I had heard of this for a while but never really considered using it until recently. I thought that there was no harm in checking it out so I did! What I found was surprisingly great.
HelloTalk is a way to find language partners without meeting them in person, it’s genuinely as simple as saying hello. In fact, I myself didn’t need too!
When you join it shows you on a menu called contact, where you can choose from a selection of people who you want to talk too, but before starting a conversation I wanted to edit my profile more, but by the time I was done in such a short amount of time I had several conversations waiting for me.
Luckily it’s not always like this, and at the start you’re just recommended to more people, so don’t worry about having to ignore a lot of people! It just means you can start quite quickly!
The biggest worry for me were the conversations themselves, the thing that I didn’t like was that neither of us would know each other’s languages completely, and it would always feel weird.
Well that’s true, but it’s never really that bad. Sure it’s awkward and strange at times, but your all learning and everyone’s trying to help each other, so it doesn’t really matter.
If you want a language learning partner there is no excuses not to be able to find one when this app exists!
It’s not all good though, so let’s start with the worst one, conversations on there can last essentially forever until one of you needs to go to sleep, it can be quite long and tiring. However, how is it a bad thing to make yourself practice the language more?
The other problem is that with some people I find always talking Chinese with them, yet with others always talking English (or mostly) – the thing is that it doesn’t always feel like a fair language exchange. Though of course I will speak in Chinese on the app, the person I’m with is supposed to be learning English, so if we’re talking in Chinese the entire time I feel bad for them! And vice versa, I’m sometimes like, wait I’m learning a language here!
There is another thing that makes this either a good or a bad thing, and that is, that of course you are likely to make friends with people on there. And I don’t know how much I like that, because while it helps us more, it means that things can get problematic later.
For example people have talked about their friends who they knew for like 7 months only to lose contact after they uninstalled the app, they were made quite sad by it, as well as that I like the idea of mutually helping each other, being friends is just weird to me, as it invokes much more of a commitment, however that’s not always a bad thing as it will help you learn more and keep you motivated to return to the app.
That brings me to a problem that only I specifically have, and that is time zones. Since I’m talking to people living in China, it means I go to sleep when they wake up, and when I wake up it’s evening for them. So it gives us a very specific and short window to chat. If I wasn’t so lazy and actually got up at a normal time it wouldn’t matter as much, but even then, once I’ve gone through all my grammar and flashcards it’s like so much time is gone already.
In terms of other problems with the app I can only think of two. The first one is that sometimes when I send a message it doesn’t send correctly and takes ages to load, the other thing is that to have more than ten translations a day you need to pay money, but this could also not be treated as a bad thing, and anyway, I have google translate installed on my phone so if I really need it I can just copy the text and paste it into the app, so it’s not too much of a bad thing.
Also what I’ve found is that a lot of people are reluctant to have a voice chat conversation with people, I already have friends I’m prepared to have conversation practice with so I have yet to use the voice call feature, and I myself feel weird doing it, so I don’t ask.
Not to say that you can’t have people for voice chat, in fact I see a lot of Chinese people asking to have one, so don’t be discouraged by this.
My Chinese listening skills are very poor in comparison to my writing and speaking, which means I just feel uncomfortable using it, because though I can talk, what’s the point if I can’t understand what the other is saying? The idea is that we’d work it out, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right yet.
There are language listening tests that I do online, and the sad thing is that when I go back to read them I can understand what nearly all of them actually are saying. So the thing about listening is that you need to be quick and quickly understand what they are saying. When you have that in writing there is no problem, but when it’s in listening it’s much harder to figure out.
Anyway let’s return to the main point, obviously your experience will be different to mine depending on the level of your language and which language you want to learn. But what I’ve found with the Chinese people learning English on there, has been pretty good!
If any idea of this sounds good, then it’s worth a try without a doubt. If your nervous, who cares? Create a profile anyway, you don’t even have to message anyone because they’ll probably talk to you, and if it goes wrong, it’s not like theirs going to be any consequences for you, you can just bail.
It’s worth a try at least, and honestly it’s a really great and useful idea.
Why pay a lot of money for a personal language teacher, when you can do a free language exchange online. As a disclaimer a personal language teacher is of course better, but you can get something quite close with a foreign friend where you help each other learn the language so it can still be not much worse.
At some point you will need to start practising with someone, so why not try with this if you can’t find anyone else?
Another disclaimer about HelloTalk is that it’s completely free and you need to do nothing to stay on it. They do strange things like ask you if you want to send a £1 gift card to your friend or something because you’ve had 50 messages, and it honestly just seems like inviting trouble to me.
As well as that people tend to ask me for my WeChat and I don’t know why, but it just makes me distrust them. Why can’t they use this chat we have now? I will give it to people I know well however, I don’t know I just don’t trust WeChat that much I guess.
This has turned into quite the ramble, so get it if it sounds good, don’t if it doesn’t. Or if for some reason you just want to talk to people without learning a language, I guess you could make foreign friends there???? I suppose. I don’t know, I guess you could if you wanted too, if a Chinese person only talked to me in Chinese because they just wanted foreign friends, I guess I’d be fine with that.
Good luck on your language learning journey, drop me a comment of how it’s going so far! Have you used HelloTalk? What did you think of it?