You find yourself in South Korea, eager to get yourself soaked in the culture, to begin the English lessons you came here to teach, to get this chapter of your life started. The only thing that’s standing in your way now is the language barrier. It can be overwhelming travelling to a new country with a new language. Sure, you don’t technically need to know Korean to teach English, but you do need to know some Korean to comfortably explore your surroundings and befriend locals.
You decide to make learning Korean your priority, so you start exploring your options. That’s when you come across the concept of language exchange. Especially in your situation as an EFL teacher, why dish out money for a tutor or classes when you can trade knowledge with others?
Now that you’ve decided that a language exchange partner is the perfect way to learn the language and experience the culture with a guide who lives it, you’ll have to start diving into the search for a partner and begin the process of actually exchanging.
Language Exchange Sites are made for you to connect with others whose interests mirror yours. Find someone who wants to learn English and who can teach Korean just by making a quick, free profile.
Sites like these are useful because both you and your match are actively searching for ways to expand on your language skills. If you’re in Korea, find someone in your area who is interested in partnering, or if you’re out of the country (or even in a more remote area) check out the Skype opportunities! LRNGO will give you access to tons of like-minded people eager to partner up.
Local hangouts serve tons of functions: getting acclimated to the culture and lifestyle, meeting new people, and being exposed to the language. You could even meet a language exchange partner during your outing! Get talking with friendly faces and bring up your language goals. You may be surprised by the connections you make just by exploring local hangouts.
Seoul is a great city for language exchange as it is full of unique people interested in branching out and learning new things. The Itaewon district is known for its international population and Hongdae is home to a vibrant university and arts culture. Hanging out in these areas is a sure way to get you connected.
Meetup groups are another awesome way to connect with others interested in teaching you and learning from you, as well as get you involved in the local community. Meetup is an online community that allows you to connect with people of similar interests face-to-face based on your location. Type in the city you’re staying in and explore all the opportunities in front of you—from groups specifically set up for language exchange, to your other hobbies and interests like photography or hiking.
Apps are a great way to aid in the teaching and learning process and outside resources make it easy for learners to continue practicing on their own with the guidance of their language exchange partner. Some neat language apps include Learn American English, which builds up your English vocab and sentence structure through step-by-step visual and audio aids, and Learn Korean Free, which helps you on the other end with useful vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation.
Challenges you may face will come in all shapes and sizes. Learning (or teaching) a language is never easy, but it is possible. Depending on your situation, language barriers may prove to be difficult, but keep in mind that, as you’re teaching, everyone recognizes the barrier and is putting in effort to bring it down. If explaining gets to be a challenge, use tools like Google Translate. Be open with your partner and the struggles you may be having so that they can better help you learn. Being shy won’t get you anywhere!
Photo Credit: Elsamuko