to get your language journey on track! Download the free app today at HelloTalk.