Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How to... find a language partner

Look in the classified section of papers and magazines. Those are normally full of ads... some good and some... ehum. Well, maybe less good?! Picture from China Snippets.

Somebody asked how to go about getting a language exchange partner. I have personally used quite a few ways to find mine. I once put an advert at ‘’ asking for someone who could help me with my Chinese and in return I would help them with their English, which resulted in a lot of odd answers from a lot of odd people (“Hi, I am a Chinese man. I can teach you Chinese. You don’t have to teach me anything”) but out of the bunch I actually found a lovely young girl, Jennifer, who is today one of my closest friends in Shanghai! So I guess there are normal people replying to adverts too! Today I probably wouldn’t put an ad though, but find someone via my Chinese friends. Putting an ad in a paper/at a webpage, however, was a great option when I had just arrived to Shanghai and didn’t know anyone or how to find a language partner.

Going to a university is another option. Normally there is a board with ads from Chinese people asking for a tutor/language exchange partner. Or, if you cannot find the board, head for the canteen/ restaurants (in the university area) and I bet you’re going to bump into people who will start talking to you. Ask around… it’s very likely that someone knows someone… The uni students here are normally really cool and eager to chat, so that way it shouldn’t be any problem.

I met my last language partner at Starbucks. I was there with my Chinese books, studying, and when I left he literally ran after me and asked if I wanted to do language exchange with him. Now we meet once a week for 2.5 hours where we speak 1 hour of Chinese, 1 hour of English and then 30 min of mix. So far I’ve only met him a few times but it is very rewarding. After only one meeting I felt more comfortable with both listening and speaking. So if you want to improve your language skills a language partner is strongly recommended.


Anonymous said...

By saying "we speak 1 hour of Chinese/English", do you mean you are just freely chatting in the hour? and what do you do in the 30 mins of mix? I've no problem in finding a partner, the problem is I dont know what to do with him/her.

Jonna Wibelius said...

OK, sorry, i misunderstood you. Well, u during the one hour you speak Chi you should take the opportunity to practice whatever u have problems with. Reading? Writing? Tones? General conversation? I prefer to practice discussing general topics and every day life situations, so our 'Chinese hour' is quite casual. We normally pick a topic (everything from sports, to politcs to travelling) and he might ask me some questions about it to get the conversation going. With other language partners I've simply said: 'today I want to chat about... ' and then we have gone from there.

U can also read from a text book so that the language partner can hear that u r getting the tones right. Or, u can ask s/he to give u some sentences in Eng that u try to translate to Chinese. The best thing about a language partner is that u totally decide what u want to study so don't feel stuck. Do whatever u wanna do.

When I say 30 min mix I mean that then I speak Chi and he speaks Eng.. as much as we can. When we hit a point where we don't know how to express ourselves, the other one can help.

Well, I hope this gives u some sort of idea! How long have u studied for?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jonna. I think your tips will be very useful for me. And then, well, I must say sorry. I confess probably my English made you misunderstand, but I am not a chinese learner; I myself am a chinese student now studying in Israel. So, you know, I am learning Hebrew here and I'm happily to get acquainted with some local Israeli students who are studying Chinese. We have just planned to do some language exchange. That's why I bothered you with asking for any of your experience in such activity.

Of those students, some have studied chinese (as their major) for almost three years but, honestly speaking, their speaking is not good enough to communicate with people well if they are in China. Part of the reason is one can find few Chinese here in Israel. In contrast their writing is fair and they are truly working hard in practice. So, do not feel frustrated at your exam marks. You can never try too hard. But I think you are getting somewhat in sane for your marks. Take it easy.

BTW, it is funny, if not rude, to say hello to a stranger's kid in China. Chinese parents spoil their "little emperors" mostly, you know, and a kid is always warned not to speak with strangers :-( As for the taxi driver, well, I believe he was really not in the mood for talking; go to Beijing and you'll find every taxi driver there is all the time ready to talk with his customer.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I recently graduated from a Chinese university and would like to find a Chinese-

English language partner to improve my spoken (and perhaps written) English. I could teach

you Chinese too. Please contact me if you are interested.

sorry with my ad