finding a language partner
Over the years, I've had a huge number of language exchange partners for some language other than the one spoken where I was living - in the States, Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand. Here's what I I know about finding one...
- UNIVERSITIES 1. If you're brave and already know enough of the language/culture you're seeking to spot a native speaker in a crowd, the direct approach works. Eat at the university cafeteria at lunch and directly approach several students with an honest, short appeal. If you offer a small amount of money or English language in exchange, someone may decide they can tutor you, and will usually do it for English language exchange.
2. Make up a half dozen small, short notices and post them on the bulletin boards around campus. You'll have to get permission/a stamp from the office in charge to post the notices, but this isn't usually difficult. Post the notices on the bulletin boards with your email & phone, and offer language exchange/money for lessons. If you can put the main part of the notice "Thai Language Exchange Friend" for example, in the target language in large letters, it will get more results. Some universities require all-English notices.
3. There is an office at the U designed to help foreign students. It's called the International Students Office or something similar. Find it. Talk to the person at the desk. Tell them you want to find an exchange partner and will tutor someone in English. 4. Go to the Student Employment/Job Office. There, fill out the forms necessary to post an official job offer for a language tutor. You'll have to specify a per hour wage and may have to represent yourself as a small business on the form rather than an individual (make up a company name).
In general, I have tended to do all or several of these in a single several hour trip to a university in order to find a particular Asian language tutor, and have always been successful. The key is to look like you belong and to prepare the notices and ads for numbers 3 and 4 beforehand. For the employment office, represent yourself as a professional seeking a native speaker. Personally, I've always found that Southeast Asian students who answer the ads are delighted that any non-Asian at a university in the USA actually wants to learn their language better/at all, and they have always given me free lessons, in exchange for some English help or help on an occasional paper, or for no English exchange at all.
- WEBSITES The one I've used for more than 20 years now is: www.mylanguageexchange.com
- LOCAL ADS Place a local advert in the most popular online news site read by expats, or the local paper. For example, here in Thailand when I was looking for a Cebuano exchange partner (a Philippines language), I placed an ad for free in ThaiVisaForum and received numerous replies. I've occasionally paid for a short ad in the local paper, but usually you can place one for free online. Be brief but sincere, offer a small amount of money. And again, try to use a few words/phrases/sentences of the target language in your ad and it will attract more attention and get more replies.