What're your thoughts about language exchange events in Japan

I’m now studying for JLPT N3 and I’m a graduate student studying in Japan. I live in Kobe. I can do a (not-so-fluent) daily Japanese conversation, but I’d like to improve my Japanese fluency. It sounds weird, but I don’t really have much opportunity to speak Japanese in Japan. My graduate school is a research-based English language program, and most of my time has been focused on research. And, with my current Japanese skills, it’s still difficult to speak technical terms in Japanese.

So, I have been attending many “language exchange” events. But, I don’t really feel like I’m benefitting from them (even though I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation). Most of the Japanese people who came to language exchange were expecting to speak in English. Even when they were willing to speak in Japanese, not all the foreigners who came have a conversational level Japanese, and we all had to switch back to English. Usually, I found that, contradictorily, events unrelated to languages, like hiking, dinners and even pub crawls, were better for practicing Japanese.

Any similar experiences relating to language exchange events in Japan? Please share.

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I’m in a somewhat similar situation that I am doing an graduate exchange in Tokyo right now. I’ve noticed that at in many cases, when there is one more non-Japanese present, it is easier for people to switch to English. Even some Japanese student that have been previously exchange students in the US etc, tend to switch to English super easily.

If your aim is to purely learn Japanese, it’d be much better to look for language exchange partners to do one-on-one conversations. That way you could schedule to meet with them once per week (for example) and dedicate half the time to Japanese and half the time to English(or if your native language is Spanish/German/French, maybe that). Maybe your school has a bulletin board or other place where to look for someone like that?

In my honest opinion language exchange events with big groups are not beneficial at all…but every place is different of course.

Other than language exchange the best that I’ve found is to situate oneself in a situation with no other foreigners (unless they have good conversation skills) and with Japanese that have bad English skills, so there is not even a minute risk of defaulting to English. I found myself a bar/izakaya close to my home (that doesn’t have service charge btw) that is really common place for people to gather and converse with bartender & other guests. (Standing bars and bars with only bar-table+bar stools are much better than bars with individual tables, in my opinion.) I just go in, order a drink worth 400-500 yen and converse for one hour or more depending on how I feel and if I find interesting conversations going on.

The second way is to start a social hobby, be it a club/circle at your uni (again, one that is not an “international club” full of other foreigners) or maybe you can find something at your local ward. I joined tea ceremony circle in my uni since it has been my passion for ages and although there are some non-japanese, mainly everything is in Japanese.

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My uni has one, but on another campus which is not too close. Maybe there might be someone who can be my language exchange partner who’s yet to find. 笑

Yeah, absolutely love this idea. They can force a conversation into 100% Japanese.

It seems like a nice place. I haven’t found one yet though.

There’s a really nice support club for foreign students where most people speak mainly Japanese. They have regular events, and I really enjoy them. But, my busy research schedules effectively hinder me from going to weekly circles at the uni.

They tend to be events to meet potential romantic partners. I’d say find a one-on-one speaking partner.

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I basically agree with what you’ve said. If you want to go to a language exchange event, you basically have to be ready to shut down the newbs and just talk Japanese with the Japanese people.

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