In my specific case, my Korean language journey didn’t really take off until I made my first Language partner. Despite not being able to create even simple sentences at that point, it really took off faster than I ever could have imagined as soon I started talking with Korean people every day.
For quite a while now, I have noticed so many people struggling with finding a good language partner. Not because there aren’t any, because with a little WiFi access you can find plenty of people in a short amount of time. It seems like there is just more and more language learners out there who are giving up because they either don’t get properly along with their partners, because they get overwhelmed by the amount of crazy people out there or because their partner just disappears or simply end their contact.
Seeing how much language partners and Korean friends have helped me during the last year of studying, I really feel sad when I see people give up on this amazing resource, and since I too have met my share of weirdos and felt my share of disappointment, I thought I would make this post to help out and give some advice to those who feel discouraged, as well as maybe explaining some of the reasons behind these problems. Let me just start out with a warning and a disclaimer. This post will be one of my longer ones and as with anything else I post on my blog, this is 100% my own experiences and they might not help you at all.
When I first joined HelloTalk to search for language partners I was extremely lucky from the very first day, and if I hadn’t been so lucky, I might have given up like many other learners. On the very first day I wrote a message to a girl on my age and we immediately got along. We still talk today even a year after, though not as often as in the beginning. Just a few days later I was contacted by another person whom I consider one of my closest friends today. Unlike many people, it took me a while to discover all the odd people ㅎㅎ
Anyway, as mentioned earlier it seems to me that many people are giving up because they either don’t get properly along with their partners, because of the crazy people or because their partner just disappears or simply end their contact. So what’s up with all of this?
Well first of all, there’s crazy people everywhere and the chances are that you will probably run into quite a few of them. By crazy people I mean everything from people who wants your contact information even though you just met, people who wants to date and so on. I even had a random man propose to me in his second message as well as French person who practically bombarded me with French messages despite the fact that I made it very clear that I don’t speak French at all. However these people aren’t really that big of a problem in my opinion. They usually accept it when I turn them down and those who doesn’t, goes away after ignoring them once or twice. If you are super unlucky and they just won’t let you be, then remember that you always have the option of blocking them.
I know that writing all of this probably just makes some of you guys feel even more worried about language exchange, but it really doesn’t happen that often. I just want to make sure that you all have considered this part so that you can overcome the problem a lot easier, without being surprised or shocked. Once you have prepared yourself to the craziness you can move on and think about how you personally want to handle these situations and thereby move on from these episodes faster.
The next thing I want to talk about is when you get ignored. Either from the very beginning or after talking for a while. This is definitely the problem I hear the most about and I think this is one of the biggest struggles to overcome.
The first and most important point about this: DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY! There can be so many reasons for this to happen and if you take it personally every single time, then online language exchange will be nothing but self-torture. I really can not stress this enough! Got it? Okay then.
As for the reasons. First of all, not everybody is as serious about language learning as you are. Some people sign up because they find the idea/concept to be brilliant, but they don’t really feel like actually using it. Think of it as a diet. Signing up for a certain program seems like a brilliant idea but after a week or two, your interest might have disappeared completely. The same happens for many people on apps like HelloTalk, and there’s simply nothing to do about it. Another reason could be that they just don’t feel like they match with your personality. This is also something that you just can’t change and you can’t really blame them either. I agree that being ignored sucks when they could just tell you the reason, but some people just really hates to be honest in that way, and therefore find it easier and more comfortable to just stop answering. A tip for this could be to carefully read the self introductions from your new possible partners, and then think about whether you would match or not. Most people only write a sentence or two, so this might be really difficult in some cases, but it is definitely better than searching blindly, right?
Another reason that I noticed very often in my own cases as, well as I have gotten confirmed from a few language partners, is that the amount of your replies depends a lot on your first message. In my case, when I write the first message to someone in English, I have a bigger chance of getting a reply, than if I write in Korean. Not because of my message itself, but because it shows a lot about my language skills. Let me explain: Not too long ago I wrote about how I easily ended up writing a lot in English if my language partner was good at it too, and therefore I learned a lot more when talking to those who doesn’t really know any English. The same goes for those who are trying to improve their English skills. I have talked to several of my Korean language partners and friends about this and most of them say that they find it very difficult for them to stick to English with me because they know that can understand them just as well (and usually better) when they use Korean. Of course you can make a deal about one person only using Korean and the other only using English, but that just often feels awkward to many people. If you are serious about learning a language and you know that you feel this way too, then it’s only natural to avoid those partnerships. Again you can’t really blame them. I couldn’t turn people down in the beginning which resulted in me talking to over 20 people constantly, and only 2 of those people where actually Korean. The rest were just random people who were bored and wanted to make friends. I don’t mind that people use language learning apps for this purpose,(you can learn a lot from those people too) but in the end I had to stop most of those conversations as it took all of my time away and I didn’t learn anything from those conversations. What I’m trying to say is, that if you don’t receive a reply from someone then it might just be because they are taking their learning seriously too. My best tips to overcome this problem is to always introduce yourself in Korean (or whatever language you are learning). This means that you might get ignored more often but it also means that the ones that does answer you, usually don’t mind you using mainly Korean, and then it’s more likely that they will keep in contact instead of just disappearing. Another tip is looking for friends instead of language partners. As mentioned just before, there’s many people who aren’t interested in learning languages but are just looking for new friends. My experience is that when you talk to someone who isn’t trying to learn anything themselves, then they usually prefer speaking completely in Korean too and they are usually more than happy to help you when you have a question. This is where I usually find the most ‘matches’. Again I’ll recommend that you look at their self introductions and choose the ones that write ‘I’m here to make new friends’ instead of ‘I’m here to learn’. Especially if you learn the best through casual conversations.
This blog post is mainly written based on HelloTalk as this is what I usually use, but the advice and reasons mentioned above is more or less applicable on every type of app/site.
I hope that some of these reasons made everything make more sense to those who are struggling and who maybe take things too personally, and I hope that the tips mentioned above can help you guys avoid getting in to those situations in the first place. 🙂
This post will be updated whenever I have something new to add.