*Edit: since writing this article a couple of these tools have become defunct – sorry 🙁
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; the only way to really learn a language is by speaking it with other human beings.
You know how much I love language tech, software and other self study courses and methods, but I know – and anyone who knows anything about languages knows – that you have to speak to people to really get where you’re going.
Luckily finding an online language learning partner is easy if you check out these 8 places
That is your endgame right? Unless you’re just a massive book nerd, or really just want to read the subtitles on foreign films, why would you bother learning a foreign language in the first place if not to speak it with the world?
Why then, is it so difficult for us to actually do it? For many of us it’s simply nerves. Building up the courage to use our clumsy language skills with another being is certainly challenging – perhaps more so than the learning process itself.
But that’s not the only difficulty we face. It’s easy for me to tell you “go out and speak to the world” but nerves aside, how do you actually pursue said chin waggery?
Locating a language learning partner isn’t always as easy as I might make it sound. The majority of language learning programs, apps, games and other tools shockingly don’t offer a lot by way of human interaction and in doing so they are really shooting themselves -and you – in the foot.
So to help you discover other lost souls in search of meaningful lingual connections, and because I love you, I’ve compiled this little list of free places you can go to find yourself an online language learning partner.
#1 Facebook groups
Well lets start out with the obvious.
Everyone, everyone’s grandmother, grandma’s dog and the dog’s fleas are now on Facebook, bogging down the world’s virtual infrastructure with constant status updates about what they ate for lunch, pictures of ugly cats with dwarfism, videos of science experiments gone horribly wrong and politicians jockeying for first place in the race to public humiliation.
Don’t bother denying it; you’re there too, and if you’re looking for a language learning partner this should be your first stop, since you’re there anyway.
While I’d love to say that the LATG page is a great place to meet others interested in a language exchange, sadly it isn’t. Sure, some folks have met others on my page and every once in a while it happens, but my page is a place for me to spam you with my crap,
No, you need a language group.
Luckily for you there are many of these readily available to you, fit to explode with anxious learners such as yourself who would be head-over-heels to find someone else to chat with on Skype.
A great place to start is “Polyglots“. With over 17,000 members you’re bound to find someone interested in exchanging languages or tutoring you extremely fast.
There are dozens – probably hundreds – of other language learning groups. Simply run a search and check them out.
The cool new kid on the language learning block is the social media. It’s gradually replacing “traditional” software based language tools for something a bit more mainstream and modern.
For a long time it seemed like there were no good social media sites for language learners. Then one day last year *poof* there were dozens.
Social media is a really interesting phenomenon that has changed society in incalculable ways – ways I’d like to think are generally for the better. But what about language learning?
If you’re an Android user you may be happy to know that there are a couple of apps just for language learners that are available, for free, on your mobile devices. One of my favorites is Linqapp. You can read all about it in my review here.
Linqapp allows you to connect with native speakers in unique ways. At its most basic the app functions as something of a question board. If you’re learning Slovenian you post a question that you may have about Slovenian and another user whose native language happens to be Slovenian will get a notification that someone has asked a question and will be prompted to reply.
This in and of itself is a great feature, but going beyond that it really allows us to connect with these other users which is the first step in creating a closer bond and ultimately could lead to a language exchange.
In addition to this; subscribers to this blog automatically earn a free 3 month subscription to Linqapp’s Premium VIP services.
Unfortunately no iOS version is available just yet. The developers have assured me that it is in the works but as of this writing there is no date announced. Rest assured that the moment one becomes available iPhone and iPad users will be notified and my review will be updated.
*Edit: since writing this article Livemocha has become defunct – sorry 🙁
While not strictly speaking my favorite language learning browser program on the planet, Livemocha remains a really great way to connect with others.
Livemocha allows you to accumulate points via working to help others learning your native language and then spend those points on unlocking new stuff or “purchasing” courses. You can also earn points by becoming a teacher and creating courses of your own.
If you spend some time helping out the community by answering questions and reviewing the work of other learners you can eventually enable them as language partners. From here its as easy as setting up a time and place to chat!
Livemocha is free, but it does require a small modicum of work in order to unlock these features and find a partner with mutual interests.
The company is currently working on expanding its language partner features. The notice doesn’t say more but I’m hoping it will involve a direct embedded voice or video chat option!
#4 Google Hangouts
The social media site Google+ has a bad reputation for being underpopulated and irrelevant to the needs and interests of the majority of people. This is an unfortunate stigma and frankly massively untrue.
Google+ enjoys an enormous host of daily users and is more active than it seems to let on.
But even if you’re not quite sold on Google+ as much as you may be on a social media site such as Facebook, there are some features that make G+ stand out that its larger rival cannot contend with.
First among them is Google’s own grouping feature. Not especially unlike Facebook you can find discussion groups for virtually anything under the sun (and some things beyond it). It isn’t hard to find a niche corner in which your specific language is being taught and learned.
For example, at the top of the page on my Google+ feed I have the option to run a search. If I type in the words “Russian language” I am set upon by a staggering selection of “communities” dedicated to teaching, learning or simply discussing the Russian language or Russian culture. All I have to do is pick one, request to join and start participating in the conversations!
If I’m an engaging and active community member it’s really just a matter of time before someone decides to take an interest in me. From there it’s all down hill!
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Google+ communities and individuals can hold things called “Google Hangouts”. These are essentially Skype calls and can either function as a language exchange between two individuals or as a sort of group chat – a perfect way to hold online conversation groups.
And you can do all of this from the safety and comfort of your Google account. No account switching and logging in and extra passwords to remember.
Google+ is starting to sound less lame now, isn’t it?
iTalki is without a doubt the undisputed king of language networking and probably the most popular place to find and experience either language exchanges or discover tutors who can work with you very specifically on your own needs.
Many of the tutors on iTalki are part of their paid network; you pay a certain price in “iTalki credits” which you can either purchase or earn in various different ways, and then you receive lesson time. Tutors set their own fees but generally it’s not too difficult to find someone who is willing to work within your budget.
There are also many tutors who charge nothing for their services. If you’re hoping to find free language exchange relationships you should be looking for these.
To find out more about iTalki’s partnership opportunities simply visit www.italki.com, make an account and check out partners. You’d be amazed at the selection of people both interested in learning the same language as you, or teaching it to you.
Parleremo is another undersold and somewhat unknown resource for a lot of language learning wonderfulness. Tragically this little social network / game-ified language learning site still has a population that leans a bit towards the small side.
But that’s nothing we can’t change, is it? Parleremo is awesome and the totally free opportunities it offers stand as a spectacular resource for the language learner looking for a new place to stretch his or her wings.
Parleremo functions as a virtual town in which members “live”. You erect your house and explore your neighborhood – broken up by language families and their sub-branches. If you’re learning Russian for example you might choose a home in a Russian district alongside other learners of Russian.
From there you can then explore your neighborhood and meet the people you live near. This is a fantastic way to network with other real live human beings and gives you a leg up when it comes to meeting new people to converse with outside the program.
Please feel free to check out a full review of what Parleremo is and is not here.
When it comes to meeting people who may be willing to speak to you online in either a tutor/learner or language exchange scenario it doesn’t really get much better than WeSpeke.
WeSpeke is another social media site, dubbed by some as “The polyglot Facebook”, the site makes it incredibly easy to access other language speakers with similar interests to your own. In fact that appears to be its primary function.
Much like any other social media sites you create a profile, populate it with your information and photo, then go about finding friends interested in teaching you or learning from you the language(s) you desire.
It doesn’t get much simpler than WeSpeke. It’s easy. fast, and everyone there is looking to meet someone, so you might as well get to it!
Social media apps and sites for language learners seem to be one of the most prevalent learning tools these days – and for good reason. It’s hard to argue with all of the now readily available apps and other platforms that allow you to actually network with real people, in real time, anywhere in the world.
Colango – continuing with our theme – is another online language learning app for Android that allows its users to network with others.
Colango’s primary purpose is for learners to create and study from miniature language lessons created by other users. If you want to give a super short, basic lesson on how to properly pronounce the numbers 1 through 10 in Arabic, Colango is your place to do it.
You can easily create a super fast “course” in which you explain the proper pronunciation then answer the questions of those who take your course.
As with most of the other social media sites, finding an actual language learner will require you to invest a little bit of time, but the rewards can be well worth it. With a bit of effort you can absolutely add Colango to your list of tools to use to find other like minded individuals for face to face – or at least voice to voice – language exchange.
Colango is currently still in beta, which means if you get a jump on it you can give it a shot while its still in development and help the creators make a better product for you and everyone else to enjoy.
Check out Colango’s website here and it’s Google Play page here.
Colango is also working towards an iOS version of its app, so Apple users need not despair.
It doesn’t really matter how you slice it: you need to speak to real people if you ever want to achieve any serious proficiency with your new language.
Hopefully you’ve taken at least one or two of these suggestions to heart and are planning on getting up and going out into the wild, throwing caution to the wind and raising your voice a little bit!
All of these sites and apps are available online or on your mobile device for free and there’s no limit to the number you can or should choose from to meet your goals. You can and should find as many language partners are you’re comfortable with as each will offer you a different experience and a new tile in the endless mosaic that makes up their culture.
Actually speaking your language to real people is probably the most nerve wracking thing any learner ever faces, but I promise that after only a couple of minutes it becomes far easier, feels more natural and earns you better results than any commercial product you can find.
So what are you waiting or? Nothing you do in language learning could be more important!
What are some of your favorite methods for connecting with real language learners? Leave a comment!
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