Make Japanese Friends the Smart Way: MyLanguageExchange

This is super embarrassing to admit, but, when I was in college, I literally used to stalk East Asian(-looking) people; I’d even look through school phonebooks and other lists of names to find people from Japan. Before you call me an ethnically-biased stalker, remember that I effectively did it for you! I was like “I’m going to write a website about this one day, so I’d better take a hit for the team”. No, OK — I was looking for people to speak Japanese with. People’s whose Japanese I could listen to, and whom I could get to correct my Japanese.

Not much has changed since then. I’m still looking for Japanese friends (even though I live in Japan). But I’m not in college any more, so stalking could in fact have me acting out my own version of Prison Break…hmm, I could be Michael Scofield and C-Note rolled into one.

Back on topic. So there’s this site www.MyLanguageExchange.com. The color scheme isn’t about to win any awards, but that’s not what you go there for. It’s full of people who actually want to exchange languages — they will help you in your native language if you will help them with yours. The site isn’t limited to Japanese-English either, all kinds of languages and language combinations are welcome.

There is a catch — the site is free for passive use (i.e. just waiting for other people to contact you), but if you want to actively contact other users, then it’s US$6 for a one-month “Gold Membership”. I hate spending money, but, it was kind of worth it for a websiteful of native speakers of Japanese who don’t have to be stalked. The people there want to be contacted; they want to help and to be helped; they generally aren’t casual or half-hearted about it, so you will get replies to your messages (and then, of course, you can continue your friendship via email, voice chat, phone or whatever).

Especially if you’re away from universities or Japanese communities, for building a network of Japanese friends MyLanguageExchange.com is pretty durn good. By the way, if you know of any other reliable (and hopefully free) websites like this that actually work, feel free to let me and everyone else know.

  25 comments for “Make Japanese Friends the Smart Way: MyLanguageExchange

  1. Eric
    May 25, 2007 at 15:10

    I’ve never used it myself, mind you, but I’ve been told numerous times that the Language Exchange portion of japan-guide.com is a great place to land a penpal. It’s also free (though I think you do have to create an account.)

  2. Christina
    May 26, 2007 at 10:59

    Hey… have you ever used xlingo?? Its free, and its the same kindof thing as MyLanguageExchange. I recommend it!

  3. Joe
    May 29, 2007 at 11:55

    I’ve been a member of www.language-exchanges.org since its early days and have nothing but good to say about it. You have to register (free) to log in, but then you get access to many, many native speakers who want to exchange language with you (via Skype and email). Create a profile and the Japanese will be pounding down your door, figuratively speaking.

  4. Joe
    May 30, 2007 at 10:43

    Oh, and I can completely relate to your “stalking” comments. Since taking up Japanese I’ve looked for Japanese coworkers at every job I’ve had, sometimes searching for random Japanese names in employee directories or casually following Asian people back to their cubes to read their nameplates. But I’ve discovered that here in the midwestern US, there aren’t too many Japanese IT workers.

  5. khatzumoto
    May 30, 2007 at 20:43

    HAHAHA…the “casually” reading names…and you keep wondering whether you’ll get caught..

  6. Joe
    May 30, 2007 at 20:53

    Yeah, I keep wondering if I’m going to get in trouble for harassment or discrimination (US corps are so touchy these days) if it’s actually in FAVOR of a particular nationality.

    The life of a language learner is never easy.

  7. October 11, 2007 at 09:55

    If you can find someone to help you get invited to (www.mixi.jp), it’s basically a networking site like myspace, but it is all japanese. You can just join groups for languae exchange on there and people will often ask you talk to talk with them or exchange emails or messages.
    There are some weirdos out there, but most everyone who contacted me was just as eager to help with japanese as they were to learn english.

    If you need an invite, this guy offers it to anyone for free:

    gaijinwomen.com/be-invited-to-mixi/

    Plus, if you’re kind of a beginner with Japanese, he can help you set up an account. But, I wouldn’t suggest Mixi for a complete beginner, seeing as the whole website is in Japanese.

    I hope that helps some people.

  8. mark
    December 2, 2007 at 23:18

    “Since taking up Japanese I’ve looked for Japanese coworkers at every job I’ve had, sometimes searching for random Japanese names in employee directories or casually following Asian people back to their cubes to read their nameplates.”

    This admission really did make me laugh – I mean, what a stalker hangout this website is 🙂

    So, here’s a suggestion if anyone happens to be in London,and the legal restraining orders that Japanese co-workers/acquaintances have obtained against you are limiting the possibilities of speaking Japanese:

    The prime Japanese-speaking-opportunity seeking stalker hangout in London has to be the Japan Centre in Picadilly – it’s chock full Japanese people, and you can even stalk the staff in Japanese if you want. Not that I really know, of course, eeerr…, I just happen to (frequently) pop in there to eeerr… gaze at the wonderful products on display….

    And it even has a message board as well.

  9. Sarah
    December 29, 2007 at 01:10

    I signed up there, but I didn’t really want to pay. A good free one I found was SharedTalk. It’s free, you can text and voice chat and even use email on there :3 Everyone is eager to learn languages and there are tons of Japanese people of a wide range of ages wanting to “learn” English in exchange for “teaching” Japanese. My suggestion is that you get good enough at Japanese to where you can have a text chat (no romaji and know enough vocabulary) otherwise it isn’t really worth the time fumbling around and having them “teach” you what to say. I’m not good enough to chat in Japanese yet, but by helping them with English, I’m making friends that can chat with me in Japanese when I’m ready. :3

  10. dancc
    January 4, 2008 at 05:45

    I’ve been thinking about trying one of the different language exhange sites but I am unsure when the best time to do this is. I’ve only been studying Japanese for a month so I am pretty sure after one email I would be out of things to say… Is there a good time to try and find a language partner or just dive right in?

  11. March 10, 2008 at 06:28

    Hm, I came to the conclusion that language exchange sites don’t work like they should. If you want to have contact with Japanese people, try signing up at a Japanese MySpace look-a-like (don’t ask me, I don’t know them for Japanese).

  12. May 12, 2008 at 00:52

    I also visit SharedTalk.com every so often, it’s a great place to meet other eager language learners. If you’re a native English speaker then you’ll be quite popular there, I usually get too many chat requests to cope with, usually from Koreans I might add.

    I’d also like to take this post to give my first hello to Khatzumoto (and to all those who frequent his blog), what an inspirational site you’ve got going here. After learning Japanese (at school + university) for over 10 years, finally I’ve come across some practical and effective study methods. To be honest I was fed up with attending my Japanese classes, week after week after month after year, not getting anywhere fast — now I’m learning faster than ever and I have you to thank.

    This site is awesome, keep up the good work!

    Cameron

  13. Felipe Manoeli
    July 3, 2008 at 11:18

    Try SharedTalk.com … it’s also a really good site to exchange languages ^^ !

    www.sharedtalk.com

    See you =D !

  14. Squintox
    August 16, 2008 at 11:53

    Another useful for the AJATT method is:

    lang-8.com/

    It’s a website where you input sentences in your target language, and a native speaker comes along and corrects any mistakes you made in the sentence, you can correct other people’s English too. Very useful if you’re about to input sentences into your SRS IMO.

  15. nkitkat
    January 22, 2009 at 07:42

    Maybe this website, I think it’s pretty new: www.busuu.com/

  16. Muse
    February 24, 2009 at 14:01

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned livemocha.com.

    It’s basically Rosetta Stone and Facebook merged into one entity. People from all over the world create profiles with a picture, their info, and the languages they speak and what level, etc. You can add friends and IM each other in whatever language you want while otherwise doing Rosetta Stone-like exercises with the site’s built-in software.
    The learning exercises also include speaking and writing parts; of which upon completing, you send your submissions to native speakers of that respective language so they can grade it and tell you how much you suck thanks to high school courses/how awesome you are thanks to following the methods from AJATT.

    Oh, and it’s FREE!!!

    • Not Free
      December 22, 2010 at 15:29

      Nope. LiveMocha’s not free. It’ll keep on try to push you to subscribe.

      And I find its “exercises” ridiculous & repetitive.

  17. March 10, 2009 at 11:14

    I second the LiveMocha comment. It’s a great website at least for meeting people. I’ve met many cool people. The language lessons are decent too.

  18. Abby
    June 13, 2009 at 01:08

    I like to go to sharedtalk.com. its a site by Rosetta stone and they have voice, IM, and email on there. All the people that I have talked to are really nice so thats what I suggest 🙂

  19. Jennifer White
    June 10, 2010 at 18:57

    www.lang-8.com isn’t bad either. Of course it’s all in who you meet and use basic social networking common sense (like don’t “friend” someone just because they ask, check out a post or two before you do). I get trolls who make random comments about US politics, but my two best buddies are other 40-somethings who just want to get the kids to school and learn some Japanese along the way.

  20. Jamison
    July 27, 2010 at 16:36

    I third livemocha.com , and second lang-8.com

  21. Jesse
    August 6, 2010 at 01:20

    is there a Japanese friend exchange for all ages

  22. December 18, 2012 at 17:08

    I have recently developed a new site for doing language exchange specifically with Japanese people, Oh My Japan:
    ohmyjapan.com

    Unlike My Language Exchange, which was mentioned in the original post, my site allows free members to contact up to two new people per week for free as well as receive unlimited messages for free. I’m not in this to make money; although I don’t need to practice my own Japanese as much anymore (I’m a translator living in Japan), I wanted to give people the same opportunities I had to talk to lots of Japanese people so they can improve their own language skills as they help others.

  23. Hiromi Miyazato
    July 26, 2013 at 13:14

    I guess it wouldn’t be bad to teach people japanese…but it’s awkward when people ask me to say something in japanese…the stalking sounds like a fetish…yellow fever much? *sigh* if you want to talk to japanese people don’t stalk them…it’s weird…we’re humans too…

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