A Japanese language exchange is a great way to learn conversational Japanese.
Language exchanges work by meeting up with someone who speaks your native language. You chat for an hour or so in each language, and you both get some great speaking practice.
You might even make friends too!
If you want to know how to learn Japanese by speaking and listening, I seriously recommend looking for a language partner.
And don’t let the fact that you’re not in Japan stop you from getting your Japanese conversation practise. It’s easy to meet language exchange partners online. You can conduct your language exchange over Skype, LINE or even with special apps.
Here are our 3 top places to find a Japanese language exchange partner:
- Conversation Exchange
Read on for more details on how to make the most out of each one.
Psst: read to the end for a bonus Japanese conversation tip too!
Conversation Exchange is a site that matches people up with language exchange partners all over the world. The site is well known in Japan, and there are a huge number of Japanese members!
You can search for partners for face to face chats, pen pals, or online chat. If you want to do your language exchange online, you can filter users by which platforms they use.
After choosing which language you want to learn and which platform you want to communicate on, you can browse member profiles. Currently there are over 1,000 members who speak Japanese, want to practise English and are ready to chat over Skype!
When you find a profile that catches your eye, simply send them a message through the Conversation Exchange platform. If you’re both interested, go ahead and arrange a time to chat.
One great feature is that you can see how long users have been a member, and when they last logged in. No need to waste time writing to people who signed up months ago and lost interest.
If your main goal is to learn conversational Japanese in a casual and easy way, this app could be your best friend (and could even help you make a Japanese best friend too!)
HelloTalk is a language exchange app which aims to connect language learners all over the world. Simply create a profile with your native language and the language you’re learning, and you can connect with a Japanese speaker who wants to learn English (or any other language you can teach).
Once you’ve found a partner, you can send text messages, voice messages and even make free video calls through the app itself. The app has some nice feedback features to help your partner correct your grammar and other mistakes easily. There’s also a built-in translation tool, for when you just can’t remember the words.
The interface is similar to WhatsApp or LINE, but it’s optimised for language learning. Since most users prefer to text chat, you can also practise some Japanese text messaging slang!
The app is available on iOS and Android, and it’s completely free (although there are in-app purchases to unlock certain features, such as adding more than one language to your profile).
Here’s a short video to show you how it works:
italki is perfect for those who want to step it up a notch. It’s a platform for hooking up with language teachers, tutors and conversation exchange partners online.
There are three levels of tuition available through italki: professional teachers, community tutors or language partners. The one you choose will depend on your goals and your budget.
The top level is professional teachers. If you’re serious about your language learning, you can pay for a lesson with a qualified Japanese teacher, who’ll give you a personalised class in grammar or whatever else you want to learn.
Or if you just want to chat away, you can take the cheaper option of a ‘community tutor’. Tutors will help you with conversation practise, but they are not qualified or experienced teachers.
There are loads of native Japanese teachers and tutors on italki. The teachers set their own prices, so it varies depending on qualifications and experience, but you can get an hour’s conversation with a tutor from as little as $7.
Some of the professional teachers offer specialised packages, such as JLPT preparation.
You can browse teachers’ profiles and prices before signing up. Most teachers have uploaded a short video introduction too, so you can get an idea of their accent. You can even read reviews written by other students.
Once you’ve connected to the right teacher or tutor, the lessons take place over Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime or QQ.
italki private lessons are a great option if you have a little spare money, but not so much spare time. You’re paying for the lessons, so unlike a traditional language exchange, you don’t have to teach English in return.
But if you don’t have the budget, you can also search for free language exchange partners on italki. These aren’t qualified teachers – just regular language learners like you. Find them under the ‘Community’ tab.
Got a spare five minutes? Want to practise your Japanese conversation, but no time to contact your exchange buddy? If you’re feeling brave, try Saito San – a chat roulette app that randomly matches you up with a Japanese person to chat with. It’s available in Google Play and the App Store.
This is recommended for advanced learners only. It’s not a language exchange app, so most users won’t speak any English and won’t expect to be speaking to a foreigner!
Be warned: there are often connectivity issues, and the app also has its fair share of hentai (perverts). But this is a great way to get some free, authentic Japanese conversation practise in, wherever you are.
Ready to learn Japanese online? Sign up for a free trial of our recommended course here: