Language Penpals

Language penpals are a great way to improve your language skills in a real-life setting, without the pressure of coming up with an instant response. There are many people around the world who are in a similar situation as yourself, except that they are learning English, who also want to begin using and improving their new language skills with a native speaker. The internet gives us a great medium for establishing contact with these people to our mutual benefit.

There are many websites for finding friends or penpals with similar interests around the world. In addition, there are a good number of websites dedicated to language learners and helping them find penpals for a language exchange. Many websites for individual languages also have a penpal feature. Visit the Language Penpals Resource page for a list of sites where you can begin to find some language learning penpals. Registration at these sites is quick and free, and they are all easy to use and effective.

Once you have made the initial contact, it is up to you and your language penpal to decide how to exchange communications. Will it be all in one language or the other, will it be a little in both, or will each person write in the language he or she is learning? Sometimes this will be established right at the beginning, others will develop naturally as the abilities of each participant become clear. Personally, I have engaged in all types of these exchanges and have found them all to be useful in moderation.

Sometimes you will find yourself communicating with someone who is very good at English and simply enjoys helping people learn their language. These can be the most helpful partners, because they can most clearly explain (in English) the subtleties of their language.

In time, you may find yourself working with someone whose knowledge of English is significantly less than your knowledge of their language. You may find it very useful and informative to help these people out. Don't be too quick to move on to a different partner, fearing that working mostly in English will be a waste of your time. It may not. Teaching someone else English may give you some surprising insights into the behavior of English and languages in general.

Most of your communications will be with someone at roughly the same level that you are at - some knowledge of the new language, but prone to making mistakes and not always aware of the best way to say something. You will reap great benefits by working with these people as you each struggle through day-to-day conversations. These language penpals make the best partners because you both find the exchanges challenging and rewarding. Keep the subject matter simple but don't be afraid to make mistakes or take chances. In time, you will find ways to talk around the words and grammar you don't know. Your partner will do the same in English and you will both benefit from and enjoy the learning process if you don't take it too seriously. If you do this regularly, you will progress quickly.

Don't expect to find the perfect language penpals right away. It may take a little time to find suitable partners. Some people may sign up for a service and then forget to use it or move on to another. Some people may not be interested for a wide variety of reasons. So, don't be discouraged if your initial attempts at contact go without a response. Be patient and persistent and you will establish successful contact with suitable language partners before too long.

Try to engage a number of different people, from different regions if possible. You will benefit from having language penpals of different levels of experience, walks of life, regions or countries and even different dialects. You may also find that other people who are learning the same language can be valuable language penpals. Sharing experiences and knowledge with other language learners can be very helpful.

There are some people who prefer the written letter to email. Some feel that it is more personal and more effective for them, others, particularly in some remote corners of the world, simply don't have internet access or can't afford it. Even in these cases, your initial contact will probably be online.

By working with even a handful of language penpals, you can progress very quickly in your new language. They are relatively easy to find and contact, and it is a free way to communicate with people all over the world. Before you know it, you'll be improving in your new language, learning about other cultures and making friends around the world that may last a lifetime!

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"I have drawn from the well of language many a thought which I do not have and which I could not put into words."

- Karl Kraus

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