Without a doubt, immersing yourself in a foreign language is the best thing anybody could ever do for their language learning. It can be hard to find immersion in a foreign language, though, especially when you don’t have the time, money, or flexibility to go abroad.
Fortunately, there are workarounds like the HelloTalk app. HelloTalk is basically an app built specifically to foster texting combined with a language exchange. This makes HelloTalk a great option for serious language learners who want immersion but just can’t have it.
So let’s talk about it: the strengths, weaknesses, and what you can expect. In this HelloTalk review, we’ll see if this app can help push your fluency forward and meet your language learning goals. What does the HelloTalk app have to offer, and where does it fail? Is it the right app for you?
HelloTalk review: the lowdown
Okay, so the HelloTalk app is like a constant language exchange over text, but what does that mean? How does it work? Well…it’s actually pretty great. The folks over at HelloTalk really seem to understand what goes into language learning, because they’ve built the app to offer the tools to suit almost any language learner.
The HelloTalk app isn’t just another texting app that connects you with other language learners. It also has a whole bunch of tools specifically made to help you refine your communication skills in your chosen language. It’s almost like a texting app on steroids…except more healthy and not cheating.
Basically, you should look at the HelloTalk app as a kind of international social media made specifically for language learners, which is awesome! Honestly, it can be difficult to find a good, dependable language exchange partner, and HelloTalk provides a low-key, low-stress alternative.
The biggest issue, at least the biggest issue that I’ve found, with language exchanges is getting your language partner to show up in the same place and the same time as you. Life happens so it can get really, really difficult. With HelloTalk, you just need your phone! So let’s jump right into the specifics of this HelloTalk review with explaining how the HelloTalk app is organized.
Once you have an account and have selected your language and all that good stuff, it’s time to talk! This first section will be empty at first, and it’ll fill in with all the conversations you find. Really, it’s just like any other texting app you’ve ever used, which is easy.
Once you have these conversations started, HelloTalk provides a variety of ways to converse. I personally love this, because not only can you practice a variety of methods of communicating, but it also gives you options depending on your learning style. Unlike most language learning resources out there, you can practice more than just 1 method of communicating – you can practice them all if you can find someone willing!
So, while you can obviously just text, you can also send and receive audio, pictures, doodles, and even have a video chat! This is seriously awesome because you can get all of your language skills in one shot: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. No other language learning resource works quite so efficiently, so kudos!
You don’t need to find someone and then ask them for their Skype and then find them on Skype and then get them to add you and then talk about what time you’re available and then hope that there are no technical difficulties, but of course, there are, so you need to take a rain check, and then you never hear from them. No. You just find someone and ask for a video chat. Easy.
What’s more, is the corrections. As long as you find someone to talk to who will take the time to correct you, you can have all of your mistakes corrected in real-time, which is awesome! HelloTalk makes it really easy, too – when you make corrections, you can put the incorrect text in a red font, and write out the correction in a green font. Seriously, seriously helpful for visual learners, and everyone trying to learn how to write correctly in their language.
And that’s a big deal, because finding someone to talk to isn’t necessarily the hard part. I mean, you could get a journal and talk to yourself about your own life! But it’s less easy to find a native to correct your mistakes and help you out.
After the section with all of your actual conversations is Moments. This is basically a language-wide forum where you can put yourself out there and solicit conversations, or just check out what everybody else is posting. You’ll only see posts by those who are learning your language and speak your desired language, so it’s a cool way to find more language exchanges, and even already have something to talk about.
Then, in that same Moments tab, you’ll see Help Others. It’s pretty self-explanatory: members have questions in your native language, and you can answer them. Again, a good way to find someone to exchange languages with, so long as you’re up to making some corrections.
In my opinion, this is the best way to go about it; if you’re willing to make corrections, you’ll likely find someone who is also willing to correct you, as opposed to finding someone who just gets the basic idea of what you’re trying to say (which, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not optimal).
And, of course, you can post your own stuff on this forum. It doesn’t even have to be language related! HelloTalk is more than welcoming for literally any inspiration you find to either try to communicate in the language you’re learning or provide more practice for others.
It’s pretty cool – you can talk about just about anything with just about anybody! Talk about travel, your life, current events, your hobbies…literally anything and everything. Starting conversations is good!
Alright, Search is where you’ll generally find your actual language exchanges. In this tab, you search through all of HelloTalk’s members that speak the language you’re learning and are learning the language you speak. They’re organized by how recently they’ve been online, so you can find more active members. (By the way, if you start conversations and then just don’t ever open the app again, you lose all of your past conversations.)
Right off the bat, you see a list of language learners: their names, their country (which can be important when it comes to accents/dialects), a picture of them, when they were last online, and their skill level in the language they’re learning. Really, just go down the list and pick someone who jumps out at you. There are no rules for this! You can even just message a whole bunch of people and go off of who responds.
Once you click onto a profile, you’ll get some more information about them and their activity on the HelloTalk app. Everybody has the option to provide a self-introduction, and you’ll also see their local time, gender, age, and basically a social media scroll of their Moments. Depending on how much they’ve put in their profile, you might be able to learn a thing or two about them and find someone who you have something in common with.
This is when I do have to make a note to the women out there: you will get inundated with men wanting to talk to you. Doesn’t matter what you look like, what you sound like, or any of that. You will get an avalanche of messages from men.
You can choose who you talk to and who you don’t, but, in my experience, the only members I’ve found who were actually interested in exchanging languages were women. Nothing wrong with choosing to respond to these men at all – you do you, boo! I’m just making the statement that it happens.
BUT. Outside that, if you’ve found someone you think you might want to have a language exchange with, message them and say hi! Or hey, if their Moments are particularly interesting, you can always just opt to follow them. There are no rules to this! Also, this is the tab of the HelloTalk app where you can block someone in case you need to. Like I said, it’s like social media for language learners.
Finally, we have the Learn tab. This is where you can switch languages, or you can find discounts on whichever language course they’re recommending to you. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you buy it – I’m sure HelloTalk is getting some affiliate income on the side.
If you’re a free member you can switch languages, but then you lose everything in your current language. With their new VIP membership, you can learn up to 3 languages at a time. If that’s your jam, it’s honestly not a bad deal – only $5 a month! That would be pretty overwhelming for me, but if that’s how you like to live your life, toss them a few bucks! I’m always happy to support the people who provide the language learning community with useful products.
HelloTalk review: is it right for you?
If you couldn’t already tell from this HelloTalk review, I have a pretty glowing opinion of the HelloTalk app. I personally think it’s a really great resource that provides a lot of opportunities for language learners and aspiring language learners around the world. I think that it’s executed well, and I will happily recommend it to anybody who asks. Plus, they advertise offering 100+ languages, which is crazy! There’s almost no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find the language you’re learning.
But is it right for you? Yeah, I love this app. Yeah, I think it can help a lot of people. But do I personally use it? Nope. It’s a great idea, but it’s just not for me. I’ve tried it a few times on and off, and I really do love the idea, but let’s face it: I hate answering the phone! Hearing my phone go off all the time is really stressful to me, and then I feel guilty about starting conversations and then just disappearing. But that’s just me.
It’s such a random thing to get in the way of my language learning, but it doesn’t work for me. And if this kind of thing wouldn’t work for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. If your phone is always in a different room, if your friends generally have a hard time getting in touch with you…the HelloTalk app won’t work for you. You have to be pretty attentive to your phone if you’re going to be trying to have these conversations because, unfortunately, it’s only an app. There’s no desktop version available.
But if you’re always on your phone? I highly, highly, highly suggest giving the HelloTalk app a go. It can be hard to find a native speaker to correct your writing, so I would take full advantage of this resource if answering your phone doesn’t stress you out.