Putting into practice what you've learned can be easy with these six ways to find native speakers of your target language who live in your community.
Last week a student sent me this email:
Jenny asked a good question. She takes online classes but wants to know how to put what she's learned into practice with native speakers locally in Phoenix, AZ.
This is what I'm always preaching, right? I always say to find activities where you can immerse yourself in the language.
After a day of reflecting, I came up with these recommendations to send to Jenny. I've altered them to make them applicable to you instead of just the Phoenix area. And I've used examples for Spanish, but you can change them to your target language easily and get similar results.
✨Post on NextDoor saying you'd like to practice X language
I've done that before and gotten some friendly native speakers in my community who wanted to meet up
✨Check Meetup for any local X language-speaking events or groups
When I searched for "Spanish group" (without quotes) with my zip code, several online meetups came up. You can also search by activity, for instance, salsa dancing.
✨Search for local Facebook groups with X language speakers and/or learners
Search for "Spanish [your town/city]" (without quotes or brackets) and make sure you're looking for Facebook groups specifically
✨Go to any country or regional market or restaurant near you
You can easily find places by googling "Latin American market near me" (without the quotes). You can change Latin American for something more specific, such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, Colombian, etc. When you're there, ask them if they know anyone who'd like to practice with you.
You can do the same for Italian markets and restaurants. Be sure to go during their slower times. You can see when they're slowest, and when they're busiest, on Google Maps.
For instance, after Googling "Latin American markets near me," this is the first one that popped up. I scrolled down to find their busy times.
Bigger cities often have summer festivals or concerts geared to those with Latin American heritage. For instance, the House of Peru in San Diego, CA is having Lawn Program July 23 to celebrate Peru's independence day. Richmond, VA just had their ¿Que Pasa? festival.
Even smaller cities have fun opportunities for immersion. The small city where I'm from in Virginia will host a Puerto Rican bomba workshop in July. That same city is even going to have a Latin American festival at the county fair this September.
Even if you find out you missed the event, no worries. I didn't know about the ¿Que Pasa? festival until after it happened, but now I follow the event organizer so I can keep up with their future events.
✨Visit a county fair or farmer's market
This is actually a pretty good idea because there may be vendors there who are from Latin America. You could also chat up some folks who are shopping there, just like you.
This is one I never considered until I was asked to give a free Spanish class at my local one. Since I follow my local farmer's market on Facebook, I found out that a baker from Puerto Rico will be there. I'm definitely going to be heading to his booth to chat him up and buy some of his Puerto Rican postres (desserts).
Last year, I unexpectedly met a lovely group of Peruvians at a small county fair in Virginia last year. It was great chatting with them. And of course, I just had to buy some of their products from Peru.
So you never know who'll you meet at your local farmer's market or county fair, even in small towns or rural areas.
The beautiful thing about native speakers is that most truly enjoy sharing with folks their language and culture. So you will be welcomed for being curious and wanting to learn.
Jackie Donaldson is the owner and director of Amidon Studios Language Studies. She started Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru. She's taught students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, baking, and exploring the globe.