Language Exchange PART 1: Where to Go

Did you know you can learn to speak English well from home and through the Internet? Yes, it IS possible. What you need is a language exchange.

For many people, it’s difficult to practice speaking and listening with someone if you live in a country or region where English is not spoken daily outside your home or your clasroom. This can be frustrating. But thankfully, there is online language exchange!

In a language exchange, you work together with a language exchange partner. This person is usually a native speaker of the language you want to learn. Through a two-way process of direct communication and conversation, both you and your partner have the opportunity to improve your language skills and proficiency. At the same time, you’ll also develop intercultural understanding and competence (or ability).

You meet regularly, through one or more online communication tools, like Zoom or Skype or text messaging. Typically, you can practice 30 minutes in English, and 30 minutes in your language. But the length of time and how often you switch languages during your exchange session is up to you. If you’re enjoying communicating, the time will fly!

Finding a language exchange partner online might not be that easy. You need to know where to search, who to search for, how to establish a language exchange, and how to make it last. In today’s post, we’re going to look at just the first point, and cover the rest later.

Where can I find language exchange partners?

 As you probably already know, on the Internet you can find almost everything, and language learning is not an exception. There are countless places where you can find people to have a language exchange with. There are so many websites, in fact, that I certainly do not know all of them, but let me share a few. Please remember two things, though:

  1. New websites, apps and other technologies are coming up all the time. Also, platforms might change with time. They might become cheaper, more expensive, or free, or they might offer more services, or they might get bought out or acquired by bigger companies. Keep your eyes open for new services and technologies.
  2. Second, most of these services operate in the world’s international language, which is English. It’s great for you as an English language learner because you’ll be forced to navigate using English. But the platforms also assume that you’re able to read English at a certain level. If you are a beginner (CEFR A level student), it might be frustrating for you. Hang in there! If any of the services are too difficult to navigate, try searching for a platform that allows you to read in your native language until your English level is a bit higher.

HelloTalk (https://www.hellotalk.com)

HelloTalk is a freemium mobile app that lets you communicate with language exchange partners via text, voice messages, voice calls, video calls, and even doodles (like pictures). There are over 150 languages in use on this platform, and you can make use of tools for for translation, pronunciation, transliteration, and corrections. You can join group chats or one on one chats. You can search for language partners according to native language, city, distance from you, and more. If you have a question about language, culture, or travel, you can make a post for native speakers to see and comment on. This function is kind of like a forum.

Bilingua (http://bilingua.io)

Bilingua connects you with other users who are fluent in a language you are learning. You can find your language partner based on similar interests or personalities. Once connected, you can take advantage of Shiro. Shiro is a robot on the Bilingua platform that can help guide the conversation between language partners. Shiro offers conversation topics, questions, and current events based on your interests. Shiro can also help you learn the correct vocabulary, grammar, and syntax by suggesting translations and corrections.On Bilingua, you can even play games with your partners or challenge Shiro to improve your language skills.

Tandem (https://www.tandem.net)

Tandem is a mobile app that brings together and creates a community of millions of language learners. Members form one-on-one partnerships to teach each other their native languages and practice via text, audio, and video chat. Once you have successfully applied for membership, you will be shown members from all over the world who want to learn your language. You can then reach out to a person or people you’re interested in doing language exchange with.

italki (https://www.italki.com)

Italki is known for being a platform with an app for online language lessons, and you pay for these. There are so many sites these days where you can get affordable language lessons, from either qualified teachers or tutors like Verbling (https://verbling.com/) for example. However, italki is also a real online community. In addition to paying tutors and teacher for lessons, you can also find language partners, and this part of the platform is free. On italki, language exchange is called language tandem. You can have formal or informal chats, and the great thing is that you can take a look at people’s profiles, and even read reviews and comments from other users on teacher profiles. If you’re looking for a teacher, most of them have videos where you can see and listen to them speaking. This is helpful when you want to assess (or decide) whether that person might be a good fit for you.

My Language Exchange (https://www.mylanguageexchange.com)

 My language exchange is not the most modern-looking website, but it does offer a lot of language exchange possibilities. You can search for an exchange partner by language, location, gender, age, type of exchange desired, personal description keywords and more. My Language Exchange encourages the Cormier method, a structured way to do language exchange that was developed in the city where I was born, which is Montreal. Find out about it here: https://www.mylanguageexchange.com/HowTo.asp

Conversation Exchange (https://www.conversationexchange.com)

Conversation exchange is a website where you can find people who are interested in exchanging language practice with you. You can use filters to help you find people who are willing to help you with English in exchange for a language you speak. You can even filter by location, which means if you find someone who lives near you, you can and potentially meet them in real life.

Speaky (https://www.speaky.com)

Similar to other language exchange apps, Speaky allows you to connect with a language partner who shares your interests and passions anywhere in the world. You can chat or make calls (audio and video) directly from the browser. Mobile apps support text and audio messages. One unique feature from Speaky is the ability to find native speakers or non-native speakers in learning a new language. Your language exchange partner does not need to be a native speaker to help you. In fact, sometimes high-level non-native English speakers know a lot more!

Idyoma (https://www.idyoma.com)

Idyoma is a language learning mobile application where users match with one another to practice languages. Like the other apps, the goal is to take turns speaking in one another’s languages to improve fluency. And of course, make friends! Idyoma is from Spain, but it’s very international. You can search for speaking partners in the same geographic area or in your desired travel destination. The app interface is very clean and easy to navigate. You can find guides in the app that give you advice on how to have a successful language exchange.

Language Pal (https://languagepal.com)

Like with its competitors, you can use Language Pal’s built-in messaging system to chat using text, voice, or video to communicate with others in real time. You can find suitable language partners by setting your matching criteria for nationality, age, and language. Language Pal integrated phrasebooks that help youchoose, listen, and repeat before sending it to your language partner. This helps you to start conversations with people. Language Pal claims it has over three million members from almost every country in the world.

The Mixxer (https://www.language-exchanges.org)

The Mixxer is a free language exchange site using Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp platforms. This might not be the fanciest option out there, but it is an entirely free, non-profit website hosted by Dickinson College. Once you’re registered, you can contact potential language exchange partners using live chat on the site. Youcan practice speaking with a language partner using video. You can also work on your writing skills by submitting a writing sample and asking for corrections from native speakers. If you use this service, you have to do the same for others writing in your language. Sadly, there are only six languages offered on this platform the last time I checked.

Bonus! REDDIT (https://www.reddit.com)

Reddit is not really a language exchange platform. But what it is, is a very popular forum and community-based discussion website (only in written format) where members can submit content and vote. It’s been in operation since 2005. You can talk (write) about anything on Reddit, including learning a new language. You can ask for translations or discuss (in writing) a certain topic to improve your language learning. By joining “subreddits” or different language communities, you can connect with people. Reddit’s design and layout can feel a little confusing sometimes, but it’s actually a very social way to learn a language online.

You’re probably wondering, now: Which one should I choose? Well, to be honest, you’ll just have to try and find out for yourself. Ultimately, it will be the connections you form with a person or people that decide which platform you stay with. This means that perhaps the app itself is not as important. Try out a few!

Beware: Some of these sites can sometimes be more like dating sites than language exchange platforms. This is why it’s important be clear with a potential language partner from the very beginning. So, in the next post, we’ll look at how to choose a language exchange partner.

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