Hello everyone! Nippoli’s new communications coordinator here with the first blog post of the year! Since Corona has stopped many from normally interacting with Japanese exchange students and befriending them, I decided to compile a small overview of alternative ways to make Japanese friends using the magic of internet!
More specifically, online language exchange sites. As a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, I have made a very impressive looking graph that shows the different platforms on which you can meet, befriend, and talk REAL Japanese with native speakers. The graph shows the platforms in order of how long or short typical messages are and how quickly you will get a response. I´ll also give a short review of each, as well as some general tips on how to approach the wild natives.
Oh My Japan
Link to the website: www.ohmyjapan.com
I´ll start with my personal favourite and where I first started my language exchange adventure. Oh My Japan (OMJ) has a pretty unique approach to the language exchange: Instead of making it very simple to start messaging people, OMJ first requires you to create pretty detailed profile, which the host of the website will manually approve. Then, when you are approved, you are only allowed to start 2 conversations in a week!
These features are what make the site so great, but which also create it´s largest downsides. The upsides are that the messages sent and received in OMJ are usually quite long, well thought out and written in both English and Japanese. The people are also more committed to keeping the conversation up, although it might take a few days between messages. The downsides are that there are less people on the website and keeping up the conversations is a larger commitment. All in all, OMJ is a great place to make friends and learn some Japanese if you are a fan of writing longer messages.
Link to the website: www.conversationexchange.com
Conversation Exchange (CE) is like OMJ, except with the opposite approach to signing up and ease of communication. CE has a very simple sign-up process, where you are prohibited from giving away any identifying information (such as being a Finnish university student) and the site does not allow photos to be uploaded, instead offering a premade profile picture of your choosing.
Because of this there are vastly more people to talk to on the site, and if you want to, you can copy-paste an opening message to any number of Japanese people whose profile you find interesting. In such an environment you would expect there to be a lot of fakes or trolls, but to my surprise there were only a couple of suspicious messages sent to me, and the people I contacted turned out to be very nice people! (at least those who responded). One even inspired me to cook Yakisoba for the first time!
Link to the website: www.tandem.net
On the other side of the communications platforms there is Tandem, a messaging service similar to Telegram or WhatsApp, but geared towards finding new people with whom you can chat with and try out your language skills. As a refreshing change from the slower language exchange platforms, you´ll get quick replies and a chance to test your skills at spontaneous conversation in Japanese.
That being said, you might have to try couple of times before getting into a spontaneous chatting session, but when you do, you can learn a lot quick! And although the messages are shorter, the message chains can still grow quite long and lead to lasting friendships! Just keep in mind the time zone differences and the fact that many people do have busy lives.
Japanese Discord server
If spontaneous conversation is your thing, you might want to hop on one of the Japanese Discord servers. The only requirement is to have a discord account, after which you can join in on the various servers hosting Japanese learners. The server I have been on has topical chat channels, Japanese and English voice channels and helpful bots that can fetch definitions/translations and even host kanji quizzes!
These servers are great for getting into voice calls to practice your speaking skills, or to talk about Japanese (or any other topic) with fellow learners. And don´t worry, you will be nervous at the start, that´s just how it goes! Soon you will be joining conversations like a pro and flexing your Japanese language skills!
For example: MMORPGs, Battle Royals, MOBAs
This last one is more for those who would consider themselves as “gamers”. Connecting Japanese learning with something that you already enjoy can help you get even more familiar with the language. It is also possible to make new friendships while grinding your way to the top! Online games often have Japanese servers and Japanese guilds that are constantly looking for new members. MMORPGs are in my opinion best for this as you can begin by lurking in the background, following the chat, and occasionally throwing in some comments.
And even if online games are not your cup of tea, turning the language settings of your game to 日本語 will get you more familiar with the language. There are even games like Skyrim, that are fully voiced in Japanese, allowing you to immerse yourself both in the game and in the language!
I´ve written down here 3 lessons from my adventures that I would like to pass on to you guys:
- Start speaking Japanese right away. In my opinion a good opening message is written in Japanese, and in the longer form messages also translated to English. This helps both you and the recipient, as you get to practice writing in Japanese, and the recipient gets to compare their native language to the translated English text.
- Look for a friend, not a teacher. Although the context of meeting natives is to learn languages, few truly have the time to start teaching you like a regular teacher would. Asking questions about the language is a good conversation starter, but you will eventually have to move on to other topics. If you are looking for an actual native teacher, italki is a good platform to find one!
- Keep an archive of messages sent and received. This will allow you to look back and study what you have sent. It also pays off to make a word list out of the new worlds that have been used in your chats! Maybe you could use those words in the next Nippoli study group on Sundays beginning at 18:00! *Wink* Wink* Nudge* Nudge* Smiley face*
That´s all from me now, I hope you learned something new!
Nippoli’s Communications Coordinator