Language Exchange

I think many of you readers know by now that I am seeking to improve my French language skills.

Once upon a time, many years ago while I was still in university, I visited a language exchange website called  It was an amazing experience!  I posted a message offering to teach English in exchange for learning a variety of East-Asian languages.  Through that site I connected with a young Japanese woman who wanted to improve her English skills in order to obtain a scholarship to study in the UK.

For many months we emailed back and forth.  Mostly I was helping her improve her English writing by teaching her more about formal English – how we format and write essays which is a key component for someone seeking to be a student.  I also helped her by teaching her some familiar expressions, although they are familiar to people in my region and not necessarily understood in the global English realm.

When she finally did win the scholarship, I helped her decide what she would call herself.  See, she was afraid that her Japanese name would be too foreign sounding in the UK, and that it might be a barrier for her.  Eventually we decided that the first syllable of her name, although still quite foreign sounding, would be easy for English speakers to pronounce – then she wouldn’t have to throw a way a part of her being.

We sent each other little treat packages, they weren’t expensive but just a selection of small things (objects and food) that reflected our respective cultures.  She went on to graduate with a masters of Education, returned to Japan to become an editor for English-language education publishers, and now is a freelance writer who splits time between Japan and various parts of the UK.  When in Tokyo, she puts on exhibitions because she also paints what she has been fascinated by in the UK.  Myself, I graduated university and am now still trying to find my place in the world.

The point is, I am so proud of her, to have known her for that short while.  I am now only connected to her on Facebook and Facebook, where she mostly posts work-related things that are unfortunately all in Japanese so it is quite hard to keep up.  But I am so amazed that I was able to help someone achieve their dream, and to see that she kept it going and brought it further than I’m sure either of us could have imagined.