You Have Made a Pen Pal to Learn Your Target Language. What Next?

Pen pals were extremely common in the early 20th century. They not only instilled a sense of belongingness in the people involved, but also were quite useful in learning and appreciating the languages of the other. If you look at many language learning blogs, you will find this advice almost invariably on each of them- make a pen pal who speaks the language you wish to learn. In this age of social media, a pen pal is within a click’s reach, and you went ahead and made one. How can you utilize this friendship to forge a bond that also helps you learn a language? In this article, we will explain how to go about pen-palship

  1. Exchange introductory emails

In the introductory mails you can give an insight into your daily life, your career, your aspirations and your beliefs. They may share the same. This is a great way to practice your written skills and vocabulary and probably the best way to get instant feedback. However, it is important to not look at them as your grammar correcting friends and instead focus on getting to know each other better. In the introductory mails you can talk about the place you live and describe all the places to see in detail. These emails will also allow you to form a voice in your target language- whether it is easy going, friendly, semi-formal, persuasive or any other. Once you form a particular style, it is easy to try out different styles of writing because you will have one basic style to fall back onto. For instance, if you write in a friendly way using short sentences and many questions- consider it your base style.

I enjoy city life because of the variety it offers. What do you think?

And at other times you can write elaborate descriptions. 

The city life has moulded me into the person I am today, full of energy, restlessness and a faint sense of purpose- whenever I lie down it is usually because I am exhausted and whenever I wake it is because I am tinkering with ideas. Does it happen to you?

  1. Grab every opportunity you get to chat with them on video

Video calling is the best way to speak to your pen pal forging a deeper bond of friendship and emulate their way of speaking, pronunciation and instant feedback. In fact, in your language learning journey always seek feedback. Feedback is the difference between a person who says he knows the language and the person who actually knows the language. You will also know of the various intonations and learn about their culture closely. In case you aim to migrate to the said country, these insights will help you prepare mentally and adjust well into a new culture. Speak to them about the various festivals and celebrations they organize. It is also a wonderful opportunity to know their music and dances better. If your pen pals introduce you to their favourite artistes, study their work with an open mind and try to find any connection that they may have with your own country. For instance, if an American pal introduces you to ‘The Beatles’ and their music and you are an Indian, it would be fascinating for you to know that the Beatles visited India several times and much of their music is inspired by India. Such connections help you understand the context between various art forms and language and you appreciate the other cultures more. This is a prerequisite when learning a new language. 
Making a pen-pal and learning a language from them is a non-linear way of learning a language as opposed to the very structured format offered by online courses. In case you are looking to learn Haitian Creole, you can learn basic Haitian Creole topics ‘Where did you go to school’ and practice conversation and grammar on Creole Tutors. When learning a language, it is important to have a good mix of both approaches as courses help you stay accurate and true to the language form and pen pals help you have fun. Though pen pals have an added advantage- you have forged a connection with another human being with very little in common- and that is a very big achievement.

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