You’ve practiced conversations in your target language over and over and now want to find a native speaker to try it out on.

You’re stood there, slightly awkward, nervous and then you’ve taken the leap of faith. Out flies a half decent attempt.

The native speaker looks at you… takes a pause… then starts replying in English.

I’ve had this experience multiple times with many different languages. It’s not surprising really; English has the most non-natives speakers globally. The British Council predicts that the amount of people learning English around the world is set to exceed 1.9bn by 2020. So no matter which language an English native tries to learn, chances are you will run into people who also want to practice their language skills.

Here are some tips to stop speaking English and start speaking your target language:

  • It sounds obvious but go to a place where the locals don’t know English. For example, In China travel to a rural part of the country rather than the cities.
  • Find a café or bar that you really like and get to know the staff. After a while they’ll know the deal and appreciate that you’re learning their language. Perhaps a good tip helps!
  • Simply explaining to the native speaker that you are trying to learn the language. You may be surprised how willing the person to try and help.
  • Old fashion persistence. Just keep going!

I get really nervous approaching people. Specially because my Mandarin is fairly basic at the minute. And I have previously been in Chinatown, plucked up the courage to talk in Mandarin to a shop assistant and they spoke Cantonese. I was gutted.

So, I have come up with a creative and fun way to find language partners in the street and avoid having to explain yourself every time. I went on Fiverr and asked a graphic designer to create a cool t-shirt design that says “ 我可以和你一起练习汉语吗?” which translates to “Can I practice my Mandarin with you?”. I would love to think that this t-shirt would enable language learners to approach native speakers and vice versa. Perhaps it could be worn at language events or kids wearing it on a school trip.

If you fancy trying it out click the picture below to get your t-shirt. I would love to know how you got on. Send me your experiences/ pictures wearing this t-shirt on social media and I’ll put it on this blog. Good luck!

Disclosure: Please note that this blog has affiliate links. Which mean that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you buy something through this affiliate link. That said, I would never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to language learning.