At the start of 2016, I had a new language learning experience: a study buddy. But what role does a study buddy fill? And how can they help your language learning? I sat down with Shannon Kennedy to discuss how to have a successful language study buddy.
Learning Korean at the start of 2016, I was excited to have a study buddy for the first time, my friend and fellow language blogger, Shannon of Eurolinguiste.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect or if it would make a difference to my progress at all, but I was keen to find out. It turns out that having Shannon as my study buddy was one of the best things about learning Korean.
what is a study buddy?
This is a difficult question to answer. It can mean different things to different people.
It could be that your study buddy is a native speaker of the language you’re learning and they’re learning your native language. When you meet up (online or in real life) you spend half of your time in one language and one in another. However, personally, I would consider this more of a language exchange.
It could be someone who’s studying the same language as you but they’re currently at a higher level.
It could be someone who’s studying the same language as you at the same level.
Or it could be someone who’s studying a different language or a different topic altogether but you’re meeting regularly to hold each other accountable or to get some focused study time in.
With Shannon, we were both at the same level in a new language to both of us. That’s the type of study buddy I’ll be focusing on in this post.
If you’re considering finding your own study buddy for your language learning, here are my top tips.
Study Buddy Tips
Arrange a regular meeting time
When we first started learning Korean, we didn’t really have much of a plan. In fact, we probably went for a couple of months without taking full advantage of having a study buddy. But we soon changed that.
After arranging a regular time to meet and discuss our progress, my motivation benefited from a real boost.
All of a sudden, I wasn’t just learning new stuff to grow my own personal vocabulary, I was learning new stuff to share with Shannon in our weekly meetings. I wanted to share something valuable with Shannon each week and this pushed me to go deeper and find more good stuff to share.
Set a goal to share something with your buddy
Telling yourself that you’ll find something to share with your study buddy is one thing, but actually telling each other out loud is another. And the second one is the better one too.
After a couple of weeks of sharing what we’d learnt over the past week with each other, we started to tell each other what we’d bring to our session next week. How many words should Shannon expect me to teach her in our next meeting? What topic will I be focusing on to share with her?
Setting a goal for what we would share with each other really helped to re-enforce the point of sharing worthwhile content with each other.
Keep in touch in between your meets
You’ll want to find a study buddy that you feel comfortable contacting between your arranged meeting times.
I know this might sound basic, but depending on how well you know your study buddy or how approachable they are it can be hard to reach out for fear of disturbing your study buddy.
If you feel that way, it’s probably not a good sign. You need to feel that your odd comments and useful finds will be appreciated not annoying.
Don’t be afraid to discuss your “failures” as well as successes
Ok, this is a big one. Your study buddy is not your competition. I’m gonna repeat that one because it’s reeeeally important: your study buddy is not your competition.
It’s ok to share your “failures” with your study buddy as well as your successes. Getting stuff wrong is an essential part of successful language learning so be as proud of your mistakes as you are of your wins. Mistakes = progress.
If you turn up to a meeting with your study buddy after a relatively “light” week when it comes to language learning for whatever reason, be honest with your study buddy. Chances are they’ll be grateful to you for opening up the door for them to be honest and open with you too.
Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t want your meetings to turn into a moanfest. You’ve got a study buddy not a moan buddy! But it’ll be much more discouraging if your study buddy is just telling you how great things are when you’ve had a string of bad weeks.
Find someone the right level
As I mentioned towards the top of this post, study buddy could mean different things to different people, and when it comes to finding someone at the “right” level, the meaning of “right” is variable.
Perhaps what you need is to have a study buddy studying at the same level as you, perhaps you need someone at a higher level than you, or perhaps you need someone at a lower level than you.
For me, Shannon being the same level in Korean as me was the right level. I was looking to learn together and that’s what we got.
So how do you decide what the right level is for you?
Do you enjoy and learn from teaching what you know to others? Consider a study buddy at a lower level than you.
Do you enjoy having things explained by someone who has been there? Consider a study buddy at a higher level than you.
Do you enjoy sharing things and learning with others? Consider a study buddy at the same level as you.
Shortest flowchart quiz ever.
Knowing your personal language insecurities and pitfalls will help you to make the right decision for you here.
Find someone as committed as you
Probably the most important thing to think about before starting a study buddy arrangement. What you don’t want is a study buddy who’s going to go all in for 1 week, 1 month, 6 weeks and then disappear. Motivation is key.
What you do want is a study buddy who can commit and is as committed as you, if not more so.
Because I knew Shannon well before we started our study buddy arrangement, I knew she’d be committed to this, and she proved me right. Yay!
How to find a study buddy
Now you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to find the right person to buddy up with. But how? And where? Argh! I’ll explain…
Where to find a study buddy
Think about where you hang out, whether that’s on or offline. If you’re looking for a similar study buddy then this is a good place to start.
Online this could include italki, HelloTalk, language learning Facebook Groups or other social media platforms. If you don’t know where to begin on social media, try hashtags to lead you to people learning what you’re learning.
Offline this could be coffee shops, local information boards at community centres or universities and colleges or even something like meetup.com, which is online but encourages offline meet ups with people with similar interests.
How to make it happen
Let’s say you’ve come across someone online who you think could be a good fit. The best thing from here? Reach out to them! Yay!
Be clear what you’re looking for and don’t be afraid to say early on how often you’d like to buddy up, where you’d like to meet, what language you’re learning and what level you’re at now, and what you have in mind specifically that will benefit both of you.
Here’s a bad example of a first message to a potential study buddy:
Hey. I’m learning Korean like you. We should chat.
And here’s a much better example:
Hey! I noticed that you’re learning Korean and I want to connect with you because I am too. I’m a beginner right now but I’m studying about 30 minutes each day and my goal is to be at a comfortable conversational level by the end of the year. I’m looking for a study buddy to talk with on Skype for an hour each week. I’ve never done this before but I think it would be a great way to keep us both motivated and help us learn more together. 🙂 Do you think this is something you’d be interested in?
Notice how the second message is really clear and outlines everything we mentioned above? Woop!
Now of course, not everyone will response. Some people might think you’re coming on too strong, some people might not be looking for a study buddy and that’s fine. It just means that when you do find your study buddy, you’ll appreciate them more!
If you’re ready to learn more, watch the video below. I talked to Shannon about her take on having a study buddy and asked her a few questions about getting started.
Have you ever had a study buddy? How did it help you? Share in the comments below!