Speaking and pronunciation are two major components of mastering a foreign language… so what do you do if you are studying a language that none of your friends, family members, or colleagues speak? How can you find ways to practice spoken communication in the target language outside of classroom activities? Language exchange is a great way to put lessons to work in real world conversational speaking environments, meet people with similar interests, and learn organically about another culture.
If you’d prefer for language exchange to be done in-person, there are plenty of ways to find fellow language learners in your area — for example, Meetup, which allows you to search by language and city. Or you can join a class with CORE Languages instructors around the country in a variety of different languages.
But there are also a ton of fantastic ways to enjoy language exchange right from your computer, phone, or tablet — some of which even have face-to-face language exchange capabilities. Here are a few of our favorites.
Tandem (new updated information)
Tandem calls itself “a community of language learners” and boasts over 3 million users whose 400+ reviews in the iTunes store have given the app a solid 4.5/5 star rating. Users register for Tandem using their social media accounts (ensuring that your language exchange partner is a real, live human being) and then create an account, listing languages and topics of interest to them. From there, they can navigate around the app to find other members with similar interests and use the chatting or video calling features to talk to them. Also they have introduced collaborative games to keep the community practicing their chosen languages!
For example, if you’re curious as to how to pronounce your name in Chinese, you can make a post on the topic board asking that question and any user on the app can respond to keep the conversation going. Alternatively, you can make a video call to another user whose languages of study align with your own and become language exchange partners face-to-face.
The social media requirement in order to make a user account and short delay time between registration and access to the app’s features may seem irritating, but actually benefits users in the long run by minimizing spam and any risks associated with long-distance language exchange. Tandem is also a great app for getting your cultural questions answered by natives thanks to its substantial user base that spans the globe.
Here are a few more key stats about the app that you might find interesting:
· 1+ million downloads
· Users from 150+ countries
· Over 75 different languages practised
· Languages range from English, Spanish and French, to Welsh, Mongolian and Dothraki
HelloTalk is an app focused on language exchange in over 100 different languages. Once it’s downloaded, you can locate other users who share your language pairs through search fields that include native language as well as location, which makes it simple to find other learners in your area and connect with them by text messaging or video calling within the app.
HelloTalk features advanced text-to-voice and voice-to-text capabilities that allow you to assess your pronunciation in the target language and listen to the standard pronunciation of the text messages you send and receive. HelloTalk is especially useful for language exchange involving character-based languages thanks to its unique transliteration functionality.
Within the text messaging platform, HelloTalk makes it very straightforward to correct your language exchange partner’s grammar and visually understand your own errors. One feature we really like about HelloTalk is the ability to build your own collection of “favorites” — concepts, words, and phrases you want to return to, or other useful content that you choose to save from your language exchange conversations.
Busuu offers learning tools for 12 of the most popular foreign languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese and Polish. Though it isn’t an app dedicated exclusively to language exchange like HelloTalk and Tandem, it does offer a strong community — boasting 50 million users to date — with an integrated chat tool that lets you receive exercise feedback from and practice your skills directly with native speakers.
Functional through both a website and mobile apps, Busuu gives you the option of completing activities of your choice or selecting from pre-designed courses. The apps can be used across your devices even when you don’t have internet access, and everything will sync up with your account when your network connection resumes.
Busuu’s language exchange component comes into play as you move through the levels and complete writing exercises, which you can then share with native speakers for correction (and you can correct exercises for language exchange partners whose target language is your native one!). Through the messaging feature, you can continue to ask questions related to lesson content or culture and nurture a connection with your language exchange partner, even when you are continents apart.
Have you tried language exchange through a mobile app? Let us know in the comments, and happy language learning!