International PenPals

This is a great article about WHY international pals make great friends. They can teach you more about the world around you and what a great way to learn -- letter writing at it's best!

By Ann Hamilton, Philadelphia, PA

Penpalling has been the joy of my life since I was 8 years old. Not only is it a wonderful way to meet new friends but it is a way to learn about other cultures, languages, customs, and history/geography. Penpalling, I believe, has made me a more interesting, informed, well-rounded individual. Today I speak and/or write 5 languages, and have travelled to many faraway places. One of the questions people most frequently as me is, what is it like to write to foreign penpals, they never write to me?

There really is no steadfast answer to this question. That is why I thought of some tips to help those who want to write to overseas pals.

Learn about the culture once your pen friendhip starts. Donít crowd too much into your first letter. One or two pages initially is sufficient. Keep your dialogue general and avoid personal questions until you get to know the person very well. Keep your correspondence on a formal basis. If you are writing in a foreign language, always write in the formal tenses until they indicate otherwise. Formality shows respect for your new overseas penpal. As your friendship grows and develops, you will begin to learn the familiar language and colloquialisms.

Most overseas penpals talk about things that we do in terms of home, family, children, music, travel and more. I would recommend that you do some reading about the history of their country, their climate, principal imports and exports, economy, geography, etc. Most overseas pals can tell us more about our history, past or present, then we can tell them about theirs.

Current events are good topics, although politics and religion are not. Sports, shopping, cooking and movies/CDs are mutually interesting between our cultures. You can clip articles, recipes, and exchange them.

Foreign pals generally send postcards with their first letter of their hometowns, regions or from their travels. Send one with your first letter. Itís a nice way to introduce yourself. They collect stamps, coins, banknotes, postcards, phonecards, etc.

One topic that is excellent to discuss with your overseas pals is about travel, and show interest in their travels. Regardless of their professions, they are usually well-read and have travelled to interesting places.

Ask intelligent questions and reply intelligently. Take your friendship seriously. Most foreign pals will regard you very highly. The majority of overseas penpals like to establish long friendships. Be committed to maintaining the friendships as long as you and your penpal agree to correspond. Life changes and so do circumstances, so be open to reacquainting yourself with your penpals over time. ďA Friend Loveth at All Times.Ē I felt very lucky last year to have been reunited with a penpal from S.America that I had written to from the time I was 10. We hadnít written in 18 years. She moved to another city and we lost touch. I wrote to her last address in Spanish in the hopes of finding her. I received a letter from her and we have resumed our friendship.

Enjoy your new overseas penpals and learn about new cultures and languages. Even if your only language is English, you can learn so much. If you speak other languages, itís a wonderful way to practice your skills and become more fluent.

Please consider taking a moment to drop me a line on your international pen pals. I would love to learn which countries you've written to, what you've learned and why you write to international pals. Thanks! Wendy

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