Learning English involves mastering such skills and reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The last one seems to cause a lot of problems for learners: they never have enough speaking practice, struggle with the language barrier, have difficulties with fluency or correct pronunciation.
On the one thing, it may be hard. Speaking is hard for shy people. It is hard for beginners. It is difficult to speak about unfamiliar topics. On the other hand, the solution is very simple: to practice speaking you need to speak. That is it.
You can have perfect grammar and extensive vocabulary, you can watch films and reads books in English without any problems. But to develop your speaking you need… to start speaking.
One of the things that makes speaking practice more difficult is the fact that you need a partner: a teacher, a native speaker, or a fellow learner. It is not necessary to have a speaking partner whose English is perfect but you need a partner nonetheless.
A great way to find speaking partners is by using language exchange websites or apps.
What are language exchange sites and apps?
They are a type of social networks centered around foreign language practice. Like on any other social network, you register, put up a photo, fill in a profile – and start meeting people. You can meet native speakers as well as fellow learners, there may be people who also want to chat in English, or would like to learn your native language in exchange (hence the name).
These apps allow you to exchange texts, pictures, recorded messages and call each other for speaking practice. They are also usually free. Isn’t that great?
How to use them to practice English more effectively?
- Fill in your profile. There is no need to write every single detail about yourself but a more informative profile with a good photo is more interesting for other users.
- Be creative in your first message. Many people get tired from reading “Hi, how are you” over and over again. Say something more fun. You can read a person’s profile and comment on something from it, like their interests or where they are from.
- Be careful. The Internet is not always safe, and this, unfortunately, includes language exchange sites. Do not give your personal information or send money to people.
- Ask questions and keep the conversation going. You are here to practice English, right?
- Don’t be afraid to agree to a call or a video chat. If something goes wrong you can always end the call. However, language learners tend to be very welcoming and nice people, you will most likely have a lot of fun.
- Don’t give up! Talking or even just texting in English may be hard at the beginning, especially if you have never done it before. The more you do it, the easier and the more fun it gets.
- Be open-minded and polite. You are probably going to meet people from all over the world, from different countries and cultures, with different beliefs and views on life. These people can be very different from you. But you are joined by one great thing – learning English. And the difference in culture can be something very interesting to explore.
If you follow these simple ideas, practicing English on language exchange sites and apps should be a lot of fun – and very useful for your speaking practice. Just try it out!
What are some good language exchange websites/apps?
We have discussed how important speaking practice is and how language exchange websites and apps can help you find partners to speak English with.
Now, here are a few examples of great language exchange sites and apps where you can find both native speakers and English learners for speaking practice.
Interpals is the oldest resource on this list – it was started in 1998! However, it is keeping up with the times and going strong. Thousands of people from all over the world use this site daily.
On this website, you can search for friends based on the language you are learning, their age, gender, location, and even interests. You can also set up your page in such a way that only certain categories of people can approach you: for instance, if you are a girl and feel unsafe talking to men or you only want to meet people from your country or city who also learn English.
Interpals is totally free. However it is not always convenient as it does not seem to have an official app, and using the website on a phone is cumbersome.
HelloTalk is an app aimed at connecting learners of different languages with native speakers. It is a fermium app which means that the basic features are free but you can pay for some extra features.
The interface is simple and looks kind of like a messenger (for instance, WhatsApp), but it is centered around language learning. The native speaker you are talking to can highlight and comment on mistakes you make.
There is also a built-in translation function allowing you to translate messages when you are not sure if you understood or wrote something correctly.
This is also an app aimed at connecting learners and native speakers. It has built-in translation, voice, and video call features and a great community of learners.
Tandem also allows you to connect with professional teachers in the same app – you can both learn English with a professional and practice it with a friend in one and the same space.
GledLingvo is a language exchange platform, both a website and an app, where learners of foreign languages can connect with native speakers, fellow learners, and professional teachers. It is free to use but if we speak about professional teachers, they set their own prices for each lesson.
GledLingvo also has its built-in call function so you don’t need to leave the app to make a call. It also allows you not only to schedule lessons but to schedule calls with friends as well.
As you can see, there are many language exchange apps and sites out there. They all share the same main function: they allow people who want to practice English (or other languages) to find partners for speaking practice. Check out the apps from the article, choose the one that appeals most to you and begin your practice!
P/S: Have you learned English using any language exchange websites/apps? Please share your experience in the comment section below, that might be a great help to others 🙂