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Thursday, February 9, 2006

How can I tell I am uncomfortable?? 

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“Dear Ai,
I found a language exchange ads on a Japanese newspaper. My friends said that I can meet local Canadian people through this experience. Some ads said I can meet at their house or parks. I certainly don’t want to go a stranger’s house. How can I tell them that I’m uncomfortable, but not offend them?” Kumiko – Japan

“Hi Kumiko! I am proud of you that you try new things. There are so many ESL tutors and language exchange advertisement in newspapers, and on the internet and bulletin boards in ESL schools. The big difference between tutoring and language exchange is money. If you would like to have tutor, you need to pay for the service. It varies, but from my research it ranges from $5 to $25 per hour. On the other hand, language exchange usually doesn’t involve any money. The Canadian person will teach you English and you can teach your native language. This is a good way to make close Canadian friends; however, you need to trust your instincts.

If you are uncomfortable meeting with the stranger by yourself, take your friends with you. Some tutors/language exchange lessons are done in a group. They sometimes offer the first lesson free for you to try out. Please also make sure you will meet this person in a public (open) area, such as library, coffee shop or schools. Do not meet anyone late at night. Never accept a ride in a strangers’ car.

I was surprised when one of my students told me that she had a pretty scary experience. She found a language exchange partner through a Japanese newspaper. When she called, he sounded nice and she agreed to meet him. He suggested meeting at Stanley Park after dinner and giving her a “class” in his car while he drove. She felt strange about the situation, but he looked like a nice person and because the ad was posted in a newspaper, she believed he must be trustworthy. She showed up alone and rode in his car. As soon as she got in his car, he locked the doors. At this point, she realized he intended to hurt her rather than exchange a language lesson with her. She pretended that she lost her contact lenses on the ground and made him open the door. Fortunately, she was able to get out of the car so she could run away and nothing happened to her.

If your tutor/language exchange partner does not agree to meet you in a public place, or insists that you to show up by yourself, be very cautious. If there is something about your tutor/language exchange partner that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, you won’t learn anything from the person. This is a time to pay attention to your instincts. If it feels bad, do not meet with that person. Someone who doesn’t even know you should not be asking you to go to his apartment in the first place.”

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