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The year 2020 has seen growth of Spanish learning. According to Duolingo’s first Global Language Report, “it’s become more important than ever, in more parts of the world … to study Spanish and connect with Spanish-speaking communities.”
No matter what learning method you choose, either classroom or self-study, you may need the help of native speakers to help solidify what you learn. But what if there’s no one around you to practice with? Enter language conversation exchange apps — innovative platforms to connect with native speakers. Here are seven apps and websites to have Spanish conversation online:
HelloTalk is one of the few conversation exchange apps that boast a massive community. It tries to be an all-in-one platform for language learning as well. Aside from speaking with native speakers of your target language, the app has a tab where you can learn by playing games, reading articles or checking grammar.
The app feels like a social networking site. You can publish posts — called “moments” — where other users can correct your posts and vice versa with the app’s easy-to-use correction feature. You can also use the in-app translate button if you don’t have a solid grasp of your target language yet. If you don’t want to correct someone’s post, you can just simply say “hi” in the comments section. If you find a post helpful, you can also save it to your favorites.
If you ran out of luck in the app’s own version of newsfeed, you can cast a wide net by searching for potential conversation partners. The app’s search tab has various options and filters. A lot of language learners, unfortunately, lose interest after several months. This is especially true if they chose the self-study route. In HelloTalk’s search tab, you can filter by “serious learners,” nearby and gender. You can also search by region, city and age. When you add two native languages and more than one target language, however, the app prompts you to subscribe to HelloTalk VIP.
And if you finally found a native speaker to talk to, you can correct their sentences and vice versa. You can even have a voice or video call together to maximize your language learning.
Several useful features require a pro subscription. A free user can have up to 10 translations per day. But with HelloTalk VIP, it allows you to translate more. If you’re privacy-focused, you can also hide your profile visits using it. If you are a casual language learner, La Jornada Filipina recommends this app for you.
Upon signup, the app requires you to upload a profile picture. This might be to deter scammers from joining. And when you upload a photo that doesn’t have a face, the app detects it and will warn you to re-upload a new photo. Then after that, it asks you three questions that may feel like a job interview:
“What topics do you enjoy discussing?” If you try to trick the app by answering only one word, it prompts you to add more.
“Can you describe what your perfect Tandem partner is like?” This question allows you to set expectations at the outset. It may eliminate the chance of partnering with someone and finding out that you don’t have the same interests at all.
“What are your language learning goals?” If you know someone’s language learning goals, they would probably be able to help you.
If you found someone who put in work to write long answers to these questions, they may be serious enough to learn a language.
After answering all the questions, the Tandem team will review your application. It may take up to seven days for them do so. This feels disappointing for those who want to get started to practice already. According to them, they have waiting lists in some countries. But if you want to skip the line and enter the club, you can select one of their plans to start a free trial. After getting in, you get the usual features from a standard conversation exchange app like HelloTalk. The only difference is that Tandem has this “exclusivity” feel.
The app’s home interface includes the barebones only, but you don’t need a pro subscription to access all of its features.
In the app’s search tab, you can find partners who are online, new or nearby. The app has a lot of privacy options: you can block by continents, countries and users. You also have the option to disable being found in its search results or in external search engines such Google and Yahoo.
Digging deeper, you can disable receiving friend requests or limit it to your contacts only — people whom you sent a message, posted on their wall or commented on. You can also disable messages so that only your friends or no one can reach out to you. Lastly, you can see who viewed your profile.
Though those features are free, there is a catch: There are no options for other Interpal users to correct your posts and vice versa. But then again, the app’s target market is broad — people who look for pen pals and native speakers to practice with.
Though marketed as a conversation exchange app, Lingbe is heavily gamified. You earn badges for being “social,” “valuable,” “helpful” and the like. You earn lingos or Lingbe’s currency whenever you interact with someone within the app. You can use these lingos to unlock features such as adding a profile photo, making video calls and sending more friend requests. There is also an option to purchase a pro subscription, but you don’t need it as you can buy more lingos in their Lingshop. To earn free lingos, you can refer the app to your friends.
All of these sound good, but the biggest letdown is that basic features such as calling and chatting are unavailable — at least at first. You will have to jump through hoops to be able to interact with other learners. When you use the app’s call function, you have to spend 10 lingos per minute; you need a minimum of 50 lingos to be able to initiate a voice call. If you prefer a gender, you must purchase a pro subscription. When you make a call, the app automatically connects you with someone — no, you don’t choose who to call. Your potential language partner also doesn’t know who’s calling them. Pro users, however, will be able to know who calls them even before they accept the connection. When someone calls you, the app displays a notification that there’s an incoming call and if you want to answer it. By accepting the call, you earn 6 lingos per minute.
iTalki is another conversation exchange app. But instead of connecting you with random people on the Internet, you get to practice with tutors and teachers. However, it’s not free.
Upon signup, you get three trial lessons that are “designed to allow students to quickly adapt to the iTalki booking process.” These are not free lessons but discounted ones; prices of the lessons vary per teacher. After taking their promotional introductory lessons, you’ll have to decide whether to continue taking more. Should you wish to continue using the app, you can buy more iTalki credits.
You can search for professional teachers, community tutors who are “native speakers or advanced speakers who can help through informal tutoring or speaking practice” or both. They also have a discover tab in which you can see other learners’ posts in a news feed. Like HelloTalk, you can correct what they post. You can also try exercise prompts, post questions or publish posts.
iTalki is recommended for those who want expertise from teachers and not from a random stranger on an app.
Upon signup, Speaky asks you to accept the “Speaky pledge” or their house rules: no harassment (racism or rude behavior), no flirting (dating, nudity or explicit messages) and no spam (no promotion of products/business).
Speaky works much like the usual language exchange app: chat with potential conversation partners and correct their mistakes. In their home tab, there are sections for “natives” and “non-natives,” so you may have variety of options to choose from. When you message someone for the first time, they must accept your message request first. Upon acceptance, you can either correct them or translate their messages when the conversation starts rolling.
In your profile tab, you have the option to personalize the settings. You can also adjust your privacy options to only allow select people to contact you. Speaky seems to be a safe app that has excellent community rules.
This is not a language conversation exchange app per se, but a website that hosts real and live meetups. Each meeting can have a different purpose, but the members of a group can meet just to have a conversation.
There are a lot of popular Meetup groups focusing in language conversation exchanges. If you’re in the Philippines, there’s Spanish Language Meetup of the Philippines. For those who live in New York, the are plenty of Spanish Meetup groups you can join. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some meetups are now being held online via Zoom.
Unlike apps like HelloTalk and Tandem, the sense of community in most Meetup groups can be strong. Some groups hold monthly or even weekly events — fostering the members’ camaraderie even more. This type of language exposure is recommended for those who want to be a part of established communities and for those who want to develop stronger friendships.
With the help of the apps and websites mentioned above, it’s not difficult to have Spanish conversation online anymore. Just make sure you choose the best one that perfectly suits you and complements your study method.
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