Mina-san, konnichi wa! Ogenki desu ka?
Today, we talk about how to create your own Japanese language exchange club.
I was inspired to write today’s blog post from many of those that do not have a language exchange club nearby to go to. So, why not make your own? (Unfortunately, for those that live in very rural areas, this blog may not be very helpful. I’m sorry if that is your case.)
It doesn’t matter if you are not fluent in Japanese to start your own language exchange club. Please do not let that discourage you from making your own.
You just need enthusiasm, hard work, dedication time and patience.
Here are some steps to get your own club started:
- It is a good idea to have a native-Japanese speaker willing to assist you and the club. This way you have someone that can speak fluent Japanese as well as English or whatever your native language happens to be.
- Decide on a time and place. Do you want it to be held weekly, bi-monthly or monthly? And what day of the week do you want to have it on? I would suggest that you speak with everyone to see what day works best.
- Find a place to hold your gatherings. Coffee shops are great, community centres, parks, restaurants, a food court at a local mall etc. Please keep in mind that you must get permission from the owner for you to have the meetings in some of these places. Sometimes they can even give a discount on food or beverages if you can guarantee a certain amount of attendees at each meeting. But if the group is small, sticking to your local coffee shop may do.
- Advertise on social media outlets to inform everyone about your language exchange club. Try your best to promote the club to both Japanese language learners as well as native-Japanese speakers wishing to learn your native language. Creating a Facebook event is one way to get the word out without paying anything. Some old fashioned word of mouth works too. You can also place ads at your local Japanese cultural community centre. (If you have one.)
- Make sure there is time for Japanese practise as well as your native language. This way, everyone has an equal chance to participate and ask questions about the languages involved. Maybe start with one language for an hour and then switch to the other.
Very Important Point: Please remember to make a set of guidelines for people to follow to ensure the safety of your members.
From my own experience from attending many of the clubs here in Toronto, many people think it is a place to “hook-up” with the Japanese. The intention of these clubs are to promote cultural and language exchange and should not be used to find a date. There are websites and clubs you can go to for that specific reason, so why ruin the fun when someone is trying to learn something?
Of course, if both parties consent then there is no concern (because we are all mature, right?) but that should be done outside of the club so that the club organizer is not held responsible for any fallout that may occur if the relationship goes sour. It can create a bad atmosphere if there is a conflict of interest.
Also, please remember to follow the local laws of your government. This includes the safety of any minors that maybe in the club. This includes giving them absolutely no access to alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, etc. We must consider the different kinds of people that may wish to join regardless of what age, religious background or nationality they are from.
You may also consider making a rule about how personal information such as e-mail addresses and telephone numbers are given out. A lot of groups prefer to not have any information exchanged so that people can feel more comfortable when they attend. You can just see the person again at the next meeting. Some people will be willing to give their contact information once they have known the person for a long while. Which is understandable, of course it is in their own right when to give out their information.
There is a big responsibility in being the organizer of a group; naturally the position should not be taken lightly. Remember, you are responsible for what happens during the meetings. So be safe, be aware and have fun.
If you want to make a group and do not mind paying a membership fee and don’t know where to start, this website great place to start a group: http://www.meetup.com/
This site is designed for those who wish to start a social group of any kind, no matter what the interest may be.
You may even sign up to look for a group that already exists in your area to see if you can become a member rather then being the organiser.
I highly recommend this site. I have been to a few groups from this site and found my experience enjoyable. Go ahead and check it out!
Well, I hope that these suggestions helped you to create your own ideas. Don’t feel discouraged if at first the club is off to a slow start but once you establish yourself within your community, you will get momentum and have enough people to have a great language exchange club.
You will have a great time meeting new people while you are practising the language you are working so hard to learn. It is a rewarding experience.
If anyone starts a group, keep us posted on your progress. We would love to hear from you!
Ganbatte kudasai! And see you all next Friday!
For liability reasons, I; and those involved with the Japanese Learner, will not be held responsible for any negative outcome from any party making their own language club as a result of the suggestions from this blog post article.