Japanese Penpals

Hello,
I was wondering if people had any recommendations on how to get a Japanese penpal of some sorts. I’d really like to test my skills in communicating with someone from Japan, and also helping them out learning English.
Any ideas?

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HelloTalk sounds like what you’re looking for, although I’ve never had much luck getting conversations going there :melting_face:

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Thank you for the suggestion :), doesn’t bode well however haha. It’s surprisingly difficult to find native speakers to talk to, I thought there would’ve been more in the way of communication materials tbh

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italki is a great platform (but it’s paid) and you can use tutors or pro teachers.

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There’s also Tandem, but some convos go more like dating app exchanges than anything else honestly…

I personally think your best bets are Discord language exchange servers and #langtwt on Twitter. (Also look out for the English learning hashtags in Japanese, because you’ll find Japanese people there and on #langtwt looking to learn English and trying to find English speakers to practise with.) They’re the closest I’ve ever got to proper communication with strangers. I also know some people from VTuber fandoms and chance meetings IRL, but I’d say that’s really just good fortune on my part – I wouldn’t expect it to happen to everyone.

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I used to use lang-8.com, though I haven’t used it in a while, so not sure if it has changed, but it was quite cool!

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it’s changed!!!

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I guess this the following aren’t exactly for finding penpals, but if you are also interested in communication apart from writing - my best experiences finding Japanese people to talk to have been:

  • The VRChat EN-JP Language Exchange, meeting every Friday on 1pm-2pm and 9pm-10pm JST. Unfortunately they don’t have a website, but a Discord server. (Despite the name, you don’t need any VR equipment to run VRChat. If you want more info on how the community works, I’m happy to write more about it!)
  • Finding local real-life meetups on meetup.com.
  • Italki.com was already mentioned for talking to tutors. Yeah, it’s paid, but at least I find it surprisingly affordable, and it was a fantastic way to improve my talking abilities.
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It’s not really the same thing as having a penpal, but I’ve had a good experience with Japanese on journaly. Most of the time, if I correct a Japanese-speaker’s English journal entries, they will reciprocate and correct my Japanese entries. There aren’t that many Japanese speakers on the site, though.

I met mine in a strange way. I found lots of people on Instagram who are Japanese. I communicated in a nice way with several of them.

Three years later, I have several people to write back and forth with, and one person with whom I mail paper letters back and forth, and with whom I video chat occasionally.

It was not instant, but I would think that a person you would talk with would be a person you trust, and that takes a while.

I even got a little job translating a song for a guy in a band out of it.

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If you don’t mind elaborating on that…

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Sure!

So, VRChat is a free 3D voice chat app that can be used with or without VR equipment. You get an avatar, walk around in small-scale 3D worlds, and talk to other people.

The VRChat EN-JP Language Exchange is a community that meets inside VRChat. It is centered around a weekly event that happens every Friday (twice, 1pm-2pm and 9pm-10pm JST - join whatever fits your timezone best). When I last joined, the event usually went like this:

  • Everybody meets in a central lobby room. Usually around 20-30 people or so?
  • The organizers groups people into groups of 6-8. Half of your group are Japanese speakers learning English, the other half English speakers learning Japanese.
  • The groups go into a smaller room.
  • Everybody introduces themselves in the language they are learning.
  • Somebody starts talking a bit / telling a little story (again in their target language) about whatever the current topic of the event is (or about any other topic they’d rather want to talk about). Everybody talks a little bit about what was said and/or asks questions. Then it’s the next person’s turn to do the same.
    Some examples of topics that past events had:
    • “Share an experience with language barriers. How did you navigate the situation?”
    • “Share a memory from your childhood that has shaped who you are today․”
    • “What’s the most beautiful piece of art (painting, music, film, etc.) you’ve ever experienced?”
  • Once everybody had their turn to talk, it usually ends in a bit of free talk amongst the group.
  • At the end, all groups gather again in a central area where you can talk to anybody you want.

The whole thing is super casual and open to any skill level. You don’t have to talk much if you don’t want to. And I found the community to be really kind and supportive. I started going there about 15 months after I started learning Japanese and I wasn’t really any good yet, but I felt like I fit right in.

The community organizes itself via its Discord server, so if you want to see the themes for the next event, find out details on how to join, or chat with community members (both via text and voice), that’s the place to go.

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I have had success with https://www.language-exchanges.org/

You could try interpals. I used the site a few years before I started studying japanese and I remember being messaged by a few japanese businessman types wanting to practice their English.

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