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11 Tips To Make The Most Of Language Exchange Apps

23 August 2021
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Here's why you don't get a reply or the conversation doesn’t last long 🧐
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Despite interacting with people online everyday, there are still people who don’t manage to get a response from someone online, or for whom the conversation won’t last long. Especially on language exchange apps, there are some specific ways and tips to interact with members in order to have and keep having a meaningful interaction, let’s discuss those points here.

1. Complete your profile is the most basic

Things that I’ve come across often on other language exchange websites or apps, is that there are plenty of active user profiles without any information. No photo, no self-introduction, nothing that someone can relate to or that makes you want to interact with them.

So what’s the point of joining a language exchange app if you’re not willing to at least introduce yourself and make others want to interact with you? 🤨

There’s another pattern: writing “hello”, “please help me in Japanese” as a bio is even worse. You just show how lazy you are, not even taking 5 minutes of your life to write something nice about yourself.

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That’s why on SewaYou, we make writing a bio with at least 50 characters mandatory.

By joining a language exchange app, it means that you’re interested in interacting with people who are looking to improve their language skill, and completing one’s profile is the minimum contribution to the community.

Also, it's recommended to upload a photo of yourself. It doesn't have to be a selfie with a close-up angle to your face, as long as you're on it! Some people tend to think that we don't need to show our face on an app whose purpose is to exchange and practice language. Some might even be afraid that a lot of people will talk to them for other purpose than learning a language.

Those are valid concerns, but people are more willing to interact with other real people. So if you hide yourself behind a landscape or a cat photo, others will tend to think that you're trying to anonymize yourself or trying to hide your identity, and that you are not really social. The whole interaction doesn't seems authentic and real. As a result, people tend not to start conversation with you neither.

Do not forget the social aspect of language exchange, we, human, are social animals that want to interact with others. By putting a real photo of yourself, it can be a photo taken from far away, it doesn't matter, you will increase the chance that someone will actually start a conversation with you.

In addition, without any information on the profile, your potential language exchange partners won’t know where to start a conversation or what to talk about when seeing your profile, or when receiving your message.

2. Let people know what’s your goal when learning a language

Simple things like: I want to learn Japanese because I want to talk to local people when I visit Japan or I want to improve my English for current job or future opportunities or just I want to make friends from abroad will help a lot in identifying your goal when trying to improve a language. Your counterpart will then adapt the conversation to your goal.

Remember, a language exchange is also about having a genuine interest in your partner so that the conversation can keep going on.

Moreover, if you have something really specific like I want to improve my English test score (eg: TOEIC) it will then be much more easier to niche down the conversation.

3. Avoid asking for social accounts (LINE, WhatsApp…)

This is the worst thing to do. Who would be willing to share their private information with an online stranger they talk to for the first time?

There are some cases when asking that information might be relevant, like when the language exchange app has limited features (eg: no video calls etc…). But apart from that, you’d better not ask for people private social accounts. That’s the goal of interacting on a language exchange app: you’re here to learn and improve your language, and not trying to invade people’s life.

Also, there are so many scammers out there asking for your social accounts, trying to steal your information, or simply wanted to scam you by asking to invest in some weird business, sending money abroad, international romance fraud or scam and the like.

By staying within the language exchange app, you can report those scammy users, so that their account get banned. That will help to build a community of serious learners, and then directly make the app a good place for you too, to have meaningful language exchange sessions.

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In addition, by interacting with your language exchange partners only on the app, you can distinguish your language friends from your normal friends, so that every time you connect to the app, you know that you’re here to learn and practice. Switching to the learning mode won’t be hard in that case.

4. Don’t use a language exchange app as a dating app

This is obvious and is related to the previous point. If you see something suddenly asking you to send your photo, then immediately report those people.

If they do that with you, they will keep doing it with other people too. Basically they are not here to learn and improve their language. Pay attention and report people who start conversation with sentence like: Hi beautiful, nice to meet you, most of them are just on the app to pick up other members. There are dating apps for that like Tinder.

Some don’t want their friends to know that they are on dating apps, so instead they are targeting language exchange apps.

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On apps like HelloTalk, there are a lot of profiles with just No romance. written on their profile. But those tend to be the ones who are the most interested in picking up or being picked up.

I’m not saying that it’s forbidden to pick up and flirt online, but it’s just not the right place to do so, and this kind of behavior might make other members uncomfortable.

There is no need to specify no romance in your profile. People can recognize a serious learner’s profile just by looking at it.

5. Keep to your schedule, at least reply once a day

By respecting your counterpart, and replying at least once a day or so, you show that you value your language exchange chat mate. If you get a message, do not wait too long, try to answer the same day or the next day. The longer you wait or make people wait, the lower the will to keep an active interaction.

Just think of your language exchange friends as your normal friends. Even though you just interact online, showing that you respect people’s time make them do the same, especially if you’re serious about improving your language. Trying to show that you treat them as normal friends is the secret to a long-lasting exchange.

Exchanging language relationship can be successful, if it’s a mutual commitment. Do not just use a language exchange app when you feel bored. People can feel your motivation. Try to be at someone's stead that get ignored for days or weeks. Make it a habit to daily interact with your partners, even for 10 minutes a day!

6. Online is good, but offline is better

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that interacting with someone offline over a coffee is much more valuable than sending online messages for hours/days. That’s why, if possible, you should aim at meeting up with your language exchange partner and practice your speaking skill.

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As for the timing, after exchanging messages for like 3 to 7 days, you get to know your counterpart a little bit more to trust and meet them in real-life. Choose a public place, like a coffee shop or a park. You can also exclusively decide just to meet people from the gender, that can foster real-life meet ups, without having to worry about people who are here for dating purpose.

The longer you wait before meeting up, the more likely your interaction will stay online, and the pace at which you improve might not be satisfying enough.

Also, you’ll see that after meeting someone in real-life, you will be more willing to keep interacting with them online afterward (if everything was fine during the meet up!).

7. If possible, choose your counterpart by distance

This is related to the previous point. By living in the same area, you can lower the barrier to meet someone offline. You won’t need to spend an hour on the train just to meet someone you met online.

But if they are within instant reach (like a few train stations without transit in Japan), then the mental barrier to get to meet up outside won’t be that high. Instead of having to schedule in advance, and block an entire morning or afternoon just to practice your language with someone, be spontaneous, reach out to people in your area. When you have a spare hour after your work, get a coffee together and practice!

I don’t have enough time or my language exchange partner lives so far are the challenges that SewaYou is trying to solve. You can see at a glance your potential language exchange partner location (approximated to a ~10km radius), so that arrangement can be made quickly and on the fly! I myself go to meet a few people from SewaYou that are living nearby!

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8. Correct your partner’s mistakes

Being corrected when you write a sentence with mistakes is a good feeling. You see where your mistakes are, and you eventually get the correct version.

Correcting someone’s sentence takes time, and it’s a long term investment that you do to keep the exchange on. If you correct your counterpart sentences and point out the correct way to use such or such grammar points, they will be grateful, and they’ll do the same. That’s a win-win. Remember that when you bring value to someone, they will pay you back somehow!

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It’s human nature, but we tend to seek for what’s in it for me? when interacting with others. You tend to push to improve your learning language and not really care about the other person’s need.

So the goal here is to make the other side think that they can get something valuable out from you, and not just asking for favor. If they think that you’re helpful and contributing to their improvement, they will for sure come back to you and the interaction can last.

9. If possible, try to write in both your learning and native languages

This will greatly depend on your counterpart’s level in your native language. One language tends to be prioritized if the level gap is too big. That’s why it’s important to send messages in both languages.

For instance, you’re learning Japanese and your partner is learning English.

In this case, if you only write in Japanese, then there is no direct benefits to your partner unless they are actively trying to write in Japanese. But sometime, communication can be lost in translation, so one work around is write your messages in both languages.

You will get to practice your Japanese, and your counterpart could also practice their English by reading your sentence, and correlate or guess the meaning by seeing the version that they can understand.

From time to time, try also to deliberately incorporate some complex grammar points, so that your partner can also discover new study points and challenge themselves.

Remember, language exchange should be a mutual benefit, if one side is favored, then the exchange won’t really be fair and won’t last long.

10. Find language exchange partners with common hobbies

On SewaYou, members can set up to 6 predefined hobbies. Starting a conversation by talking about common hobbies is one of the most efficient icebreaker.

Even in real life, two strangers who are trying to interact, might find a common ground by talking about their hobbies.

When you don’t know how to start a conversation, look at your partner profile, find a common hobby, if none, then it’s still okay, talk about one of their hobby to get the ball rolling!

11. Use voice message over textual messages

It might sound obvious send textual message when you’re online. A lot of people do that, and sometime it’s really dull.

Think about it: when you see a message like hello how are you?, written and sent using by voice message, which one sounds more appealing? The vocal version of course.

Humans tend to connect with people that they see and hear. If you can’t see them, then at least make yourself heard. Two benefits of using voice message:

  • you can practice your pronunciation: you can also make your counterpart practice their listening if you send message in your native language
  • hearing your counterpart’s voice helps to know the person better, reduce the gap of online relationship. It provides a sense of trust, and it is also useful when deciding whether or not to meet that person in real life.

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The ideal is to interact and exchange over a voice or video call, but if you can’t or prefer asynchronous interaction, then it’s recommended to use voice message!

Conclusion

  • There are some specific and efficient ways to interact online, especially for a long-lasting language exchange
  • All the tips discussed here are common sense, but also thoughtful of your counterpart
  • the more you invest in helping your counterpart, the more they tend to come back to you
  • behind an online profile, there is a real person, so respect their time and commit to have a meaningful exchange
  • if applying the tips discussed in this article, you will definitely increase your response rate and also have much more lasting interactions on language exchange apps

Speaking of language exchange apps, some of the tips were illustrated using our app SewaYou, that we highly recommend! Most of the members are all serious learners, so why not joining us and keep building this community together! 😃

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Happy practicing! 💬


Philippe Khin
Written by
Philippe Khin
Founder of SewaYou 💬 Born in Cambodia, grew up in France, now Permanent Resident in Japan When I don't write code for SewaYou, I write these articles 🧑‍💻

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