My English; seeking a language exchange partner

It’s really frustrating when I find myself struggling to speak good English, especially when I think about this: I started to learn English as a junior high school student in 1990. It’s 19 years now! Anything can happen in 19 years! But today, I still stammer or talk in a confusing way and nobody can understand me when I speak to native speakers on the phone.

I’ve had enough of this!

I want to speak really good English, like a really good native speaker.

Who can help me then? There is no way I can marry a native English-speaking woman now. Well, I’m talking (writing, to be precise) as though I can easily find one who is also interested in me!

I’m not the sort of guys women can have a crush on at first glance. People have to get to know me a lot before they can like me very much. Smacks of boasting then.

Now back to the topic of learning to speak a foreign language that your spouse speaks. If you’re lucky enough to have one and you don’t speak like a native speaker of that foreign language, you are wasting such a good opportunity and even your life!

But, I cannot justifiably blame you for that too much. It’s a human weakness. Me for one. I’ve been in Beijing for more than six years and I’ve never been to the Great Wall here though I’ve been to Qinghuangdao and sometimes I got really close to the city’s section of the Wall. I always think that if I really want to go to, say Badaling, I can do that on any weekend and so I don’t do it.

The most immediate reason why I can’t marry a native English-speaking woman is that I’ve already got married with and want to keep at my side the best woman in the world. But, she doesn’t speak English. It would be wonderful if she spoke English as a native tongue!

There must be a work-around, though.

Yep, a language exchange partner!

I’ve spoken Chinese for almost 30 years (I don’t remember when I started to speak it) and grew up in an area where Standard Chinese is spoken. My favorite books are ancient and modern Chinese classics. I can teach you some Dongbeihua  if you like, though.

So, anyone interested in my offer –  be my language exchange partner?

In this world where people are connected via visible and invisible networks. Our mutual help will be very easy, via Skype, MSN, or QQ, or even recordings (e.g. I record my translation lessons for some visually impaired students who want to be translators).

For more about me and my contact info, click here.

16 thoughts on “My English; seeking a language exchange partner

  1. Your goal to speak English as well as a native English speaker is a difficult one. My spouse is native Chinese, and I am native Canadian. Here in North America I have never met a Chinese person that spoke English as well as a native English speaker, unless they indeed were a native English speaker, born and/or raised in North America. While in China I’ve only met 2-3 people who’s spoken English was very close to a native English speaker, but grammar and vocabulary gave them away. I have a very good ear, and can usually tell not only that the speaker is from China, but from what area of China.

    Is speaking English like a native English speaker really so important? I say it is not.

    My wife, after 8 years of daily and constant language correction (and a source of great frustration), now speaks English extremely well. People are puzzled because they can hear that she is not a native English speaker, but cannot detect that she is from China or even Asia. I do not think she can improve her 口语 any further, even if she lives in Canada for another 10 years. I have known people who have lived here in Canada for over 30 years who have terrible 口语. The length of time you live abroad is not an indicator of your English ability: There is little correlation.

    Many Chinese friends have asked me to help them. There are a couple of issues. Other native speakers will not usually tell you when you have spoken and made a mistake, because it is socially unacceptable to criticize the way someone else speaks. You will, initially lose face. A lot of face. Everyone learning a second language makes mistakes and loses face. You will need to find someone who will gladly correct your spoken English as well as your 方言. You will need to do this for years. I recommend a qualified speech-language pathologist. I do know that actors regularly use them when, say, a Canadian actor wants to play the role of a person with a British accent.

    Your brain, mouth, tongue and ears need to be rewired for English. On the positive side, the number of phenomes in Mandarin exceeds English but by only a very few, so it is very possible for a Mandarin speaker to be a great English speaker, and vice versa.

    Languages are difficult to learn and can take a lifetime to become somewhat proficient. Learning Chinese for me is, and remains, difficult, a constant battle for improvement. Study hard and do the best you can. The ideal environment would be to come to Canada, do not live in an area where there are other Chinese people, do not talk to Chinese people, do not surf the internet using Chinese, do not read Chinese books, do not shop at Chinese stores, and do everything in English. It’s called “going native”, and is quite difficult, but it works. IMHO. You may be miserable but your English will improve immensely. Is this the life you wish to lead?

    If you live in China, make friends with an English 老外 not just for language exchange but for friendship. Spend time together and get to know one another. Your English will improve naturally and you’ll have more fun. You are looking for more than just language exchange.

  2. No sorry for this! You are more than welcome to leave comments here as long as they don’t offend good people…

    Now, I’ll be back to your comment..

  3. I also agree with Don Tai.

    I learned verbal English by constantly listening to English radio broadcasts and watching English films. It was like taking in the whole English essence until the language has finally become a part of me. I don’t know if my spoken English is already like that of a native English speaker’s, but I do love speaking the language and would love to constantly use it all the days of my life. Only, my current work (which is somewhat like yours) keeps me busy, and so I couldn’t find time for other activities outside the regular ones.

    I hope you’d find a language partner in Beijing soon. Or, maybe you can go visit China Radio International in Beijing and discover some opportunities for friendship.

  4. @ Melisa,

    You must be kidding. CRI is too far away from where I live or work.

    I’ve convinced myself that only by living in the country whose language you want to learn can you learn it really well. Here in China, in Beijing, I speak Chinese and only occasionally English. In the latter case, my audience must be very kind and patient.

  5. I stumbled over here because I saw your comment at solid_copper’s blog over at my.opera.com.

    I just looked over the comments above and I felt that Don Tai’s post was a bit pessimistic. But perhaps I am interpreting “speaking like a native speaker” differently than he is. I live in the U.S., and the fact is that people in different regions of the U.S. have different accents. Similarly people in Canada, Britain, and Australia all speak with a different accent than I have. But all of them speak English which is perfectly understandable.

    I have a friend here in the U.S. who grew up in Taiwan and speaks very good English. Does she have an accent? Yes, but so do I and so does everyone else. Nonetheless she is perfectly understandable; she speaks in a grammatically correct manner, and she has mastered the current colloquial expressions and slang.

    I’m sure being immersed in an English-speaking country is of immeasurable value. However, I have noted that she reads voraciously, and that she does all her reading electronically as e-books. She tells me that because her e-book reader has a built-in dictionary, she can look up unfamiliar words easily, and this has really helped her to build up her vocabulary.

    Best wishes to you in your efforts to master English.

  6. @ Deb,
    Thanks for sharing you ideas and your encouragement!
    I think you’ve noted a great fact that your Taiwan friend reads a lot. Reading extensively is as important as immersing oneself in a speech environment. It’s a process of self-learning and self-studying and cannot be replaced any other activity. For example, you cannot reasily find someone in real life who is so patient to speak everything and write everything to you, which you will need to master another language. Even your beloved and best friends will get bored if you keep demanding them to say or write to you all the time. Maybe someone has said things like this long, long before: You cannot get friends more patient than books!

  7. Pingback:Don Tai (Canada) Blog » Blog Archive » Talk like a Native English Speaker

  8. I obviously don’t know how good your spoken English is. For what it’s worth, however, your written English skills are extremely good.

  9. Im adding http://linguar.com/language_partners to the thread. Its becoming a pretty decent site for finding language partners which you can meet either on skype or if you live in the same town, maybe in a café.
    its a project under construction though so if theres anything not quite working out please let me know!

  10. Wow. So this was your revisit after more than FIVE years! Welcome! While doing translation and editing, I’m now studying for a master’s degree in linguistics. I hope this can help me better understand language and compare the two languages I now use: Chinese and English.

    How’s your website working. It looks prosperous!

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