Finding An Online Language Partner: 언어 교환 스타일

Finding an online language partner is oddly like speed dating.

When you first chat with a potential language partner, you usually assess each other’s language level through some short, rapid messages and get a sense of who the other person is.

So, I’ve gotten familiar with the routine. College student, male, already gone to 군대 (served mandatory military time). English teacher, female, looking to improve her already excellent English. Business man, forties, looking for no, nope, gone, blocked.


It’s called the creepy side of the Internet. 

“한국말 진짜 잘 하시네요. 어떻게 배우셨어요? 한국인 척 하지마세요.” 

I get a lot more of this these days, though in the beginning I got the obligatory “잘하시네요” but now I feel like I at least have semi-earned the compliment.

There is a strange disadvantage to being decent in Korean, though, because I actually get too many people interested in being language partners. I can’t talk to everybody. I can’t even reply to everybody. I don’t even remember to text family and friends back a lot of the time. How am I supposed to sort through all those hopefuls and find people who actually are dedicated, who don’t just want to be friends with a foreigner, who don’t just want to get me to follow them on Instagram (you should go follow me on Instagram because I’ve started uploading my terrible short stories and poems in Korean there), who genuinely want to form a partnership and even friendship?



But fear not, dear language learning friend, for I shall give you some advice on how to find a language partner. Let’s start with the obvious.

1. Use a partner-finding site or app.

Site(s): italki, Meetup, Livemocha | App(s): Hellotalk

Hellotalk is my number 1 for finding partners. I don’t use other sites anymore, and Hellotalk allows you to disable your profile but not delete your account if you’re not going to be active for a while. It also allows you to filter potential partners – you can select for things like only people between ages x and y, only females, or only native speakers of Korean. This saves a lot of time narrowing down the pool of partners.

What do I dislike about Hellotalk? I frequently have to open the app to check if anyone messaged me – its notifications come sporadically. It also has a tendency to not show the message for a while even if it DOES notify you that a message came.

What is strangely good is that you can’t put IDs for other apps/accounts in your bio, and it will actually warn you if you try to immediately give someone your ID if you haven’t been chatting that long with the person. The idea is to cut down on people needlessly accumulating contacts/Instagram followers, etc. and to also keep you using the app.

This is a good thing. Sometimes I’ve too easily given away my Katalk ID and the person ends up being noncommittal, unhelpful, or just in general busy with life. Use Hellotalk as a vetting app as well as a finding one. It has a bunch of other features, but I don’t really use any of them except the filters and the messaging.

I’ve personally used italki, Livemocha, and Hellotalk, although Livemocha functions less as a specifically language partner matching site and more as an online community that offers lessons. I’m not a huge fan of it and no longer have an account, though I used it a lot very early on in my language studies. I did meet several Japanese language partners there. Italki is the best of the sites that I’ve used, although they’ve altered their format and I am no longer active there either. I met my best and longest-running language partners on that site, as well as a plethora of creeps and people trying to convince me to study their language instead of Korean. Meetup also is an option, but it’s limited to what is already offered in your area. If there isn’t one for Korean Language Learners/Speakers, consider starting one yourself!

2. Vet potential partners.

Don’t collect partners like I eat pizza. You may think you can and need to have more than two or three partners – because what if one’s busy? – but unless you have nothing else going on in your life, just one is just fine. Two can be good, if you can afford the time to keep in touch with both.

Initially, go ahead and talk to several. Reply and see who replies back. See who is fun to talk with, who actually corrects you, who actually tries to use both your language and their language. This is supposed to be exchange, and someone who isn’t really studying the language you speak is eventually going to stop replying because it doesn’t really matter to them.

It’s equally important that they let you practice your target language, which is why it can be harder to have a huge language level difference. If your partner’s level in English is way higher than your level in Korean, you’ll find yourself frequently resorting to English because you know your partner can understand, so why bother….why bother?! Because you should learn how to say the things you don’t know!

Also, this is common sense, but if someone acts creepy or offensive, block them immediately. Don’t waste your time.


할 말 없는데요. 

3. Be consistent. 

So, you found someone, you vetted them, you’re partners. Now it’s important to maintain the partnership. You don’t necessarily have to set up a schedule of contacting each other, although that can be helpful. Figure out what works for you, but try to be consistent. If you reply every day at 10PM your time and then disappear for four days with no warning and then try to chat again, that doesn’t leave a good impression on your partner. Don’t waste their time if you‘re not committed. Yes, life can get in the way, but don’t let your language learning slide into a ditch.

4. Find topics you both like.

What do you talk about?! You already asked about music preference, fav food, funny childhood story, what the weather’s like, etc. Look for commonalities, but if that’s hard, a good place to start is with contemporary issues. What’s happening in your country? What’s happening in your partner’s country? It’s a good way to get both of you aware of the world as well as practice in reading the news in another language. It also can spark really interesting discussions about culture and history.

Shockingly enough, not everyone relates to this. 

5. What if you are a beginner and can’t really hold a conversation yet?

Never fear! You can still get a language partner. I would recommend finding someone who has a similar beginner level as you, and then sending each other short sentences or paragraphs for pronunciation practice. In return, record yourself saying those for the other person so they can practice listening and speaking.

And don’t disregard the basics! Get really good at typing 안녕하세요 and 잘 지냈어요? and all the other greetings and goodbyes. Figure out how many different ways you can tell someone your name. 제이미입니다. 제이미라고 합니다. 제이미고요. 미국에서 온 제이미예요. 제 이름은 제이미예요. 제이미 불러도 돼요….


Damn, Daniel. You’re right. Well done. 

Do you have a language partner? Are you still intimidated to find one? Watch this and feel inspired to find one anyway.

읽어 주셔서 감사합니다!

지금 재생

This isn’t just about the song, but how awesome this dance studio is….especially Junsun Yoo…..와우~ 심쿵


7 thoughts on “Finding An Online Language Partner: 언어 교환 스타일

  1. Hello Talk is a great app to find a partner. The trouble, I find though, is that if you speak reasonably good Korean, Koreans just want to talk to you in Korean and you end up feeling like you’re not helping them at all 😂


    • Exactly!! And even if I try to persuade them to do a little bit of English, they tell me that me speaking Korean is way more important because it’s “신기하다” to them haha

      Liked by 1 person

    • 그죠~ ㅜㅜ Actually, I have a strange problem in that my longest and best partner actually has now been studying in the U.S. for nearly two years now….so his English is so good that he really doesn’t need me lol…so we just keep in touch as friends now. Hence my language partner finding problems began again….


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