When you’re studying a foreign language, you must speak the language if you want to improve. But some people have trouble finding somebody to practice with. Especially if the language isn’t one that’s very commonly studied, or if they don’t live anywhere near the countries in which it’s spoken. In the end, this can lead to discouragement, and some may decide to give up altogether. A while back, we gave you some tips on the best avenues to find online speaking partners and communities. Luckily, if you want to take your language relationship offline, there are many ways to meet people right in your own city. (Of course, you may have to put in extra effort if you live in a rural area.) Today’s article is about how to meet native speakers without having to live abroad, or even travel!
How to Meet Native Speakers in Your City
International travel is becoming more and more commonplace, so there are many opportunities to meet people of other nationalities. There are foreign students, visitors, and residents from other countries in nearly every city. As some of you may know, it’s not always easy to meet people when you move to a new city. Especially if you don’t speak the language as well as you would like. So you can imagine how nice it’d be to have somebody reach out to you first!
Here’s what one of our team members had to say about his experience: “I live in a small Latin American city. And since I work remotely for MosaLingua, I don’t have local coworkers so it isn’t often that I meet people during the day. But in the evening, it would be great to have some buddies to go out with or to show me the city. I am lucky because in Latin America, English speakers tend to be very welcome guests. While plenty of people there are learning English, there are few native speakers – so it’s just as difficult for Latin Americans to meet native speakers in their home country as it is for us.”
Sure in big cities like London and New York, you will come across tons of foreigners every day. But who wants to stop someone on the street and ask what nationality they are and, furthermore, if they would like to practice speaking with you?! Luckily for language learners, the internet is here to save the day, again. But this time we’re talking about using it as a way to meet people in real life.
Meet Native Speakers Online and in Real Life
This free site has been a huge success since it launched in 2003, with over 9 million members worldwide. The innovative idea behind Couchsurfing is to connect travelers in need of free lodging for a few nights with hosts who want to meet new people and who have a couch or bed to spare.
In fact, couchsurfing adds a whole new dimension to traveling. It allows you to meet native speakers in the country you’re visiting, who are typically happy to show you the non-touristy things to do around town. You get a totally different experience traveling this way. Although it’s free, it’s still best to bring a little something with you for the hosts. It could be as simple as telling them stories about your travels, making a dish from your home country, or even teaching them a language!
My wife and I love hosting couchsurfers. The site has a built-in confidence system with ratings and reputations. If you don’t want to invite people you don’t know into your house, you aren’t out of luck! Just set your status to “meet for coffee or a drink.” This shows that you are willing to show new people around your city. If this sounds like something you want to try:
- Sign up on the site – it’s easy and free
- Click either host or surf, and then click Search
- Filter your search by language, city, etc.
- Send a few messages to start meeting people and practicing your speaking skills!
It is very easy to break the ice through messaging, especially if you’re shy. I strongly recommend couchsurfing. You reap all the benefits of traveling without leaving your city!
Of course, we couldn’t leave out Facebook when nearly the entire planet uses the site. Its search engine isn’t necessarily tailored to language exchange, but it’s still handy for meeting new people who speak the language you want to practice.
- For instance, type in “French speakers New York” (or your city) and see if there are any Facebook groups. Some of these groups, for instance English Speakers in Paris, have over 500 members. These groups often arrange parties and events, and are happy to have new members!
- Another option is to search for pen pals. Just a warning… it’s a little creepy, but you might luck out! In the search box, type a common first name in the language you’re studying, and then filter the results with your city or a nearby city. Pick somebody from the list and send them a friend request and a private message introducing yourself and asking if they’d like to practice with you! They might be willing to help you improve your target language if you can help them improve their English!
“Find a Meetup group near you.” All you need to do is enter your interest (language) and city in order to find others who like the same things as you. If you scroll down to the bottom of the homepage, you’ll see a list of categories. Choose “Language & Culture” for tons of options. For instance, in the Detroit metro area alone, there are over 2,000 members of Spanish groups on Meetup!
That said, you don’t have to limit yourself to language-related events. You can also join a volleyball league, a hiking group, a museum group visit, or any normal happy hour event where there might be a mix of people from different cultures. Or, host your own multicultural event!
This is another community that aims to promote language exchanges, both online and offline. And unlike some of the other sites we’ve showcased, this one is specific to language learners and lovers. Their motto is clear: “Learn languages and make friends!” You can find people by clicking “Find Friends” and selecting the language you are studying. There are plenty of regularly scheduled meetings and activities. And there are nearly 1 million members worldwide, so the chances of finding a group in or near your city are high.
Further Reading: Language Exchanges
- The Seven Golden Rules of Studying with a Language Partner – before you meet with your language partner for the first time, you should both read this guide. When you know the best practices, you’ll avoid wasting anyone’s time and you’ll both get the most out of the partnership.
- Linguistic Exchanges: Everything You Need to Know – a basic video introduction to the idea of language exchange, for complete beginners.
- 3 Suggestions for Getting the Most out of Online Conversation Courses – some people prefer more structure for their language learning. Others don’t feel ready to interact with native speakers in an “authentic” environment. If that sounds like you, you may want to start with a language tutor instead. This article explains some of the advantages of paying for online conversation lessons, and how to make the most of your sessions.
- Chatting Online to Practice Foreign Languages – a recap of how to practice language with technology (text messaging, chatting, voice messaging, videochatting, etc.).
- Advice on Finding the Right Chinese Language Partner and Maximizing Your Time Together – if you’re a Chinese learner, this article is for you! The author talks about all of the places you can meet a new language partner (both in and outside of China), and even addresses this juicy question we’ve all wondered about: should you choose a language partner who is also a romantic partner?
BONUS Video: How to Meet Native Speakers in YOUR City
Going out and meeting people might seem intimidating. But when Mirari, a Spanish teacher here at MosaLingua, explains it, it doesn’t seem so scary after all! In this video, she gives tips on where to meet native speakers in your city, both on and offline. Watch it on our YouTube channel, or just scroll down and click play. Her video is in English, but as usual, there are subtitles in 6 languages. Click the gear icon to turn them on if you need them.
Good tips, right? For more videos like this one, be sure to subscribe to our channel.
After this, I don’t want to see any comments about people saying it’s impossible to practice speaking because they don’t have the means to travel. 😉 Now you know that you don’t need to leave home to practice! Once again, the internet works wonders – especially for real life interactions!
If this article was helpful to you, leave us a comment to share your experience or ask us questions. You can also give us some encouragement by sharing it with your friends. Thanks!
(Title Photo Credit (DC): Drapeaux rambergmedia)
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