Everyone needs friends.
They’re the ones who will go with you to that movie no one else wants to see.
They’re the ones who will tell you when there’s food stuck in your teeth.
They’re the ones who will comfort you when you’re disappointed that pumpkin latte season ends after just six short months.
But are they the ones who help you learn Korean?
Well, if you find the perfect Korean penpal(s), they can be! You don’t have to study in Seoul to find the right friend to help you improve your skills.
Having a Korean penpal has a lot of great benefits. You can get reading and writing practice with Korean chatbots, sure, but with a penpal you get the bonus of interacting with a real person.
Plus, you have someone who can correct any grammar or vocabulary mistakes you make.
So how do you find this special person? Lucky for you, there are better options than casting a message in a bottle out to sea and waiting for it to wash up on the shores of Jeju Island.
If you’re looking for someone who can help you massively improve your Korean skills, look no further than these six resources for finding the perfect Korean penpal.
How to Find the Perfect Korean Penpal
Take interests into account. Everyone is unique and has their own sets of interests. Finding a penpal whose interests align with yours will ensure you never run out of things to discuss. Plus, it will make your exchanges that much more fun and interesting.
Use FluentU to find subjects to write about. FluentU takes real-world online videos and turns them into personalized language lessons. This means that not only will you find plenty of relevant subjects here to write about in messages, but you can spend some time learning the vocabulary from, say, a K-pop video or a Korean movie trailer, and then send your penpal the link to show them what you’ve been doing. FluentU’s player, which includes social media share buttons, makes it super easy to connect with friends over authentic content.
Consider connecting with several penpals to see who you click with. Sometimes, even if you have shared interests, you might not click with someone. Your communication styles may be different or you just might not like each other as much as you hoped. That’s why you may want to start out with several penpals to see which one(s) you get along with. After all, long-term friendship isn’t something you can force overnight, so you might as well start by being social with a few people and without putting too much pressure on yourself or anyone else.
Share your expectations/goals with each other. Doing so will help you ensure that your needs are compatible. For instance, you might discuss why you’re learning Korean, what sort of progress you hope to make and how often you hope to correspond. After all, if you want frequent exchanges and your penpal only wants an occasional email, this could be problematic. Language exchange is a two-way street, so be considerate, honest and polite—and of course, just make sure to exercise the same common-sense caution you would in any other situation that involves interacting with strangers online.
Find Your BLF (Best Learning Friend)! 6 Korean Penpal Sites
HelloTalk is a chat app that supports over 150 languages, including Korean. It aims to connect users with native speakers around the world, and with over 10 million members, you’re sure to find an awesome Korean penpal.
You have plenty of filtering options to help you narrow down your potential penpals. Not only can you filter by language, you can also filter by nationality, location, age and more. You can easily find native Korean speakers here.
While HelloTalk is for chatting and language exchanges in general, if you prefer, you can still go for a more traditional, text-based penpal relationship. There are even grammar and translation tools to help you ensure your Korean is on point.
However, if you want to work some speaking and listening skills into the mix, HelloTalk also offers voice and video calls for a well-rounded, interactive learning experience.
The site offers helpful search features, allowing you to search by gender, age range, nationality, location, language and whether the profile includes a picture. You can filter by just one or two criteria or select all of them to further narrow your candidate field. If you’re only interested in a Korean penpal who lives in Korea and speaks Korean, you’ll currently still have hundreds of matches to filter.
Once you’ve selected someone you might be interested in, you might want to look at their profile for more details. Many users include a photo, a brief bio, what religion they practice and what field they work in. If you want to connect with them, all you have to do is send your prospective penpal an email through the site.
You can search by nationality, location, gender, age, location and whether the user has a photo. Again, there are currently hundreds of users who are Korean, live in Korea and speak Korean.
A lot of the users share information on their jobs, religion, interests and more. Many also provide photos. Plus, you can sort by when users last logged in, making it easier to find people who are still interested in finding penpals. Once you find someone to connect with, just message them through the website.
Without logging in, searching options are significantly limited; you can search by age, gender, region and whether the user has a photo. Once you create a free account, though, your options explode, adding ability to search by location, religion, language and more. You can even search by interests, giving you an easy way to find someone with shared interests so you can chat all you want about your favorite topics. Plus, you can also filter by correspondence preferences, whether you’re looking for an online relationship, a snail mail correspondence or even a travel partnership.
There are currently over 200 users who speak Korean and are located in Korea. Users generally list what exchanges they’re interested in, the languages they speak and their proficiency levels, their interests, what they’re looking for in a penpal and more.
To contact members, you’ll have to upgrade to a premium account, which is offered on a subscription basis. However, you can also send a “smile” to other users for free to let them know you’re interested. Then, they might reach out to you.
Have decision paralysis? Don’t worry—PenpalsNow won’t overwhelm you with too many options. All you need to do is search by gender, age and/or country to start browsing penpals. With over 700 users who list their location as South Korea, you should have no trouble finding a penpal you get along with.
Descriptions list each user’s name, age range, gender, hobbies and a personal message. Plus, unlike many other penpal websites, you can instantly access your potential penpal’s email address so that you can start writing right away.
To make it even more convenient, search results are organized by the date they were last modified, so your top search results will be people who are more likely to be actively seeking penpals at the moment.
Students of the World is designed to be a kid-friendly website, but adults can join their list of Korean penpals, too. This might be an especially good option for you if you’re a teenager or young adult looking to correspond with someone your own age in a safe environment.
You can filter by gender, age, hobbies and/or languages. Each profile lists a user’s age, gender, hobbies, languages and a brief description. Many users also list personal preferences, like favorite colors, animals, sports and more.
To contact a user through the website’s mail system, you’ll have to start a free account. However, some users also list their Instagram handles and/or KakaoTalk IDs for additional contact options.
So get to work! Your perfect Korean penpal is waiting.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.