Language exchange has truly reached the smartphone age with a neat new app called Hello Talk. The interface is similar to other instant messenger apps such as WeChat and Kakao Talk where you can send instant messages, images and voice messaging. However, unlike the aforementioned apps, HelloTalk offers an excellent search function to find other users wishing to exchange languages and an instant translation feature.
Indeed, one of the best features of this app is the ability to search for language partners based on the city of residence and languages spoken. For example, if you’re looking for a Korean speaker in Melbourne you can find them on the app!
Another advantage of the app is that you can practise virtually any time of the day with users in different time zones, and anywhere with an internet connection. You don’t have to get off the couch to practise and you can squeeze in a chat on the train ride to work.
There’s also a few other nice features such as the ability to favourite and save sections of conversations, to translate conversations and receive translation help from the community.
The downside though from our Hello Talk review is that native English speakers tend to be inundated with language exchange requests as there’s an oversupply of English learners- especially from South Korea and China on the app.
It can also sometimes be difficult on this app to break into deeper conversation as users sometimes have a low attention span or an irregular/slow reply rate using the app. The app is therefore well suited for those just starting out to learn a language; as you can practise basic conversation with numerous users and consolidate basic conversation.
Intermediate and advanced users would be better off finding suitable language partners through this app and then moving on to off-line language exchange, or online language exchange via Wechat, Facebook, Skype, Whatsup, Kakao, Line, etc without the distraction of numerous random Hello Talk user ‘hello’s’ and where your language partner should be faster to reply back.
Here are my three of my own personal tips to get the best out of the app.
Include a detailed personal bio
If you wish to avoid small talk about your city of origin, occupation, hobbies etc, ensure to be as detailed as possible in editing your public personal bio. This will not only help you bypass those default questions but also attract language exchangers with similar interests and allow you to dive right into more meaningful conversation.
There’s a natural tendency with using this app to use your second language to say words and phrases you are already comfortable with using and reverting to English to discuss more complicated topics which are more difficult to express. This approach will help to reinforce previously learnt phrases and words but will not necessarily help you expand your language ability. Instead, it is worthwhile to reverse this trend by attempting to express difficult concepts or phrases you are unsure of in your second language and use English to talk about the basics. Due to the language exchange theme of this app, most language partners will promptly correct your mistakes and offer immediate feedback. Meanwhile, you are still following the language exchange protocol of speaking in English to help your partner but not wasting time on repeating phrases you have already memorised. Also, as you are not talking face-to-face there’s no need to be afraid of making a mistake!
Be proactive when you talk on Hello Talk. Take notes of new words and expressions that your language partner uses by taking screenshots or notes on a pad. Then, attempt to utilise these new expressions and words with other online language partners to reinforce your learning.
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