Do people write to you to talk in your language even though you don't want to learn theirs?

I've had so many people write to me that don't speak or study Spanish. I usually respond so as not to be rude and I will often write back and forth for awhile to try and be nice, but the numbers have increased. The vast majority of them speak Arabic or Chinese.


I have said in some places that I was thinking of maybe learning Mandarin so Mandarin speakers have written to me, but then when I bring up an exchange some of them don't want an exchange, they just want to write back and forth in English, so I don't think they are writing because I mentioned that I might one day like to learn that language. They think I want to chat in English for some reason.


I participated in a bunch of discussions during the time I was taking a time off from my Spanish memorization in order to offer some English writing to people learning. I thought it was a good thing to do to participate and give something. Some of my friends say that they learn more from conversations than from notebook entries. That makes sense to me. When I read someone's natural native writing in Spanish I find it extremely helpful. I could write in discussions whenever I wanted and didn't have to respond because no one was expecting a response and lots of people hopefully could get some benefit all at once. Now though, I'm thinking that I have to not do that any more because it takes a lot of time doing it and I need to get back to memorization, but much more-so because it takes time responding to people writing to me that don't actually want a language exchange. I think they might think that I want to chat a lot because I post in discussions? I have met some really cool people so I always want to respond. If I never responded then I wouldn't have gotten to meet some amazing people, and I always want to try and be polite of course, but with the increase in numbers, now I'm feeling some pressure and there have been misunderstandings.


I want to put Mandarin on my list of languages in hope that I can find people that want to practice my tiny bit of Mandarin with them on skype and then they can speak English with me even if it's just for a couple of minutes at a time, but I'm afraid that I will get swamped with people wanting to go back and forth only in English and not to let me try out a little Mandarin. I really don't mind it being mostly in English, but I at this point really do want even a little exchange. I'm wondering if this makes sense when I know so little, if I won't have to hire someone first. A couple of people have told me that they don't want to exchange because they are not Chinese teachers. The thing is though, I just want to say a few things with natives. I don't even want correcting or teaching! I learned Spanish just by speaking the best I could with natives. I want to start with Mandarin speaking from day one, but I wonder if that makes sense culturally? 


I am wondering if this is a cultural thing. Before today I didn't have Mandarin anywhere on my profile and never mentioned anywhere on the site at all that I had the least bit interest in Arabic yet most of the people that contact me speak those languages.


Now that I actually want to do an exchange with Mandarin I very much want to understand what is in the minds of the Mandarin speakers so that I better know how to approach language exchange. I really do not understand the mind set and I want to. 


Have you had such experiences? How do you handle them?


Would anyone be able to explain to me please if there is a cultural aspect to this with native Chinese speakers?


Thank you in advance. 

Jul 10, 2014 11:32 PM
Comments · 35

Dear Dorothy, 

Even when you are at the very beginner's level you can spend half the time studying their language.  Just working on proper pronunciation of a few basic sentences will take a lot of time, and you are still giving them English practice while you are learning, because all the explanations they have to give to you in English.  I would stick to 50/50.  

There truly are many people who love helping others, and really enjoy teaching their language, on this site.  Find some partners like that.   Just discern between the ones that do and the ones that don't.  I would not encourage the selfish behaviour of the ones that just want to use others.

For example look at their activity and pick some who have corrected other people's notebooks, or have answered language questions to help others.  That is a good indication of a love for helping others and a desire to contribute in their society and not just take from others.  Those are the ones that you should be helping with English, and the ones that are worth the while to make a friendship with.


July 11, 2014

What you could do is to tell them the reality, that although you would like to help them, you have only so much time in the day to talk with people, so at this time you prefer to focus on talking with people interested in teaching you their language in an equal exchange.  And encourage that person that he/she will find many people who are trying to study their language and they will have no difficulty finding an exchange partner.

And as far as Skype time, what I do in cases when I feel a need to set clear boundaries, is that I agree ahead of time with the person how long we will talk (eg, 1h), and at what time we will start (eg 6:30 pm their local time), what language we will start in, and at what time (eg 7:00 pm their local time) we will switch to the other language.  So it is easier not to sound harsh when 7:00 comes.  

You can simply say, "well, it's 7:00, now are you ready to switch to... (language)?"  Or if you need to be firmer simply say "it's 7:00, time to switch to ...(language).  I have some questions ready for you, how do you say... in ...(language)?"

To help fill your language study time you can have some questions ready to help them get started teaching you, eg how do you say this, or how do these verbs work, or how do you match the adjectives to the nouns, or how do you pronounce this, or how do you read this sentence, or whatever questions you have.

Have fun, language learning is a pleasure!

July 11, 2014

This is why I stopped doing language exchange for the most part. I was always desperate to speak Chinese, but all I got was English, English, English. There are of course some very good exchange partners, you just have to find them. Look at profiles first. I don't even bother now unless the person is very active on italki, and thier profile demonstrates a real willingness to help.


I'm not a native Chinese speaker, but I read Chinese at uni, and I've been learning 6 years. I can go through pinyin with you, and listen to you speak, if you want some feedback. 

July 11, 2014

A big part of the problem is that there are probably more people who want to learn English than English speakers wanting to learn other languages. I'm guessing that the inbalance is most acute with Chinese. And not only that for many people learning English is a necessity and can be a complete game-changer in their lives. On the other hand, English speakers tend to learn other languages out of choice (or as part of a choice, i.e. the choice to live in a non-English speaking country) or as a hobby. So whilst it might be a nuisance for us English speakers, we should also be grateful that in that aspect of the lottery of life, we are the winners.


I also receive requests from people who speak languages I am not interested in, and am confronted with the same dilemma. The "ignore" option seems rather rude, and the "follow" option will become a burden given the amount of people involved. I actually asked italki for a "polite decline" option, which hasn't been realised yet. So I have to admit that, in the throes of indecision, I just end up doing nothing.


I have changed my introduction several times, and I have noticed the difference in the people who write to me. Previously I had an introduction similar to yours (in that it is a kind of open invitation) and I was inundated. Now I get many less requests and what I do to find language partners is to look out for people who interact with me on the site through the answers, discussions and notebooks (either them helping me or me them). Also whilst I am happy to participate on the site with both sexes, I only engage in language exchanges with women. It just makes my life easier.


I really hope you find the people you are looking for.

Good luck.

July 13, 2014

I only do a 50/50 exchange with people, we set to help them in their language study for 1/2 hour and then 1/2 hour to help me in my language study.  Or sometimes we go back and forth in the two languages.

But if there is no fair exchange I don't talk with them.  Some people are selfish and want to be always the one to benefit and don't want to help others.  I put my foot down and refuse such situations.  If they want to be the only one learning, they can pay for a tutor to practice with.  And likewise people who do not speak the language I want to learn, I don't usually talk with them.  Once again, they should be fair and find someone who wants to learn their language so they can help one-another, as I only have limited time to talk on Skype and I am here to learn a language.  I only would help them if their native language is some very weird language that nobody wants to learn and they could not reasonably find a 50/50 exchange partner.  

A lot of times the ones contacting me are guys who do not speak the language I want to learn, and really they are looking for a girlfriend.  Sometimes if I look at their "follow" list and I can see their dream "harem" of sometimes even hundreds of girls they are following!  And such a guy of course I block.  Others are just people who want to make friends all over the world.  But I am not on this site to make friends all over the world, I am here to study a language.  Sometimes I'll talk with someone if by their comments on a discussion it becomes apparent we have similar views or things that interest us both.


July 11, 2014
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