When you're learning a new language, the most shared piece of advice is to use the language early and often. However, depending on your target language, it can be hard to find a partner to practice with in real life. Thankfully, we have the internet. Here are a few helpful apps and services that can connect you with native speakers and improve your language proficiency.
iTalki is one of the most popular language platforms. You can use the website and its companion app to find a language exchange partner for free – or pay for private lessons with community and professional tutors. If you want guided practice at an affordable price, iTalki is your solution. You can receive private lessons with native speakers for as little as $8 per hour. Some tutors cost more than others so you'll have to do some comparison shopping.
If you're looking for a more casual experience, Tandem is for you. It has a large community that gives you plenty of options for conversational partners. Tandem offers professional tutors too, but they aren't the main focus. The app makes it easy to send short, quick messages to native speakers and begin a back and forth. There is video chat, but I've found that messages are more widely used. Tandem is a great resource for quick and casual conversation.
HelloTalk is pretty similar to Tandem, but it offers much more resources. The community is much larger than other language exchange apps, giving you many more options for partners. The app makes it easy to receive and send corrections on your messages. You can also save sentences and words to review later and activate text-to-speech for listening practice. With a premium subscription, you can have access to unlimited translations and transliterations (for non-romance languages). You can also join group chats to take some of the pressure off. HelloTalk has voice and video calls that can be one-on-one or with a group.
Bilingua is one of the newer apps on the market. It functions similarly to Tandem and HelloTalk, but adds in a helpful AI called Shiro. He's an adorable cat that guides you to find the best partners and soon will be able to teach you simple vocabulary in your target language. To break the ice, you can also play games with your conversational partner inside the app. The community isn't quite as big as the other apps because it's newer, but the app's clean and utilitarian interface will certainly appeal to more language learners.
Idyoma's main function isn't to chat or video call. With the app, you look for a compatible language partner in your area that you'll be able to meet up with offline. You can chat through the app, but this functions as an introduction – rather than the meat of your interactions. For ease, you can even set up a meet through the app. If you're planning to travel, you can also pair up with a partner abroad.
HiNative is focused on learning the nitty gritty of the language. Think of it like Yahoo Answers for language learners. Through the app, you can post questions about specific phrases, difficult grammar points, idioms, or anything you want. Within minutes, you'll get an answer from a real native speaker. You can also post audio recordings if your speaking to get corrections on your accent and pronunciation. This app is more of a knowledge base than a place to communicate.
7. Social Media
Lastly, you probably already have three or four free language learning apps on your phone: social media. Yes, you can use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to find conversational partners or practice your writing and speaking. You can use your current account or create a new one. Start posting in your target language, look up some relevant hashtags, and connect with native speakers around the world.