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Language partners in Aarhus: “It is not weird to give a hug on a first meeting!”

Joachim, a Danish engineering student, and Niaan, a Dutch girl who studies Human security, are language partners. And they meet at least once a week! What do they do you might ask? I was just as curious so I asked if I could meet them. Luckily they liked the idea. See what they said in this interview!

Hi, you two! It’s great to meet you. Do you always meet here at the local library Dokk1?

“Yes, we have met here every time. There are so many places to sit and so many things to do here.”

Why did you choose to have a language partner?

“Well I have taken English classes at FOF night school here in Aarhus, and they showed me the website Swap Language. I was already a bit tired of not being able to practice English with anyone, besides when I was in the English classes. That is only twice a week and I didn’t have anyone else to practice with, so when I heard about Swap Language, it was almost like receiving a message from heaven!”

“I have chosen to have a tandem partner because I really want to improve my Danish skills! I really like languages, so I’m also looking for someone to improve my Spanish actually.”

Create a free profile on Swap Language and find your own language partner in your city!

How many times have you met so far? 

“We have met 5 times already. I remember our first meeting, where I gave you a hug first. Afterward I was thinking, was that OK. Haha. But apparently, it’s not that weird, Niaan told me that all the Danes she knows always give hugs.”

“Yeah, it’s not that weird to give hugs on first meetings I think. The first meeting we got to know each other. It was the basic questions:

Who are you?
What do you do?
How many siblings do you have?

All those questions that make a person.”

What do you do when you meet?

“I remember I asked you about the drugs policy in Holland, haha! It’s not every day I talk to someone from Holland, so I just had to ask! Because of the big difference in culture, I find it very easy to ask you cultural questions, because I know very little about the Dutch history and society. The cultural aspect has been very interesting for me when I meet with a language partner.”

“We have played the board game Bezzerwisser. It’s a quiz game which I found very interesting. It’s in Danish, but then Joachim helps me pronounce the questions right, and if we don’t know the answer we Google it. You could say that I am learning 3 things at the same time!

How to pronounce
New words
And the answer to the question

It’s like learning by doing on a whole other level! And it is also a great way of finding new topics to talk about when we play the quiz game.”

Read how Jonathan and Duidui swap languages too!

What is your motivation of having a language partner?

“I really like foreign languages, and I want to be able to interact with the locals in their native language. So my goal was actually to be able to speak Danish by the Christmas 2016. But because everyone speaks English here, I find it difficult to learn the language fast, because we have a common language we can communicate through. Therefore a language partner is crucial for me to have to be able to learn Danish.”

“My motivation is mostly work related. When I get a job I will have to be able to speak more than Danish, that is why I’m practicing as much as I can now. I want to be able to have a conversation with a client where I know more than just the basics in the English language. I actually have several language partners, so I can practice at least twice a week.”

The key to making Danes speak Danish to you

How do you feel about making mistakes when talking?

“Before we started having these language meetings I didn’t feel comfortable to speak English in public, because I don’t think my English is good enough yet. I worried a lot about what other people thought of me and that was a hard feeling to fight. But I just need to get over my fear of speaking out loud. I need more courage.”

“I feel that I am making a lot of mistakes, but as long as Joachim understands what I’m trying to say, then that is more than fine. When I do something wrong, I personally don’t mind if someone corrects me by saying: “that’s not how you say it”.”

How would you describe a language partner meeting in 3 words?

“Personal development – I feel that I grow as a person because I’m able to express myself in a new language.
cultural knowledge – The awareness of other cultures is for me an important aspect for everyone.
Excitement – The excitement of meeting a person from another country is really giving.”

“Language – A language is a key element to get to know local people better!
Fun – It’s fun because I learn so much by having these private meetings about the Danish society.
Practice – It’s almost like having a private lesson. There are no other students that need help than me.”

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