Profile Set Up Blueprint
Once you’ve chosen a language exchange platform, it’s time to set up your profile.
I’ll be using italki for this as it’s the site with the largest pool of people, if you’ve chosen a different site, don’t worry, they all have similar interfaces.
Upon signing up, you’ll be prompted with a pop up window asking what your native and target languages are, your time zone, and preferences:
- Native language: This one’s a bit tricky. Of course, we all know what our native language is, but if it’s not one that is in high demand, it’s tempting to “lie” and list English as your native language instead of your native Vulcan. However, this won’t work if you don’t live in an English speaking country unless you down right blatantly lie about being a native speaker currently living abroad. If you are a foreigner living in a country whose language you claim to be a native of, then lying might just work for you (I’m not saying you should do it), just remember you have to deliver as well as a native would, in other words, your level should be that of a native speaker. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people don’t even care about whether their language exchange partner is a native speaker or not, the real problem is that many claim to be fluent in another language when they’re more like advanced-intermediate, obviously a non-fluent person can’t help another person reach fluency, thus why everyone plays it safe and look for native speakers only. And so should you.
- Target language: Choose the one language you’re currently studying, you can add other languages later on, but I recommend against it as it’s easier to learn when you’re focusing your efforts on one single language.
- Preferences (!): Select “yes” for both questions.
Now we’re going to edit our profile, to do that go to the upper right part of the screen, click on the 3-lined symbol next to your inbox symbol, and from the drop-down menu select “edit profile”.
Now, let’s upload a picture.
Your picture doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Number one rule is that your face has to be clearly seen, no blurry pictures, no pictures of you doing activities that don’t let your face be seen, etc.
Now, a “cool” picture won’t hurt, so if you have one or can take one where you’re walking under sakura trees and turning your face to smile at the camera, or something like that, that’d be great, and it will draw more people to your profile, but as I said, it’s not mandatory.
The picture I selected for my profile is a normal picture of me, my face can clearly be seen, it implies (but, of course, doesn’t prove) that I’m a normal, non-creepy person. I’m not doing anything cool (or anything at all really) and anybody can take a picture like mine.
Dos and don’ts of choosing a picture:
- No “tinder pictures”: Shirtless pictures show little social awareness given the context. Also, no pictures doing sexual symbols with your hands, nothing that will make people think “I’m looking for sex on a language exchange site, wish me luck”.
- Try to avoid “lonely” pictures: Selfies in your room with your face lit by the brightness of your computer screen? Better try with a selfie in a park, or one where you’re hugging your dog, etc.
- No group pictures: It’s probably going to be hard for people to know how you look like if you’re one out of a bunch of other people, because, you know, they don’t know you.
- No no-picture: In this day and age where sharing and taking pictures is easy, and therefore, arguably mundane, not putting a picture of you makes it seem like you’re hiding something. This is not a beauty contest, don’t be afraid to show your face.
- Smile (if you want): I don’t have a pretty smile, plus my droopy left eye looks like I had a stroke from watching re-runs of The Apprentice non-stop (which I’m actually guilty of) and it gets way droopier when I smile, so I almost never smile in pictures. However, smiling communicates warmth and friendliness so do it if you want.
On to our profile’s description
Depending on how sought-after your native language is you’ll meet potential language friends by reaching out to them, or by them coming to you. In the first case, what you say in private messages will be more important than what you put in your profile, and in the second case, the opposite is truer.
Regardless, both your profile and your private messages are pretty important, so you should put effort into both.
As far as your profile goes, something simple will do: a small introduction describing where you live and giving a taste of your personality, plus describing how you can help and what you are looking for is all you need:
“Hey there! I’m Viktor and I live in a smallishly long country called Chile which actually looks like a chili, so that’s funny I guess.
Anyhoo, I’m looking to make Japanese friends with whom to exchange languages over skype on a regular basis. I can help you improve your grammar, word choice, overall writing, or anything related to English or Spanish. Hit me up with a message and I’ll take it from there 🙂
Have a great day!”
Let’s dissect my intro:
“Hey there! I’m Viktor and I live in a smallishly long country called Chile which actually looks like a chili, so that’s funny I guess.” -> My personality.
“Anyhoo, I’m looking to make Japanese friends with whom to exchange languages over skype on a regular basis.” -> What I’m looking for and two non-negotiable rules, that our exchange has to be over skype (anything else won’t work for me) and that it has to be somewhat often, not once a month.
“I can help you improve your grammar, word choice, overall writing, or anything related to English or Spanish.” -> What I can do for my potential language friends.
Feel free to copy my intro, but you should try to tweak it to make it really yours.