language exchange
language exchange
Photo: StepanPopov/Shutterstock

By Stefano Lodola

I’m enthusiastic about language exchange. You’ll constantly find me doing one-on-one exchanges online and in person as well as attending language exchange events, scribbling away in my notebook and supping a glass of wine.

The exchange of time over money is nice, and I’ve had great success finding partners on and the HelloTalk Language Exchange app; however, coming across a truly skilled and motivated partner can be tricky. I was lucky to have a Chinese language partner with whom I could practice on Skype three times a week for a year, and we still keep in touch. Many other times in my quest I was not so fortunate.

A New Resource For Language Learning

Then one day I realized something: if you’re into learning languages, you’re probably intellectually curious and you might be eligible for membership to a high-IQ society. I recommend you to join one if you can, because you can find members abroad or visiting your country who will be eager to talk with you, and they make thought-provoking conversationalists.

Mensa logo

I happen to be a member of a society called Mensa. In May 2015, I founded a Language Exchange group inside Mensa to match bright language partners. The concept is simple: if you study a foreign language and need someone bright to practice you can find a member who speaks that language and studies yours, then teach one another on Skype.

The group is for members only and works on two platforms: a website and a Facebook group. On the website, members from all over the world can sign up and browse the profiles through a simple yet powerful search panel. Similar websites exist to match language learners, but this is the only one for high-IQ learners. Modeled after but with only its basic features, the website allows users to sign up and search through other members’ profiles. Interaction between members is immediate, with staff only assisting in website maintenance and not interfering in the actual language learning process. To keep in touch and discuss language-related topics, members also join the Facebook group.

A Group For Intellectual Opportunities

I’ll tell you something about Mensa, hoping that it will sound less weird than many think it is. Founded in 1946, with over 120,000 members in 100 countries throughout the world, Mensa is the oldest and largest high-IQ society.  It’s non-political and free from all racial or religious distinctions. It provides stimulating, intellectual and social opportunities for its members. Membership in Mensa is open to persons who have attained a score within the top 2% of the population on an approved intelligence test. There is no other qualification for membership eligibility.

language exchange
Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

You might be wandering what kind of people are members of Mensa. There is simply no one prevailing characteristic of Mensa members other than high IQ. There are Mensans for whom Mensa provides a sense of family, and others for whom it is a casual social activity. There have been many marriages made in Mensa, but for many people, it is simply a stimulating opportunity for the mind.

Most Mensans have a good sense of humor, and they like to talk. And, usually, they have a lot to say. Mensans have ranged in age from two to more than 100, but most are between 20 and 60. In education they range from preschoolers to high school dropouts to people with multiple doctorates. There are Mensans on welfare and Mensans who are millionaires. As far as occupations, the range is staggering. Mensa has professors and truck drivers, scientists and firefighters, computer programmers and farmers, artists, military people, musicians, laborers, police officers, glassblowers — the diverse list goes on and on.

A Unique Travel Resource

Every time I visit a new country, I get in touch with local members and make tons of intellectual friends. Mensa even has a service to find accommodation, events or just company for members traveling abroad. Membership fees are cheap and the value of connecting with valuable minds is priceless.

My advice: go and take the test!

About Stefano Lodola

Born and raised in a small town in Italy, Stefano grew up speaking only Italian and studying foreign languages at school with conventional learning methods and mixed results. Then he fell in love with Japan and learned Japanese independently and immersively, which ended up being the best teacher. He now speaks eight foreign languages, mostly at a fluent level, several learned without going abroad, some in only a few months. Stefano holds a Master’s Degree in industrial engineering from Italy and an MBA from Japan. He does professional translations from Korean, Japanese and Chinese into Italian.

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