I have to say, making friends with a native Korean speaker (via conversationexchange.com) was one of the best things that could have happened for my language learning process. I highly recommend finding a native language partner/buddy in your linguistic endeavors (preferably one who is learning English, so that the teaching and learning process is not one-sided). In case you aren't convinced, here are a few perks:
Perk #1: Having a Cool New Friend
Really, who doesn't like having a new friend? Unless you're a total grumpy old grandpa, the idea should sound at least mildly appealing. Furthermore, it is a friendship that might otherwise be unlikely due to cultural differences and/or language barriers. I stand by the notion that friends are like Jell-O: There's always room for more.
Perk#2: Instant, Interactive Language Feedback
A real live person is ALWAYS way more interesting than a language textbook, as well as way more useful and interactive than the glossary at the back of that textbook. For instance, a textbook probably won't tell which words you should be careful NOT to say (ex. The number 18 is a very bad swear word in Korean). And that kind of stuff is good to know so that you don't wind up making major social faux pas and ostracizing yourself from a culture you're trying to embrace.
Plus, if your language partner is up to speed with the technological world, you can do fun things like texting back and forth in the target language(s). See for yourself...
To the left is literally the first all-Korean text I've ever written. Very simple language, but boy was I proud!
Korean Friend: Hi Kristy! Are we still on today? Do you have time?
Me: Hello! Yes, I have time. What do you want to eat?
Me: (wow that took a long time to type out, hahahaha)
Korean Friend: Hahahahahahaha really? Hahahahahahahaha
Korean Friend: Um (um)... I want to eat spaghetti. What do you want to eat, Kristy?
Me: Ooh! You asked the right girl! There is an Italian restaurant in Harvard Square...
I have to thank my new smart phone for being smart enough to handle various languages. There is actually an option to turn on other languages' keyboards on the iPhone that you should use if you speak or text in another language. Very useful and cool.
To the right, is a text I sent today using THREE languages at once. Yes, you read that right. Three. What that heck would I call it? Span-kor-glish? En-spa-rean?
Two great things are happening here. (1) My friend is acting as an instant human dictionary who--by the way--is complimentary and encouraging of my risk-taking. (2) He is teaching me fantastic new smiley faces that I can use in future texts to American friends, so that I can wow them and make myself seem even more awesome than I already am.
Kristy Friend #1: Dude, where is Kristy learning about all these amazing smiley faces? She must be in on some trendy information loop that we're not aware of.
Kristy Friend #2: Yeah, I know. That chick is seriously rad. Seriously.
I mean, that sort of stuff definitely makes people cooler, right? Like when people roll down their car windows and blast music at red lights. I don't know about you guys, but I always think, Who's that cool guy playing Metallica? He has GREAT taste in music.
Perk#3: Interest Level
You're only kidding yourself if you think that a real live person won't inspire you to study on the days that you're not meeting up. I mean, it's not foolproof, but it certainly helps. As I sadly found out yesterday evening, if I don't study, there is nothing for my friend to help me with. So, we just sat around sort of awkwardly staring at my notebook while I made promises to him that I would study specific things for next week's practice session.
It reminds me of playing trumpet in seventh grade. I stopped practicing at home at one point. When it came time to play the songs in school with the other trumpet players, I had to fake it and move the valves, pretending that I was playing along. Surprising part was, I started to get nothing out of it. Who knew? Not long after (and much to the dismay of the music teacher), I quit band.
Perk#4: Plane Ticket Justification
This is, perhaps, my very favorite reason of all to make friends from different countries! Now I have a friend I can visit when I finally make a trip to South Korea. I'd like to aim for next summer. At that point, my goal is to be conversational and impress his socks off when I open my mouth and actual Korean sentences come out. Goals = good.
If you are studying a language, want to resume studying a language, or want to start studying a new language from scratch, go find a friend! Trust me on this one. You don't have to wait until you know how to say anything. The plus side of knowing nothing is that anything your new friend teaches you will be helpful and useful.
It's a decision you will thank me for later. You're welcome.