Have you ever wished you could meet people in your city to practice your English with? Have you always wanted a foreign friend, but you haven’t been fortunate enough to meet anyone, yet?
Well, now there is a way to get all the benefits of traveling without ever leaving your home city.
You can meet foreigners traveling or living in your city, you can meet other people who love to travel and learn languages like yourself online or who live in your area, and you can travel safely without spending as much money.
HOW??? With Couchsurfing!!!
If you’re not already on CouchSurfing, then you’re missing out on one of the best projects on the Internet. It has completely changed the way that people travel, and the experience of travelers once they arrive back home.
First, what is CouchSurfing?
If you are already familiar with CS, then feel free to skip this part.
The term means that you “surf couches” (we also say, “surf the internet”). In these cases, surf means that you go from one place to another. When you surf the Internet you go from one website to another. So, it makes sense that when you couchsurf you go from one couch to another.
The basic idea of CouchSurfing is that it helps you to “travel like a local” instead of a tourist.
When you’re traveling, you can stay with locals for FREE rather than spending your hard-earned money on a hotel or hostel. By doing this, you also get to learn about the local area and culture from your host. On the CouchSurfing website it says:
CouchSurfing is present in almost every country in the world, in more than 100,000 cities and with more than six million members.
And it’s not just for travelers. You can host people in your home and you can meet other CouchSurfers in your area.
CouchSurfers are some of the best people you’ll meet because they are SO open to foreigners and they want to know about other cultures and languages. As you can imagine, CouchSurfing helps the world to connect, and it even cultivates peace and understanding.
Most importantly for us, it is a GREAT resource for language learners.
Become a “citizen of the world” without traveling
You can practice any language with native speakers using CouchSurfing. In this article, we’re going to look at five ways that we can use this fantastic site to improve our English (or any other language you’re learning) and become a global citizen:
- Travel and Surf with local hosts
- Host travelers in your city
- Go to your local CouchSurfing Meet-up
- Join a discussion group
- Search for people who speak the language you’re learning
1. Surf: travel, exchange culture, and learn languages
If you travel, or you plan to, CouchSurfing is much more enriching than staying in a hotel or hostel because you can learn about local culture, make friends, and maybe even get a free tour guide!
Plus, you can practically do it without spending more than you would staying home!
OK, well maybe you need to buy a plane/bus/train ticket, but once you arrive at your destination, whether it is on the other side of the world or the city next to yours, CouchSurfing makes it easy to travel on a budget (for really cheap).
And best of all, if you’re traveling somewhere where you’re learning the language (for example, if you’re learning English and you’re traveling in the U.S. or Australia) you’ll improve your language skills MUCH more than if you just go as a normal tourist. You’ll be put in a setting where you must speak the language.
So next time you travel, don’t even think of spending money on a hotel. Couchsurf and have a life-changing experience.
2. Host: become an ambassador for your city
So maybe right now you can’t afford to travel. But if you have a little extra room in your home—a guest bedroom, a sofa, or some extra floor space (Couchsurfers aren’t fastidious)—then you can host travelers!
Almost any city you live in will have foreigners passing through for different reasons (business, study abroad, tourism, etc), so set up an account and see who is looking for a host in your city.
Most English speaking tourists you find won’t speak much of your language. So they will be grateful for your help, even if you only know basic English. Without a doubt, if you’re proactive and you participate a lot, your English will quickly improve.
You can be an ambassador for your hometown: share your culture, cuisine, and music with them. Take them out with your friends. Give them a taste of what life in your city is like. That’s what CouchSurfing is all about!
Who knows? You might just make a lifelong friend!
When I lived in Spain, we had lots of extra room, so we had CouchSurfers often (every week in the Summer). I met so many wonderful people from all over the world. I learned about the cultures of places that I barely knew existed. And I tasted delicious specialties from everywhere. All of this without leaving my house!
In turn, we would take them around the city, to different towns and beaches, and to bars. They would go out with us on the weekends and we always had an awesome time.
This experience made me fall in love with CouchSurfing, and I know you will, too.
But is it safe???
But after I had it explained to me in a little more detail, and actually created my own account, I realized it really is very safe.
This is for several reasons:
- There is a system of references. If someone is going to stay at your house, or you are going to surf with someone, you can look at the references other people have left him. I only surf/host people who have good references.
- Some people are verified. This is something that you can pay to do. People who are verified have had their identity checked by CouchSurfing. It shows they are who they say they are. For me, this is less important than references. But, it’s nice to know.
- There is a vouching system. You can only vouch for people once you yourself have been vouched for three times (vouch means to confirm that someone is a good, trustworthy person).
Once you start using CouchSurfing, you’ll learn that it is extremely safe, as long as you know how to use it correctly.
It’s important to get references yourself, so try to meet people on the website and at the meet-ups who will give you a good reference. It's also connected to Facebook, so you can get references from your friends. Doing this will make it much easier to surf and host people.
If you’re not ready to host people yet, a good place to get your feet wet (try and become accustomed) are the local CS meet-ups. You’ll quickly learn what wonderful people couchsurfers are, and you’ll get excited to try it yourself!
3. Meet-ups: hang out with foreigners and travelers in your hometown
Most big cities have weekly Couchsurfing meet-ups. To find out if there is one in your town, just search for your city under events. All of the meet-ups will show up here, listed by date. You can see how many people are already confirmed. See if there is one you find interesting.
The meet-ups vary in each city, but they are usually great because people at them are extremely open and friendly. And many foreigners attend because they want to meet locals. There are usually a lot of native and non-native English speakers at these events.
So step outside of your comfort zone, speak whatever English you can, make a lot of mistakes, and make friends.
4. Discussions and Conversations: make friends online
You can also search for local discussions in your city (or somewhere you want to go). Here you can talk about anything that interests you. And because Couchsurfing is an international community, most discussions are in English.
Think of it as the CouchSurfing forum. It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests online, to learn about anything, to practice writing in English, and to find people to Skype with. Discussion topics are broken into local advice, meeting people, and places to stay.
You could, for example, start a conversation saying, “Language Exchange.” And explain that you’re learning English and you would like to exchange classes of your language for English. Or just get together for a beer or coffee.
This is another awesome way to meet people with similar interests.
5. Do a Search: find native speakers to hang out with
In the search box, select find hosts and search for your city. This will show all of the couchsurfers in your area. In the options to the right, make sure under availability all of the options are selected.
You’ll also find an option to search by language. With this you can find everyone in your city that speaks the language you’re learning.
If you live in a big city, there will definitely be native and non-native English speakers.
I actually used this to make a French friend in Brazil with whom I could practice my French. I looked for French speakers in Belo Horizonte. He came up. I wrote him a message asking if he’d like to get a beer and exchange French and English. He was very enthusiastic about it because he also wanted to improve his English.
We had a lot in common and we quickly became friends, and he even visited me when I was living in Barcelona.
My French was not very good. But making a friend only inspired me to improve even more. You can practice a language even if you are still at a basic level, just speak whenever you can. Couchsurfers are generally very understanding and will be excited to help you improve!
Imagine how excited someone visiting your home country would be to have a native help him learn the local tongue in a fun, informal situation. Who knows, maybe you can even visit him in his home country someday.
The more people you meet and friends you make around the world, the opportunities you’ll have to travel. This is exactly the type of lifestyle that you need to create for lifelong fluency.
Join one of the best communities online
Now you know exactly how to use CouchSurfing and how to meet native English speakers in your community. It is a powerful tool for language learners, and it can help you improve your English a TON.
What are you waiting for? Make an account right now! Step outside of your box (out of your comfort zone) and make friends from all over the world.
Challenge yourself and start using the languages you’re learning to communicate. What’s the worst that can happen?