My current Japanese learning routine is working for me. I study around 5-6 hours a week from a textbook and supplement it with language shadowing. I also see a tutor once a week who helps keep me on track. My study time is productive and I see weekly improvements, but for awhile I felt like something was missing. While people in my life are accepting and encouraging, I wanted to meet others who could directly relate to the successes and failures I encounter while studying the Japanese language. I was no longer satisfied with reading online conversations, usually on blogs or forums that were dated by 3 years or more. I wanted to meet someone in the flesh and share the love for this language and culture as well as rant about whatever lesson was kicking my ass that week. Sure, complaining isn’t the most productive past time, but it helps release steam and my tutor understandably won’t indulge me for a second. So, it was time to swallow my fears and try a local meetup group.
I had been a member of my local Japanese Language Group for a few months. As soon as I joined, I browsed around their event page and was immediately intimidated by their language exchange meetups. I felt I wasn’t ready to converse with anyone, no matter how welcoming to beginners their descriptions seemed. Apparently, there were some like-minded individuals on the site and someone started a meetup where language exchange wouldn’t be a requirement. I immediately jumped at that opportunity.
I’ve been to two meetups so far and if I could summarize them in one word, it would be “home.” Sure, there’s awkwardness, but being able to discuss the highs and lows of our language journeys has been my savior. It’s been fascinating just listening to the different stories that brought people to this language. So far, I’ve met people with varying degrees of skill, and even a native speaker. We did get to hold some conversations in Japanese, but there was no constant pressure to do so, which I prefer at my current level. I got some help on my Genki homework from a more advanced speaker and I really appreciated that.
Someone mentioned that the conversations we hold with each other have the potential to damage our pronunciation and encourage bad habits, but it is the furthest thing from my mind now that I meet with a native speaker weekly and expose myself to plenty of native content. I get some added pressure from wanting to improve in order to practice more of what I learn, but its mostly about connecting with other learners for me. We’ve shared tips and resources with one another and even shared music recommendations. (The struggle to find J-Pop I’m into!) We’ve even begun making plans to hold future karaoke meetups, which is a dream meetup for me, someone whose celebrated several birthdays singing the night away in many languages.
Looking forward to meeting more Japanese language learners! Does your city have a local meetup group? And if not, how do you satisfy your need to interact with other language learners?