Naturally, if you want to learn how to speak a language, you need to speak it with a native speaker of the language. Someone who isn’t afraid to correct your mistakes. But outside of Japan, how do you meet with native speakers of the language?

    1. School
      This is certainly one option. But the only native speakers in the room are going to be the 先生 and any アシスタント. And they’re too busy running classes to have much time to chat with you after class.
      Some schools offer an immersion experience. If you’re independently wealthy, you can apply to do a full immersion at a school in Japan, which solves all the problems of finding native speakers of the language. But if you’re independently wealthy, you could also hire a tutor and save the flight time. Aitas in Toronto is built on the full immersion model, and that’s the most affordable immersion school for me.
    2. Meetup dot com
      Meetup offers a whole bunch of language exchange meetups, including Japanese-English ones. This is a great idea, but any meetup like this has to figure out how to address the following pitfalls:

      • Native speakers speaking their own language to each other. It’s a lot easier to speak in your own language, and sometimes homesickness sets in, and you want to talk to someone who can hold a decent conversation with you.
      • Matching levels. Even if you do have a good mix of people who want to practice the language they’re studying, having two people with wildly different levels of fluency in the language at the table will usually mean the more fluent one is going to dominate the conversation.

These are the only two I can think of. I really don’t feel comfortable going to a store or restaurant and trying to practice my halting Japanese on people who are just trying to run a business, and not provide free language lessons. So the quest continues…

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