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I've been learning Korean since the beginning of May and have been really strict with myself every day instead of succumbing to procrastination. For this reason, I would say my reading and general comprehension skills are low-intermediate, as well as my knowledge of grammar and vocab.

BUT I noticed that my writing and speaking skills are way behind and it's making me feel like a beginner. I started to wonder if I had wasted the last two months by focusing too much on grammar.

A few days ago, in an attempt to fix this, I downloaded a couple language exchange apps (with Tandem being my favourite so far). However, I've messaged at least twenty native speakers so far, expressing my interest in practising Korean, and only a few have replied earnestly. The others seem to use it more as a dating app than for language exchange.

The few that have replied have been really nice, but they only speak in English and ask me (albeit politely) to switch to English when I start speaking in Korean. I get that they also want to practise their additional language, but even when I propose a 50/50 compromise (i.e. we speak in Korean one day and English the next), they seem really uninterested.

At this point, I'm starting to lose hope but I still really want to improve my speaking and writing skills in Korean! What do I do?

TLDR: People on language exchange apps only want to speak in English. How do I get past this hurdle to improve my Korean writing and speaking skills?

  • You might want to mention if you live in Korea or not, or if you can find Korean users near you. – Tommi Jun 24 at 14:18
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    I'm learning Chinese, and thus far saying e.g. "my teacher tells me not to speak English" is the most effective. I think Chinese people are unwilling to contradict a teacher; maybe Korean is the same. – Rebecca J. Stones Jun 25 at 1:17
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    How about talking to other Korean learners? – Blaszard Jun 25 at 15:29
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones Thank you for the suggestion, I'll definitely try that once I start speaking to more people! (I have college exams in July so language learning has to take a back seat for now) – Hafsah H Jun 26 at 22:54
  • @Blaszard Maybe I should have mentioned this in the original post but most Korean learners I've met either border on Koreaboo behaviour (if that even makes sense?) or they're too shy to practise. I'll try though, thank you for the suggestion!! – Hafsah H Jun 26 at 22:56
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Have you had any luck locating language-specific classes, conversation groups, clubs, or Meetups? COVID-19 forced many of them online, opening the door to many that otherwise never would have been an option.

The Duolingo Korean Learners group on Facebook may yield some conversation partners or information about available conversation groups and free/low-cost classes. As an example, I'm in the US learning Experanto. The Duolingo Esperanto Learners FB group pointed me to a free class hosted in London, a conversation group hosted in Toronto, and a multi-day learning event normally hosted in North Corolina.

Speaking of Duolingo, you can sign up for emailed notifications about language specific events. It doesn't seem to be well utilized, but it's worth a shot.

Amikumu is an app for finding conversation partners ordered by distance from your current location. I've had a little luck finding conversation partners there.

One more resource that may help you locate conversation groups is a college language department. When I was learning ASL the conversation group I regularly attended had a lot of interpreter students, most of whom were directed to the group by their respective colleges.

Finally, since you are learning Korean, perhaps the Korean Englishman and JOLLY channels on YouTube could lead you to someone. Hosts Josh and Ollie speak Korean and have many Korean fans.

Good luck with your learning! Hope this was of some help.

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This is a difficult situation. I don't know where you are located and how the Corona situation is at the moment, but many universities have language cafés or tandem programs that arrange contacts for students from foreign countries to native speakers that want to learn their languages. Mostly, they try to match partners that are at the same language level. Of course they'll also want to speak English, but because of the arranged situation there is an interdependency and an obligation on both sides. Maybe, there you can be more confident to demand the 50% of conversation in Korean from your partner.

Furthermore, I recommend you to go to Korea at some point (if that's possible), for example via platforms like workaway. Once you're there, I guess people will speak Korean with you and there will be some people that can't even speak English. Seen in a long-term perspective, I think that's for the best. Good luck!

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I've found that language exchanges are hard, especially when you speak English. Everyone wants to practice English. There are a few ways to convince a native speaker to speak their language to you:

Pay them

Some language apps like italki let you pay per lesson. If you're paying them, your conversation partner will be expected to speak their native language. I've also simply asked acquaintances to sit with me for an hour and practice for a modest fee. Compensation makes people much more patient. ;)

Talk to people who don't speak English (or your native language)

People usually find the path of least resistance. If their English is even slightly better than your Korean, the conversation default to English more often. But if you can find people who speak less English than you speak Korean, then you'll feel more confident and less afraid of making mistakes. This is called "winning the language battle". Obviously it's easier when you live in that country. (Note that this can be important even when you pay someone. Some teachers will want to explain everything in English because it's faster. Just move on and find a teacher who will stick to the language you want to learn.)

Pretend you don't speak English

This is something I've done when I meet someone who seems intent on speaking English no matter what the cost. When say something in English, I'd look confused and gently remind them that I'm Italian. Or if they already know you speak English, it's also something you can say in jest. ("What? Sorry, I don't understand English.") If you can say it in Korean, people will get a laugh out of it and you'll reinforce your desire to learn their language.

Set a time limit or other rules

In a true language exchange, it can be helpful to have a set time so your conversation partner feels they're getting a fair trade. For example, speak English for 30 minutes and then Korean for 30 minutes. Or if you have a Korean speaking roommate, for example, speak only English in the mornings and Korean in the evenings.

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