So, you want to learn a new language…
…and you want it bad.
Let me tell you something that will utterly blow your mind:
You’re not alone.
That’s right! Believe it or not, there are others out there who want to learn a language just as badly as you… and some of them want to learn your native tongue.
Out of these eager learners, there’s somebody who’s also a native speaker of the language you have your eye on. They might even be at around the same language level as you, whatever that may be.
That’s what we call a win-win situation.
How do you find these wonderful learners who complement your goals so well? With language exchange apps!
I’ve gathered the best language exchange apps of 2021 where you can find the perfect language exchange partner for you. Plus, I suggest a few other apps that might have flown under your radar as excellent opportunities for language exchange.
How Does “Language Exchange” Work?
Are you an English speaker who wants to learn Korean (or Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, etc.)? Then you’re in luck. There are thousands of native-speaking Koreans who really want to learn English! A Korean English learner can teach you Korean and, in return, you can make him wade through the English thicket. You can trade each other’s native tongues. This is called “language exchange.”
A “language exchange” is different from getting an online language tutor. In a tutoring relationship, it’s clear who’s the teacher and who’s the student. One teaches the other, and learning is pretty much one way. In a language exchange, both people teach and learn, in turn.
Language exchange websites like Conversation Exchange and MyLanguageExchange.com exist for the very purpose of pairing learners with the native speakers of their target language. On these websites, you indicate the language(s) that you know and the language(s) that you want to learn, and you’re presented with many potential language exchange partners. You can then reach out to whoever you’re interested in working with and agree to meet over chat, email, Skype or any other method of communication that works for you both.
You and your buddy can tailor your sessions however you want. Language exchange sessions can consist of freewheeling discussions where you talk about whatever comes to mind, or they can be more structured interactions. (For example, the first 15 minutes could be you teaching, and then you could switch roles.)
This may all sound very intimidating. but in addition to using the apps below, learning with FluentU can help you feel more confident and inspired in your language exchanges. FluentU gives you access to cultural references and helps you warm up your listening skills with native speaker audio.
With FluentU, you hear languages in real-world contexts—the way that native speakers actually use them. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you and organized them by level and topic. All you have to do is choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
You can use FluentU’s unique adaptive quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions and exercises. Just swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're studying.
The program even keeps track of what you’re learning and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
You can talk about anything, and before long, you might have a real friend who’s also truly invested in your learning.
Best of all, save for a potential nominal fee to the websites hosting your profile, language exchanges are nearly always free!
What Are Language Exchange Apps?
With language exchange apps for smartphones, the whole process becomes mobile, kicking the experience up a notch. Now, you don’t need to stay in your room and hog the laptop camera. You can go outdoors and learn on the go. You can give your buddy a more immersive experience, for example, by pointing your phone to street and store signs and using them to help him understand something. You could even show him how life is in your neighborhood.
Language exchange is an important element of your language learning experience, and apps just make the whole process more convenient. There’s nothing like talking to a native speaker right on your phone and taking notes from someone who’s a linguistic insider. Yes, using music, games and videos can have pretty profound effects on your learning curve, too, but don’t you dare miss out on the awesome benefits of language exchange apps.
They have advantages that other learning resources simply don’t have. For example, you can get instant feedback. Your partner can listen and check if you’re pronouncing words right. If you have questions on the nuances of the language, you can simply ask the person on the other end of the video chat and get an immediate answer, as opposed to waiting for somebody to type in an answer to your query on a language forum.
Language exchange apps get you to both practice and sample the language in a setting where it’s A-okay to bungle the words or use the wrong verb form. Nobody’s grading you, and the person on the other end of the line knows exactly what you’re going through because they’re basically in the same boat.
That said, let’s now look at some of the best language exchange apps that you can add to your learning arsenal!
The 9 Best Language Exchange Apps in 2021 to Connect and Converse
HelloTalk is a standalone app that can do so much more than just connect you with someone who speaks your target language.
Based in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, HelloTalk boasts over 30 million users and more than 150 languages—plenty of choices!
The app is loaded with features intended to facilitate conversations between different languages.
Consider the basic conundrum of language exchange: He wants to learn English, you want to learn Chinese. How do you make yourself understood if both your language levels are too low to communicate clearly?
With HelloTalk, it’s easy: The app offers tools to assist with translation, transliteration, voice-to-text and text-to-voice features. Your Chinese friend can simply speak in his native tongue, and HelloTalk will provide a written version of what was said. And if you still don’t understand the message, you can use the translation feature and see the message in your own language. Cool, huh?
HelloTalk really excels when it comes to making communication easy. You can chat with your language partners via text and voice messages, voice and video calls and you can even doodle your response!
Another fun aspect of HelloTalk is its Moments feature. The app allows you to share “Moments” like you would on a social media website. These Moments can be seen by anyone learning your native language, helping them to learn. You can, in turn, find other people’s Moments in your target language
It’s important to mention that the app does have an unfortunate downside. Called by some “the Tinder for language learners,” HelloTalk has a reputation for attracting unsavory users who are looking for a partnership of a different kind. Unfortunately, this means some users have negative experiences with creepy people trying to connect.
HelloTalk is not, by itself, an unsafe app. However, as with many other internet connections, remember never to give out your personal information, and only move to external apps like Facebook or Skype if you feel completely comfortable with your language exchange partner.
With Tandem, you can text, talk or video chat with someone on the other side of the world.
The app has prominent social networking functions and you can “Follow” people as well as check out those who follow you. You can also write reviews about users you interacted with and can send “good vibes” their way. (This is like you telling other users, “She’s cool.”) You can also filter the people who can see your profile and choose them by characteristics like gender or age.
You’re not limited to just one picture but can upload as many as six. Punch up your profile and encourage interaction by writing about the topics you want to hear others talk about, or a silly conversation starter. For example: “Hot dogs are a sandwich. Prove me wrong!”
Tandem acts much like a chat program, with added features for language learners. You can communicate via text, video, audio and images. There’s also a translate feature and the option to correct your writing.
The program has a highly rated app on the iOS and Android stores, but you can also use Tandem on your computer with the web app. From here, you can find users, see your chats and turn on desktop notifications so you don’t miss any new messages.
In addition to all those cool features, the app has a “Tutor” tab, where you can find vetted tutors of the language you want. Or, if you want to earn on the side, you can fill out a profile to become a language tutor.
Remember, there’s Tinder and then there’s Tandem. One is for dating, and the other is for language learning. Like with HelloTalk, creeps will always congregate in places where people are open to interactions. Tandem handles this by reminding you that the app should only be used for language learning, not flirting, before you’re accepted into the Tandem community.
Every application is reviewed to ensure that Tandem remains a safe place for users, and, if somebody rubs you the wrong way, there’s a “Block” function available. Plus, everyone who joins Tandem is required to upload a profile picture that clearly shows their face, eliminating some of the freedom that anonymity provides.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a native speaker answer all those nagging questions that inevitably come up when you’re trying to learn a new language? And wouldn’t it be even better if you didn’t have just have one but a whole truckload of native speakers waiting to help you?
That’s the premise of HiNative.
HiNative is a Q&A platform that specializes in getting your questions answered by native speakers of your target language.
The interface is really easy to navigate: Just click on the “Ask” button, and HiNative will provide you with templates for asking your question. All you have to do is fill in the blank with your query, and your question template will be auto-translated to other users’ native languages. Templates include useful categories like “How do you say this?”, “What does this mean?” and “Please show me example sentences with (a certain word or expression).”
You can even make a recording to allow native speakers to listen to and provide feedback on your pronunciation. There’s also a category for asking about a country or region, as well as a category called “Ask Something Else,” which is a catch-all for those questions that don’t belong in the others. This is usually used for cultural queries and opinion questions.
And, because this is a language exchange, you can and should help out others by taking the time to answer some of their questions. It won’t take much effort, and it’ll really help out other members of the language learning community!
HiNative is free to use for the most part, but some features can only be accessed with a subscription. For a small monthly fee, you can use additional templates, like the “Does this sound natural?” one, which allows native users to mark up your question in their response. You also get more perks, like priority tickets that move your question to the top of users’ feeds for a quicker response, the ability to hear audio responses, bookmarks for quick access to useful questions, removal of ads and more.
HiNative also has two additional forms of currency, coins and diamonds. Coins are used to send gifts to other users and unlock paid templates without committing to a monthly subscription, while diamonds are a way for users to reward others for excellent content—earn enough diamonds from other users, and you can cash them out for real money!
All that said, HiNative is definitely still worth using even if you don’t plan to invest any money in it.
The internet is great, isn’t it? It allows us to connect with people all around the world! But sometimes, we crave something more than just a digital connection.
Enter the Meetup app.
The concept is simple: Meetup shows you groups of people in your area who regularly come together over a common hobby or interest. Love knitting? There’s a group for that. Want to join a book club? Chances are, there’s a group nearby for that too.
In fact, there are even groups of people for your target language.
These groups tend to fall into two categories.
The first category is conversation groups. Let’s say, for example, you want to learn French. By browsing the “Language & Culture” section in the Meetup app, you can find conversation groups in your area whose entire purpose is to meet up and practice speaking French with each other. This often happens regularly, on a particular day of the week and in the same location such as a cafe or library.
These groups even self-identify based on their levels. For example, you may find a French conversation group specifically for beginners if you’re at the beginner level of French.
The second category is cultural groups. These groups tend to have native speakers of a given language as well as individuals who are culturally attached to it in some way (for example, they love the food, have a spouse from that culture, etc.). These Meetups would welcome anyone who’s German, admires German culture and even German language learners. Such groups get together regularly, as well, and their activities often revolve around music, film and food.
Even though this second category’s goal isn’t necessarily conversation practice, you’ll likely find native speakers of your target language to practice with.
Meetup is free to join but requires a small fee to RSVP to events. Organizers of events or groups also pay a monthly subscription fee.
Idyoma’s catchphrase is “learn languages socially,” and that’s exactly what this app aims to help learners do.
Idyoma is an intentional misspelling of the Spanish word idioma, meaning “language,” as this app was originally created for native speakers of Spanish to learn different languages by meeting and socializing with native speakers. Today, you can find exchange partners for virtually any language, depending on the location of the app’s user.
In this way, Idyoma is even more like the language learner’s Tinder than all the previously mentioned apps. You simply create a profile, complete with pictures of yourself, your native language and the languages that you want to practice. You can then meet other language learners who live in your area.
Like Tinder, you swipe right and left on other user profiles, but you aren’t choosing someone to date. Instead, you’re looking for a fellow language learner or native speaker who shares common interests with you and would make a good exchange partner based on your shared native and target languages.
Once a language learning partner is chosen, the exchange begins. This first takes place in the app via text chat. You can press and hold down on the messages sent to you to get an instant translation. If you hit it off, you can schedule a meeting in person.
While it may seem risky to meet up with a fellow language learner after meeting on an app, Idyoma tries to mitigate this by allowing users to leave reviews for other users based on how previous conversation experiences have gone.
Speaky is simpler in nature than other language exchange apps on our list, but don’t mistake its simplicity for low functionality.
As in many other apps, you create a profile with a picture, a short “About Me” description as well as native languages and target languages. You can designate levels for each of your languages ranging from the native level to beginner. Next, you can browse profiles of other language learners on the app and set up an exchange.
Simple, yes—but also very effective.
Speaky’s no-frills attitude makes it easy to connect with other language learners far and wide, and its sleek interface is easy to use and navigate. You chat primarily via text and audio messages, and can actually make corrections to your language exchange partner’s written messages to help them improve (and vice versa). Like other apps, language exchange partners can decide to take their conversation off of the app.
Speaky has a few special features that can benefit language learners who are on the go. For example, when browsing new conversation partners, Speaky lists them based on who’s currently online. This increases the chances for instantaneous conversations, especially if you only have a limited time to use the app.
You can browse other language learners by native language, target language and even by hobbies or interests. Speaky claims to have users from 150 nationalities who speak over 110 languages, and it’s completely free to use. In fact, one of the best parts of Speaky is that it’s also ad-free!
Have you ever thought of advancing in your target language in 280 characters or less?
Believe it or not, Twitter is a gold mine for language learners. You can find Twitter content in virtually every language imaginable and follow hashtags about language learning that will lead you to valuable—and often free!—study resources. You can even join entire communities of language learners like #langtwt, which put you in the heart of the online language learning community.
One of the best ways to find a language exchange partner on Twitter is by letting it happen naturally. The language learning community on Twitter is vibrant, social and eager to collaborate. Members of this community often engage in lengthy conversations about a certain language learning program, learning method or even linguistic theory.
You can use all this chatter to your advantage by simply inserting yourself in conversations. Share an opinion. Relay what works for you and what doesn’t. Ask questions. Over time, you’ll come to be known in the community, and you’ll find many people just as eager to practice their target language as you. They may just be a DM away!
While this may take a while, finding a language-learning exchange partner this way is perhaps the most rewarding, and you may even meet a lifelong friend.
You can also take a more direct approach. #Langtwt is crawling with people looking to practice their target language. Simply search for the hashtag on Twitter, or try looking for a hashtag related to a language you’re practicing such as #LearnGerman or #LearnArabic. Twitter users will often list their native language and their target language in their Twitter bio.
Once you’ve found a user who looks like they could be interested in an exchange, DM (Direct Message) them. Don’t come off as too abrupt or too forceful, but a polite message and a little about yourself could get the ball rolling.
In a pinch, you could even send out a tweet looking for a partner with the relevant hashtags and wait for replies!
Reddit is a social media website like Twitter, but without the character limit.
Think of Reddit as a giant collective of internet forums. Each forum—called a “subreddit” or “r/” for short—is its own community.
Once you have a Reddit account, joining a subreddit is pretty easy: Just find one that you like and click on the join button. There are subreddits for basically any interest or hobby imaginable, whether it’s gardening, detective films, sustainable living or—you guessed it!—language learning.
Finding language exchange partners on Reddit is very similar to finding them on Twitter: find the community, join the conversation, make connections.
To use Reddit for language exchange, I recommend that you first join a specific language community subreddit. There are ones for virtually any language from Korean and Spanish to lesser-studied languages and even fantasy languages like Klingon.
Look for the subreddits that start with “r/learn,” like r/LearnJapanese or r/LearnFrench, because these are places where learners often congregate to look for resources, organize exchanges and share tips.
You may also have success on subreddits that are just the language’s name such as r/Japanese or r/French. However, keep in mind that there might be native speakers here who aren’t language learners, and they may not be open to cold calls or posts looking for exchange partners. It differs by language, but these subreddits are often more for the appreciation of the language.
If you want a simpler way to find an exchange partner, try r/language_exchange. This is a community of over 80,000 language learners from all over the globe. Users posts in the subreddit with titles showing what language they’re offering (often their native language) and what they’re seeking (often their target language). Reply to one of these posts to start a language exchange partnership or create a post of your own!
Discord started out as an interface for user-created chat rooms to accompany gamers who livestreamed themselves playing video games, but it has since grown into a group chat room for just about anyone.
While the chat rooms—known as servers—started off as rooms for specific gamers or video games, they now generally revolve around certain topics or themes like anime, music and food. As expected, there are servers related to language learning, specific languages and even language exchanges.
You can join a server for your target language, where the focus is to learn and communicate in said language—I recommend Disboard as an easy way to search for servers.
There are also servers specifically related to language learning, like The Global Language Federation. Best of all, there are plenty of Language Exchange servers. Browse your options, pop in to say hello or just lurk for a bit, and make some new language learning friends!
On these servers, you can engage in text or voice chat with other users. The voice chats can be quite lively, often with people speaking pretty quickly in their target language. (Since these chats are quite informal, you can sometimes hear profanity, so be forewarned!)
On language exchange forums, in particular, you can engage in a text or voice chat pretty easily in your target language, or you could post in the chat looking for a particular language exchange partner. This would be the easiest way to start a longer learning relationship—although don’t be surprised if your partner would rather keep the conversation to the confines of the server at first.
These are nine of the very best language exchange apps for language learning out there as of 2021.
They’re so advanced that they have features that may seem a little bit Star Trek-y.
But they’ll be worth nothing unless you hit that “Send,” “Call” or “Post” button.
Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move.
Make it yourself and gain a new friend in the process.
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