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Ulsan Language Exchange Table

If you’re looking to practice your Korean (or English) in a friendly, helpful environment, you should check out the Ulsan Language Exchange Table.

The group was started by Ulsan University student  Kim Yongsoo (known as Ryan to his English-speaking friends) and his friends Lee Jihong and Yoo Hyejin, for two main reasons. Ryan had a number of foreign friends, and noticed that they were often stared at or pointed at in public, which he felt was rude. Also, he noticed that despite spending hundreds of hours and millions of won studying English, his Korean friends can’t speak the language well. He decided that the best way to help with both problems was to start a language exchange group, where people can get together to practice speaking each other’s language, but also as a chance to exchange cultures and to learn more about each other.

Don’t worry if your Korean isn’t ready for full-on conversations yet.  “If you can’t speak, just come to listen!” says Ryan.

A typical evening with the group begins with an hour of only English, as a chance for the Korean members to practice their language skills. Then it switches, and the 2nd hour is only Korean. There is no need for anyone to be shy, as everyone is learning at least one of the languages being spoken. “Just try!” insists Ryan, pointing out that it’s not a class or a school. “Just come to enjoy. It’s the best way to learn another language.”

If he has time away from his Engineering studies, Ryan will plan a BBQ or a Pizza Party. Other weeks, the event takes place in a local café. There is a core group of about 30 people who regularly attend, but 40-50 – pretty much half Koreans, half foreigners, will come out to the bigger events. “All people are always welcome.”

Ryan’s goals for the group are simple: he wants this to be the group that people turn to when they first arrive in Ulsan (after UlsanOnline, of course!), as a place to meet both Korean and foreign friends. He wants all foreigners in Ulsan to be able to walk down the street without being pointed out as waygookeen.

He’s doing this in order to help. To help foreigners integrate into Korean culture, to help Koreans understand the newcomers in their traditionally closed country. He also offers himself as a translator, free of charge, to those in need. Any fees charged for the parties go to cover the party costs.

To sum it all up, Ryan says, “I just want to have fun, drink some beer, and hang out with 50 people!”

If you want to get involved, check out the Ulsan Language Exchange Table group on Facebook, watch the UlsanOnline.com events calendar, or wait for postings on the UlsanOnline Facebook group.

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