Great, so you’re studying Japanese but have no one to talk with?
Have you considered making Japanese friends online? When I was in high school in the US, I lived in an area where there were few opportunities to meet Japanese speakers or anyone from Japan. Instead, I used the Internet to find people my age that I could talk to.
Why should I make Japanese friends online?
Making Japanese friends online is a good way for both you and your online friend to practice your language skills with one another. Don’t know how to say “Hello, my name is ___” or “I am ____ years old”?
You’ll learn quickly and be using these phrases more by trying to make Japanese friends online. Whether it is through snail mail, email, instant messaging, or Skype, you are going to be in a situation where you or your language partner will have to cooperate and make an effort to continue conversations and keep relations.
Places to make Japanese friends online
Interpals is a website with the objective of helping you make internet friends from all over the world. You can write a profile, set your native language and target language (and proficiency) You can also specify in your profile what contact methods are best for you. Some people just want to contact each other by email, others prefer something more instant such as voice or video chat.
If you are polite and truly want to find people to talk with, it’s a decent website. However, when I used it a long time ago, there were not a large number of Japanese users on the site. However, that was a long time ago and there are probably more users now. I would say that it is more likely that the users on this site are familiar with Skype and other instant chat applications.
Kawasaki International Cultural Exchange (No longer working)
This website may look basic and not trustworthy, but it can be a good place to find Japanese email friends. If you’re a beginner in Japanese or don’t want to deal with the pressure of talking to someone live, I highly recommend using this website to find people that want to casually send emails back and forth. You can post your own message that you are looking for email friends or look at the existing posts and maybe find someone there.
Update: Looks like this part of the site is no longer available.
This site is worth a whole different post, but I wanted to mention it briefly because I think it’s a good way to find people that are interested in improving their language skills and perhaps making international friends along the way.
Lang-8 is a site for people to post text entries of anything they like. It can be short or really long. The point is it has to be written in the language that you are studying. Other members of the site that are native speakers of the language you are studying can come around and help correct your entries.
This is a good way to show you the mistakes you make. However, if you stick with using Lang-8 regularly, you’ll probably come across some of the same people that keep checking your Japanese. Not everyone is interested in being a friend, but you will more often than not find people that are open to it.
When I used this site more than 5 years ago, I ended up befriending someone who helped correct my Japanese. We ended up keeping in contact outside of Lang-8 and after I left the US and was settled in Japan, I made a trip to visit him. It was a great experience and one that would not have happened if I didn’t join Lang-8.
For those that don’t know, Second Life is a virtual world that you can access with a desktop or laptop computer. You can play games, text or voice chat with others, or make things and sell them there. It’s also been used as a virtual classroom for others to attend lectures.
Did you know that Second Life has a small Japanese community? Yeah, that’s right. If you want to make your chat environment more interesting and do more than send emails back and forth, it might be worth checking out Second Life. You can enhance your conversations by meeting in virtual bars or cafes with accompanying music and unique atmospheres.
Many years ago, I made a few friends in the Japanese community and we still keep in contact every so often and update each other on how we are doing in our lives. It’s really neat!
By the way, once you enter Second Life, it might be difficult to find the community of Japanese Second Life users because they tend to stay in their own areas. There is a website called “slink” that is used by Japanese speakers to find cool and popular spots in Second Life.
If you go to the site, you’ll see many spots that are active with people. Most of these spots are usually populated with Japanese speakers, so if you’re not comfortable enough dealing with text or spoken audio in Japanese, you might want to use the built-in search in Second Life to find more English-heavy areas.
I hope this list has been helpful and possibly encouraged you to go out there and make some Japanese friends online. I did it many years ago and it was a lot of fun. I probably wouldn’t have some of the confidence I have today in Japanese without some help from the many people I came across during my travels on the Internet.