Conversation is king when it comes to learning another language. There’s no faster way to learn to communicate than the challenge of a real, uncontrolled conversation in that language. That’s why we recommend making the most of language exchanges to improve your abilities.

You’ll be pushed to make your thoughts understood to connect with the person in front of you. It’s human nature! An exchange is kind of like solving a puzzle with a friend. And the sense of rapid growth you’ll feel over time is a powerful motivator when your old textbook starts getting dull. 

So, finding a reliable language exchange partner should be at the top of your list if you’re studying Japanese.

But not unlike a first date, it can take some trial and error to find the right person for you. Save yourself the frustration by learning from our mistakes and tips below. You’ll discover the most popular exchange apps, how to find the perfect partner, and become a great language exchange partner yourself!

Person holding a using a smartphone

Download the best language exchange apps

HelloTalk

This free language exchange app is kind of like Twitter for language learners. You can post “moments” (tweets with no character limit) on your timeline with images or audio. Natives will find, comment on, and correct your posts. You’ll also be able to meet locals in your area with a paid subscription.

Tandem

Tandem doesn’t have as many features as some other apps. But the community is huge! That makes it easy to start connecting and find a great language exchange partner. The interface is slick and responsive for a smooth experience. You can also search by area to make friends nearby with a paid subscription.

Bilingua

Any experienced language learner will warn you about one potential pitfall of exchange apps – repeating the same shallow conversations over and over with a lot of different people. It can be tough to find someone around your level with the same goals and a compatible personality. Bilingua tries to fix that by using a matching algorithm to pair you with the perfect partner.

Meetup

Okay, we get it. It’s not a language exchange app. But for in-person language exchange groups, Meetup is still the very best out there. And if you’re in-country, chances are local Japanese will greatly outnumber other language speakers. It’s a great advantage for you to practise more and make some friends in the process.

Vet your potential partner

The first step to a productive language exchange is finding the right partner. This will definitely take some trial and error. But, keeping in mind the points below will make the process as easy as can be.

Check their profile

Most apps allow you to write a short blurb about yourself in your profile. Give your potential partner’s a quick read to see what they’re looking for, what kind of questions or content they post, and what language they use. Most serious language learners only use the target language and post content related to learning from time to time. 

Be around the same level

It can be nice having a partner who can clearly explain things in your native language. But, someone far beyond your current level will most likely get frustrating and unproductive fast. They will tend to fall back into your language when you can’t understand something. And that puts pressure on you to stop trying to keep the conversation at their pace.  

Make a schedule

Making a schedule lets you separate the serious from the casual very quickly. Both ends of the spectrum are fine! But, you should both be on the same wavelength.

Group of students smiling towards camera

How to be a great language exchange partner

Being a great language exchange partner yourself is the best way to meet (and keep) the perfect partner for you. Follow these tips to do just that!

Keep it fair 

Make sure you separate time spent using each language split evenly. Try using only one language at a time. You can use a timer in a study session, or switch days if you’re just hanging out together.  

Don’t explain – use examples

This is the ultimate tool for teaching someone a language. Long explanations of what a word means is complicated to understand (even for natives). Instead, imagine a simple situation you would use that word in and then make example sentences. It can be a bit tricky to do this on the fly if you’re not used to it. But, it’s the best way to learn and your partner will quickly pick up this skill and use it to help you too.

Don’t simplify your language too much

It’s tempting to make your speech extremely slow and simple so your partner can understand you. And it’s absolutely okay to adjust to help! But, don’t overdo it. In the long run, that’s a disservice to your partner once they try to use their skills in the wild. Instead, keep your speech as natural as possible and ask them to do the same.

Learn Japanese with Go! Go! Nihon

Language exchanges aren’t the only way to learn another language, of course. But, you’ll be missing out on a lot of fun and progress without them!

Ready to level up your knowledge about Japan and Japanese even more? Check out our blog for more on Japanese language, culture, and daily life.