Whether you are learning Chinese for school, business, or travel, speaking Chinese fluently is a goal that possibly most Chinese learners aim to achieve. While Mandarin textbooks and videos are still great sources, finding and practicing with a Chinese language partner can boost your learning process.
This article will give you the best tips for finding a Chinese language partner, from how to find them to practice and make the most of your language exchange.
How a Chinese language partner helps improve your language fluency
First of all, let’s discuss how practicing with a Chinese language partner can help you improve your language proficiency.
A Chinese language partner will give you individualized and detailed feedback, which is impossible in a regular group class. They will let you know if you have pronunciation issues or need to improve on tones and more. They can also interject to give you minor corrections while you practice speaking with them. Even just 30 minutes of practicing with a Chinese language partner per day can make a huge difference!
What’s more, a Chinese language partner can even help improve your knowledge of Chinese culture or etiquette, which is extremely valuable if you’re learning Chinese for business or travel. They will explain the reasons behind the rules and even let you know what to avoid doing when visiting China or meeting a Chinese business partner.
Last but not least, language partners are extremely cost-effective. They can skyrocket your linguistic and cultural knowledge and build your confidence in your language skills. The best thing is that since you approach a Chinese language partner as equals, your relationship is much more likely to develop into a friendship than a student and private tutor. You will hardly need to pay the tutor fee, but it would be a great idea to pay for a coffee or meal if you meet them in a restaurant.
How to find a Chinese language partner
If you’re wondering how to find a Chinese language partner, here’s the good news: There are probably more Chinese speakers looking for an English language partner than vice versa. So you can take advantage of this language exchange. Here are some ideas for finding a Chinese language partner:
You can try visiting some universities and connecting with some students interested in a language exchange. Nowadays, many universities offer student exchange programs, which is a great way to find new friends coming from China. You and your Chinese language partner can help each other improve each other’s language skills and other cultural knowledge. You can also reach out to the international student affairs office at your local universities and ask for their help finding a Chinese language partner to pair with.
No matter where you live, there will always be some communities for the Chinese who live or work far away from their hometown. There will also be some association events for the Chinese fellow-countrymen, which are usually held at a restaurant or coffee shop. People in these communities are generally friendly and always willing to help each other. This is a good chance to build a strong relationship with them, and you can always do something for them in return – whether helping them practice English, or help them understand the local rules, etc.
Though a Chinese restaurant isn’t the best place to make Chinese friends, it still works if you don’t live anywhere close to a university or a Chinese community. Many Chinese restaurants are owned by Chinese people. You can talk with them and can actually learn a lot from them.
If you are not a big fan of going out and making friends, there are many online platforms that help you connect with a Chinese language partner.
This free mobile app makes it easier than ever to connect with a Chinese language partner. When signing up, you select your native language and the language you’d like to learn. Then, you’ll instantly be able to see Chinese users who want to learn your language. Any of them can send you a message. You’ll soon have more conversation partners and broaden your network!
HelloTalk allows you to send texts, voice messages, make phone calls, video chats, and so much more. It enables you and your partner to correct each other’s text messages, so both of you can understand the right way to say what you meant. You can also use HelloTalk to search for users by region. You might find someone living nearby!
italki is a popular language learning community that helps users learn over 150 languages, such as English, Chinese, Spanish, French, etc., with professional online tutors. This website connects students and teachers through Skype video chat. A big plus of italki is that many professional language teachers are signed up to find a language partner, so you can choose a Chinese teacher to be your language partner.
How to boost your learning process with a Chinese language partner
After finding someone suitable for you, keep in mind that these tips to boost your language learning process:
1. Respect the cultural differences
In Western countries, especially in the U.S, it is usually easy to tell jokes about the country, culture, or even politicians. But this isn’t common in China. Even among the Chinese younger generation, people take great pride in their country, culture, and leaders. If you’d like to express your opinion about a China aspect, do it with respect. If not, your partner may take your jokes very seriously and even feel offended.
2. Keep things natural
In the beginning, you might feel a bit shy and can hardly talk as much as you want. This is common in the first few meetings. However, if it continues, either of you could lose interest in the exchange. Try to invite your Chinese language partner to do what you love to do: go for a coffee, take up a sports class, etc. Sometimes, the most effective way to learn a new language is by interacting in natural environments.
3. Expand the topics
Don’t just talk about the weather – try to discuss deeper topics such as cultural differences, travel destinations, personal hobbies, and sharing your interest. This helps you and your language partner understand each other better, and both of you will be more likely to open up and be able to talk with each other like close friends.
4. Have your study materials handy
It’s a good idea to have a set of Chinese vocabulary flashcards that you’re currently studying on your own. You can then practice and review them with your language partner. Creating a new topic or making sentences with these flashcards is a good way to remember them better.
Pandanese is a web-based Mandarin-learning platform that enables users to master 6,000 Chinese Hanzi characters per year with useful vocabulary flashcards. Pandanese’s handcrafted curriculum is specifically designed for three main learning purposes: school, business, and travel. You will be given a batch of Chinese radicals, characters, and vocabulary flashcards in each lesson. This is extremely handy since you can either write these cards down or log in to Pandanese to start learning any time, anywhere, with any device.
5. Ask your Chinese language partner to correct your mistakes
Chinese people are often very polite, especially regarding a foreigner’s Mandarin ability. They may hesitate to correct what you say for fear of offending you. So, you need to keep reminding them that you want them to correct your mistakes for language improvement.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself
At first, you’re going to make language mistakes… a lot. Don’t be too strict on your process. Instead, try to learn to laugh when you say something incorrectly. This prevents you from getting frustrated or upset when your language partner corrects you over and over again.
The bottom line
Finding a Chinese language partner isn’t hard, as long as you know where to look and who to look for. Putting some effort into your language exchange can actually help you to speak Chinese like a native. You’ll also make new friends and open up new opportunities for your future.
Don’t forget to sign up for Pandanese today and join our Pandanese community to find your perfect Chinese language partner!