Make English-speaking friends 🤗

How to find an English-speaking penpal ✍️

Why learn English for years if you're never going to use it? Discover how and where to find English-speaking penpals!

You've certainly been learning English for years and yet, you rarely find yourself speaking it. Did you know that at school, half of all students get to speak English for just one hour? One hour per week? One hour per month? No! One hour during their entire education.

However, you've certainly also heard that practice makes perfect!. You need to meet up with conversation partners, find penpals, practice English with real people. That's what will make the difference for you in the spoken language and will help you feel comfortable speaking English. Spoken English is not the same as the written language and it's essential to talk to native speakers, even if it's just for a little bit at a time.

Fortunately, it has never been so easy to find English-speaking friends. You can do that by using websites to find English-speaking penpals.

Finding English-speaking pen pals - the well-established sites

Here's a selection of the sites I have discovered over the years, which have proven to be useful.

ConversationExchange

First of all, let's talk about ConversationExchange - a free website, which lets you find English-speaking penpals. The interface is clean and doesn't overwhelm you with ads.

The site lets you look for people to chat with and allows you to search according to the language, obviously, but also according to the country where the person currently is (especially useful if you're planning to visit the country!).

What's more, you can choose if you want to have Face to face conversations (meet people in person), if you'd prefer communicating through letters (Correspondence (Pen-Pal)) or if you want to talk online (Using a chat software). For the last option, you have the choice between Skype and ton of other softwares.

CouchSurfing

CouchSurfing is a famous site because it allows you to find people to accommodate you all around the world. It allows you to save up some money during your travels and, above all, it's much more welcoming than a hotel.

I don't exactly know why, but it's extremely easy to break the ice on CouchSurfing. You still have to be careful where you click (the site has a rating system to help with that) but there's nothing like arriving in a new city and immediately meeting native speakers to show you around, while practicing your new language. It's just great!

But CouchSurfing doesn't just help you find accommodations. You can use it to find new contacts with local native speakers to go have a cup of coffee with (you can get in touch with them before or during your trip - I'd advise you to do both). Simply look on the site for people who have recently been active or ones who have similar interests and offer them to go for a drink and chat. People on CouchSurfing are typically open-minded (they wouldn't be there otherwise!).

Finally, Couchsurfers often organize events (meet-ups, picnics). Obviously not all events are equally good, but it's still a great way to find native speakers when you're in the country or even foreigners living in your country.

MeetUp

In a similar fashion to CouchSurfing but oriented more towards work and hobbies as opposed to parties, there's MeetUp.com.

A meetup in English means an informal meeting. The website MeetUp allows you to participate or organize events around specific topics. If you want to meet a group of people involved in yoga or maybe language exchanges, hiking, business, technology (which is very popular on the site), or even goat breeding in the mountains... Well, there's a good chance that such a group already exists.

About half of the events are free and the other half ask for a modest participation fee, typically around $5 to cover the event fees.

The site has about 100 million members located in 181 countries and, whatever the country, there are plenty of events in English. If there's a topic around which you'd like to meet people, this is the best website to do that.

italki

italki (pronounced /ˈaɪ·tɔk·i/) is a **platform which connects learners and teachers (professional teachers) or tutors (community tutors). More specifically, that means that you can either use it to take traditional English classes or to practice your conversation skills.

The teachers and community tutors obviously charge you because, like all of us, have to pay the rent! There's also a free option, namely finding a penpal or a language-exchange partner (in that case you'll be paying with your time).

This site is extremely popular among people who learn modern languages, including polyglots.

It's not always easy to find someone to talk to and this site offers a simple and practical solution. Most exchanges take place on Skype.

New sites to make English-speaking friends

Here's a quick list of other websites which I haven't used as much, but that people have been talking about and seem to like. After that, I'll share with you my tips on finding a good English-speaking penpal.

  • HelloTalk is a mobile-phone application which allows you to easily get in touch with native speakers. This allows you to exchange in a text format, through a chat, but if you prefer, you can always call your conversation partner.
  • Tandem allows you to exchange messages on your mobile phone.

I will expand this list when I get your suggestions and when I discover new ones.

How to find the right English-speaking penpal

Meeting new people, especially those who speak another language, can change your life and make you live many extraordinary adventures. Personally, this has helped me make friends on several continents, visit cities and even entire countries, and also have a few relationships.

But for all of this, you need to meet the right people. So, here are a few tips and example messages you can send to each other.

Tips to get you started

Learning English is to a large extent a social experience and the more we feel comfortable to meet new people, the simpler it is. (This is a skill you can work on not only for your English - the more sociable you are, the more opportunities you'll get).

So, here are a few simple tips to find and keep your English-speaking penpals.

  • Be interested in people, be curious, be a good listener. The more you take interest in them, the more they'll find you interesting.
  • Talk about what you love. Enthusiasm is contagious!
  • Be positive. Learning English is the perfect occasion to forget about your own problems.
  • Instead of talking about what you do (no one has a perfect life), you can talk about what you would do and encourage your partners to do the same. Talking about your dreams and projects is a good way to break the ice.

Finally, gentlemen, please avoid looking at these sites for language exchanges as dating apps. If you get along well with someone and the attraction is mutual, things will naturally develop. No need to be a drag and to discourage people from using these sites.

A great book about communication, which is easy to read or listen to in English, is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It's a classic, even a staple in the field of personal development. The title might seem a bit silly, but the book is full of good advice.

Examples of messages to send

Here are a few examples of messages I have sent and have successfully used to make English-speaking friends and to start language exchanges for different languages (I have used it to learn Hungarian and to practice Spanish, but have adapted the examples to English).

Message on Couchsurfing in English (accommodation 1):

Hello [THE PERSON'S NAME]!

If you feel like traveling without leaving [YOUR CITY], let meet sleep on your couch! :) I'll be in [YOUR COUNTRY] for [X MONTHS/X WEEKS] and I would like to CouchSurf a little in [YOUR CITY] because I definitely want to spend time with locals. I'm here to learn English.

Ciao

[YOUR NAME]

Message on Couchsurfing in English (accommodation 2):

Hi [THE PERSON'S NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME]. I'm from France and started a little trip around the world two weeks ago. Right now I'm in [CITY A] and next week I'll be in [YOUR CITY]. I'd like to couchsurf with someone chill with who I could speak English, because I'm learning this nice language. I only know a few words (this sucks!), but I'm trying my best. I would only need a couch to sleep on for 2-3 nights, or whatever is most convenient for you, of course.

Have a nice day!

[YOUR NAME]

Message on Couchsurfing in English (to have a drink):

Hi girls, (a message I sent to a group of friends on CouchSurfing)

I've just moved to [CITY] and I am looking to make friends around a drink, chatting in English or French. I have been learning English for a few months and now have the chance to practice and make faster progress!

[YOUR NAME]

For the other sites, I don't have an example of one of my messages, but something like this should do the trick:

Hi [THE PERSON'S NAME]!

My name is [YOUR NAME]. I'm from [YOUR COUNTRY] and am planning to travel and see the world. Right now, I'd like to find someone cool to practice my English with. In exchange, I'll be happy to help you with your [YOUR LANGUAGE]. I definitely want to spend time chatting with [AMERICANS / ENGLISH / AUSTRALIANS OR WHEREVER YOU WANT TO GO]. I love [HOBBY 1], [HOBBY 2] and just to talk to people and make friends.

All the best,

[YOUR NAME]

These are messages which are quite generic which have worked but if you'd like to, you can obviously adapt or personalize them depending on your own interests and those of the person you contact (especially when you have something in common). This will prepare you to talk about interesting things in English!

Have fun meeting new people!

P.S. Have I missed any good sites to find English-speaking penpals? And what about you, how did you find people to talk to in English? Share you information and you anecdotes in the comments!

P.P.S. If you want to make English-speaking friends, please use one of the above-mentioned resources and not the comment section.

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Fabien Snauwaert

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Dimitar Dimitrov

Translator

Last modified: June 4, 2021, 10:40 am