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Yes, You Can Study Languages With Comics. Here’s How

Comics, manga, graphic novels: whatever you call them, they’re fun, interesting and can be a great tool for learning a language.

If you raised an eyebrow at that last phrase, I understand why. Comic books might not come with homework or, in most cases, grammar lessons. They don’t feel like serious learning. In fact, you might even consider them a distraction from proper studies.

But don’t write them off too soon. Comics and graphic novels have a surprising number of benefits, and some platforms have even started publishing comics with in-built language-learning tools, from pop-up translations to grammar breakdowns.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of studying a language through comics, as well as the study practices that will help you get the most out of them. We’ll wrap up with a look at the different apps and platforms available to you.

Woman reads a graphic novel; text overlay says learn a language with comics and manga

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The Language Exchange Showdown: Our Top Apps & Websites

Chatting with someone in your non-native language is one of the scariest yet most rewarding parts of learning a language. You’re stepping out of the airplane, solo sky-diving – but fortunately, with less gory results should you mess up.

Talking to people is, for most of us, the reason why we’ve spent hours studying courses, poring over grammar charts and doing pronunciation drills until our throats hurt.

And ironically, when we finally start talking to people, those courses and grammar charts tend to get much easier.

So, although it’s scary, language exchanges are worth doing. Remember, nobody really cares if you make a mistake. We’re all language-learners here. We’ve all muddled our sentence structure and failed to understand questions.

And when an exchange goes well, it is amazing. You’ll share experiences, make friends and feel your confidence in the language grow.

Thanks to the internet, there’s no shortage of places to find a language partner, join in with an existing language group or even get feedback from other language-learners. Let’s look at how to make the most of a language exchange site or app, the options available to you and what sets them apart.

Three women talk at a language exchange; on the left, text says Best Language Exchange Apps and Websites

Quick Tips for Using a Language Exchange Platform

To make sure your language exchange is fun and effective rather than frustrating, follow these tips:

    1. Look for partner(s) who want the same thing as you. Ask yourself: is your idea of an ideal language exchange text-based messaging, a 30-minute call or an in-person meet-up? Do you want lots of corrections or to just focus on communication? Once you know, it’ll be easier to find like-minded partners.
    2. Make sure you speak as much as possible in your target language. Take responsibility for your own language-learning by suggesting a language switch when you feel it’s fair. But also…
    3. Don’t be selfish! Give other people a chance to practise their target languages, and remember to help others out. That’s how the community will keep growing.
    4. Try to adjust your speaking level to your partner. They might have different strengths and weaknesses to you, so adapt as needed.
    5. Don’t worry if you make a mistake or don’t understand everything. This is normal in language exchanges – and in fact, if it goes too smoothly, you’re probably not challenging yourself enough. The important thing is that you manage to communicate, so laugh off your language errors and keep the conversation going.
    6. Don’t be afraid to shut down conversations that make you uncomfortable. Unwanted flirting and sexual harassment are frustratingly common complaints about language exchange sites, so don’t feel like you need to be polite in the face of inappropriate comments. And if someone crosses a line, report them to the platform.
    7. In-person language exchanges can help you improve even quicker, and they sometimes attract more serious learners. But, as always when meeting people from the internet, be sensibly cautious. Meet in a public space, don’t feel like you need to give out your contact details, and if you start to feel like something’s not right, leave.

Best Websites & Apps for Language Partners & Exchanges

There are scores of language exchange apps and websites available, so let’s begin with our top picks. We’ll take a look at the others that didn’t quite make it into this section later.

Tandem

Tandem is one of the most well-known language exchange apps, and in our experience, the community is more interested in practising languages than on some other platforms. It has a slew of additional features to help you get the most out of the app, such as translations and ways to correct people’s messages while you’re chatting to them.

Unlike some platforms on our list, it doesn’t facilitate in-platform calls or public corrections of written texts. Instead, the focus is on private messages.

Read our review or visit Tandem.

Lingbe

Looking to practise speaking and listening? Put off by the process of filling out an interesting profile? Worried about flirtatious messages from people who just don’t get the hint (or don’t want to)? Lingbe might be the app for you.

Lingbe is based on a simple but innovative idea. Learners are randomly connected with native speakers for short phone calls. Once you’ve talked with someone the first time, you can add them as a friend and call them anytime you wish. But until that point, nobody can message or call you specifically. So if you do get unwanted flirtatious comments, you can just hang up.

Since speaking and listening can be harder to work on than reading and writing, Lingbe can be a great way to get your conversational skills up to scratch. There are also group chat rooms for something a little less intimidating – but potentially more challenging.

Read our mini review or visit Lingbe.

Bilingua

Bilingua’s claim to fame is that it matches partners with the same interests and personality traits. It does this by getting you to take two quizzes, à la Match.com. It also gives you significant control over who can contact you and has a variety of search filters.

The only annoying thing about Bilingua? Its slow download and initial opening time. Forget making a cup of tea while you wait; we tested and wrote an entire other entry on this list.

However, when we were finally able to sign up, we found the app worked smoothly and intuitively.

Visit Bilingua.

MeetUp

MeetUp’s one of the best ways to find groups of people for real-life language exchanges. In urban locations, you’ll typically have plenty of events to choose from: standard language exchanges, language-specific exchanges, LGBTQ+ language exchanges, daytime exchanges, walk-and-talk events and more. And then there are the groups dedicated to public speaking practice, writing and other activities that advanced learners might benefit from.

Visit MeetUp.

Friends laugh and smile at an event they found on a language exchange websiteGet to know your city while practising your language skills with in-person language exchange groups.

My Language Exchange

At first glance, freemium web app My Language Exchange might seem a relic from by-gone years – but don’t write it off too soon. Although the homepage takes you back to the early 2010s, the community is large and active. Even for languages that tend to be underrepresented, such as Basque, Maori and Yoruba, there are plenty of native speakers among recent signups and logins.

You can find a penpal, join a group chat or work your way through a lesson plan with a partner. For some languages, you can also do word games and quizzes.

Read our mini review or visit My Language Exchange.

Leeve (Play Store, App Store)

If you’ve ever used Tinder, you’ll find Leeve intuitive. This app’s designed to help you meet local people for language exchanges, although VIP users can also view people in specific locations via the Passport tab – handy if you’re planning a trip and want to organise some meet-ups beforehand.

You can get very specific about the language varieties and dialects you speak on Leeve. You don’t just have to choose English or even between British vs US American English. You can select English from Ireland, Australia, India, South Africa, Cameroon, Trinidad and Tobago and much more. Not only does it feel right that people can choose their correct language variety, but it’s also very helpful if you’re interested in learning a specific dialect.

Users with free accounts can contact up to 10 people a day.

Download Leeve from the Play Store (Android) or the App Store (Apple).

HelloTalk

HelloTalk is part language exchange site, part social media platform. You can post updates about your day, including photos, and follow users. Once you’ve found a language exchange partner, you can either comment on their posts or private message them.

Speech, translation, transliteration and correction tools will help you and your partner have a productive language exchange – but in our experience, not everyone is looking to study. To increase your chances of finding a good partner, we recommend looking for people asking for feedback in the Moments section, which is like a platform-wide news feed.

HelloTalk also has audio lessons for a limited number of languages.

Read our HelloTalk review and our HelloTalk vs Tandem comparison, or visit HelloTalk here.

Idyoma

Idyoma tells you right from the get-go: it wants to create a “safe learning environment” where you won’t get messaged by “creeps”. The company stresses that they don’t just want to protect women and girls but also to make Idyoma a safe space for people “of any nationality, ethnicity, or mother tongue”.

They’ve introduced some policies to help with this, although they’re not ground-breaking: they include one-click blocking, disabled photo messages, paid-for profile verification and only being able to chat to five new people a month. The latter is to cut down on spam and ensure people put effort into each conversation.

When we used it for a week, Idyoma’s claims held true. It was a pleasant surprise to receive messages asking about language differences rather than ones like “Do you find me sexy?”

Bear in mind that Idyoma doesn’t seem as well developed as some other apps. We were shown a lot of profiles that didn’t match with our preferred languages. Getting a photo to upload in the right orientation was also a pain.

Visit Idyoma.

Man smiles while using a language exchange appMessaging a new friend via a language exchange app.

Social Media

Facebook groups, Instagram hashtags, Reddit’s r/language_exchange, Discourse, even Tinder or Bumble – there are plenty of places you can find a language exchange partner without having to create a new profile. From personal experience, you may even find you get fewer inappropriate messages on platforms like Tinder than via some language exchange apps.

However, you should still use these sites with caution, especially if you’re going to meet in person or share personal information.

Other Websites & Apps for Language Partners & Exchanges

These next sites aren’t among our top picks, but they’re still decent options. For some learners, they may be the best choice available.

Amikumu

If you want to study a less well-known language, Amikumu may be worth trying out. It’s extremely popular for Esperanto and lists over 650 languages in total – although some of these are fairly inactive.

In fact, when we tried it for one of the local languages, Basque, there were only three posts visible to us from the last two years. All of them were by the same person.

What’s more, unless you sign up for a premium membership, you can only view posts from people within 100 km of you. If you live somewhere rural, or want to study a language from a different country than the one in which you live, you might struggle to find many partners.

However, learners in urban areas might have better luck. And most users are polyglots, which bodes well for a more serious approach to language learning.

Read our mini review or visit Amikumu.

Conversation Exchange

Conversation Exchange is another platform with a dated website but a significant number of active users, including for typically less catered-for languages. The advanced search settings make it easy to find potential language exchange partners. And although it doesn’t have an app, you can message users via the website.

There are several ways to practise your target language on Conversation Exchange. You can send online messages to a specific user, take part in the chat with online members or search by location for someone who’s looking for a face-to-face exchange.

Visit Conversation Exchange.

Woman waves during a Skype language exchangeVideo calls let you do language exchanges with people all around the world.

Speaky

Speaky is one of the most well-known language-exchange sites around, along with Tandem and HelloTalk. It has some nice touches, such as the ability to search for users by their interests. And this is a rare case of an interests list that isn’t too short – if anything, it’s comically extensive. Want to chat to someone who’s interested in milk? Now you can.

Unfortunately, many of Speaky’s users seem more interested in flirting than in practising a language. While this is a common issue with language exchange sites, we felt that Speaky was worse than some alternatives.

Read our review or visit Speaky.

italki

italki is famous for facilitating online language classes with teachers and tutors, but there’s more to the platform than you might realise. Up until recently, you could find a language exchange partner on italki via the dedicated website section. And although they removed this function in 2020, it’s still pretty easy to find a partner via the Community section.

“Language partner” remains the second most popular search term in the Community section, and we found several posts from people looking to connect for an exchange. You can also head to the exercise and question sections to find someone to practise with. italki has an in-app messaging system, or you can exchange contact details if you’re comfortable doing so.

Plus, you can post your writing and audio files for community feedback.

Read our review or visit italki.

Mixxer

Mixxer is designed to help you find a Skype language exchange partner, and if you ask us, it’s a love-it-or-hate-it app.

The overall tone is serious; in fact, it asks you to state which mornings and afternoons you’re available for calls in your profile. This could be a plus for serious learners who don’t want to waste time on chats that quickly fizzle out. However, it could also intimidate learners who prefer to get to know someone before sharing contact details – even if it’s just a Skype handle.

The app is also clunky, although fairly simple to use. Then again, what can you expect from a platform that promotes Skype rather than Zoom?

Visit Mixxer.

LingoGlobe

This online language-exchange website may have fewer users than sites like My Language Exchange, but it’s great for privacy. You can’t see any other users until you’ve signed up, you can only view users for the languages you speak or study and people can’t contact you until you’ve agreed to their request.

We found sufficient numbers of potential language exchange partners for widely studied languages, like Spanish, and underrepresented languages, like Basque, alike. However, the website doesn’t indicate whether users are currently active.

There is also a fairly active forum, although most posts are a variation on “Let’s Practise English”.

Visit LingoGlobe.

Women smiles while using a language exchange app at homeDoing a language exchange from home – or at work, or on the bus, or anywhere.

Bonus Section: Community Answers and Corrections

Getting community feedback isn’t the same thing as a language exchange, but it’s still a way to learn with the help of native speakers and other students. Here are some of our top picks:

HiNative

If you’ve ever Googled a question about the language you’re learning, you’ve probably come across a HiNative page. This app (mobile and web) allows you to ask native speakers and other learners questions. Whether you don’t understand a Japanese idiom or want to check you’ve declined your German cases correctly, you’ll likely find an answer here.

Read our review or visit HiNative.

Journaly

Want feedback on your writing? There are several sites and apps for this, but Journaly’s one of our favourites because reviewers can add comments to specific words and phrases. This makes giving feedback intuitive, and when you check the comments on your writing, you can read them all together.

Visit Journaly.

LingoHackers

Do you find yourself thinking that you should join a community feedback platform, if you could only think of something to write? LingoHackers gives you daily prompts in the forms of photos, word lists and a question. The community is fairly active at giving feedback, too.

Visit LingoHackers.

LangCorrect

LangCorrect is another option for getting feedback on your writing. It has an impressive range of languages – although some are more active than others – so depending on what you’re learning, you might find it’s a good alternative to the above platforms.

Read our review or visit LangCorrect.

Man uses laptop to read community feedback on his writing via an online language app.Learn from community feedback on your writing.

Language Exchange Apps & Websites That Probably Aren’t Worth Your Time

Easy Language Exchange

Easy Language Exchange is another website with an online database of people looking for language exchanges. Unlike My Language Exchange, Conversation Exchange and some of the others on this list, the setup is relatively modern. It seems to be modelled on pre-2011 Facebook profiles (hey, we did say “relatively modern”). You have public friends, and your Wall shows when you last changed your profile picture.

For many languages, you’ll have plenty of options for finding a language partner here – although, frustratingly, inactive users aren’t removed from the search results list. However, while Easy Language Exchange seems to be better than most apps for less catered-for languages, it doesn’t seem as good as other online databases.

There are also some not-very-active forums, although unfortunately you’ll have to sift through the spam links to porn sites to find the useful threads. We would be tempted to skip this website section and head straight to WordReference Forums or even Reddit. It also raises doubts about how active the moderators are.

All that said, we haven’t found anything terrible about Easy Language Exchange – there are just far better options out there, no matter what you’re looking for.

Visit Easy Language Exchange.

Barden

Barden used to be a language-exchange behemoth. The key phrase in that sentence was “used to be”. It started life in 2014 as a website for finding local language exchanges, before growing to include Facebook groups and mobile apps. However, sometime in 2019 or 2020, the platform died. At the time of this article’s publication, they are planning a 2021 relaunch – so who knows, maybe Barden will regain its former popularity?

We regularly update our articles, but we can’t keep track of everything. So if you’re looking for a place to find local, one-to-one language exchanges, it may be worth checking Barden out to see if they’re up and running again. But until they are, take another look at Leeve and MeetUp.

Visit Barden.

Modole.io

Modole.io is a community-feedback site that has potential but is practically inactive. When we signed up, the last French post was four months old, the last Spanish one was three months old, and although English ones were posted every few days, none of them received any feedback.

Visit Modole.io.

InterPals

In internet terms, InterPals is ancient – it started in 1998, just a few years after people started using the internet at home. And even today, the site has a huge number of active users. When we clicked to see who was online, there were over 7,000 people.

And yet, InterPals sadly isn’t something we can recommend. There are online complaints spanning recent years about the frequency of unsolicited explicit photos, with one person stating that they get requests for them more often than pen pal requests. There are also online complaints and news stories about child pornography on the site.

The internet has changed a lot since the late ‘90s. Fortunately, there are now plenty of other options out there.

And there you have it: heaps of language exchange apps and websites worth trying, and some that aren’t.

We don’t all learn in the same way, so it’s no surprise that there’s such a variety in language exchange platforms. But no matter what you’re looking for, we’re sure you’ll find it on this list. Whether it’s Azerbaijani or Zulu, phone calls or text messages, there’s a suitable platform (or several) out there.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick a platform, download or sign up to it and get ready to practise speaking and writing in your target language. It won’t be long until you notice your fluency and vocabulary have improved – and your confidence, too.

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The Best italki Alternatives: Language Classes Compared

italki is a market leader for online language classes, and it’s easy to understand why: it has a huge range of teachers for everything from Arabic to Zulu; it’s cheap; and the app has some fantastic community features, including free feedback on your writing and audio clips.

However, italki isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you’re fed up with all the hidden fees and payment idiosyncrasies that make you feel like you’re buying tickets from a budget airline. Maybe you don’t like choosing between the buggy italki Classroom and Skype. Or it could be that you’re looking for a platform that offers more structured learning, whether it’s a syllabus, flashcards, or simply regular feedback on your level.

Fortunately, if you’re getting frustrated with italki, there are plenty of competitor platforms to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite italki alternatives and what sets them apart.

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The Best Duolingo Alternatives: Fun, Gamified Language Apps

Duolingo is one of the most popular and well-known language apps around, and it’s not hard to understand why: it’s free, easy to use, and will teach you over 30 languages.

Yet Duolingo isn’t everyone’s ideal app. Perhaps you’re looking for something that will teach you traveling phrases right off the bat, instead of Duolingo classics such as “the duck is swimming in money” and “the groom is a hedgehog.” Maybe you’re looking for more grammatical information or better audio. Or it could be that Duolingo doesn’t teach your language (or is pretty bad at it).

In fact, even if you like Duolingo, you might find your language studies will benefit from using it alongside another app. Let’s take a look at some of the other gamified phone apps that will help you learn a language in just five minutes a day.

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Lexilize flashcards

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Lexilize is an SRS flashcard application that adds slightly more interaction than the average SRS app. When you learn each deck, you will engage in matching, guessing, recall, and typing activities to test your memory. You can later choose specific activities for review, making it somewhat more engaging than simply flipping over the card and seeing if you got it right or not.

When you add a language, you can add default categories, like fruits or feelings — however, it’s probably best to make your own set of flashcards, as these probably won’t help you learn to speak a language very efficiently.

For each new card you add, you can insert a transcription, example sentence, and image to your card. Lexilize seems to automatically insert text-to-voice, so if you don’t mind listening to a robot, this feature can be useful.

Another option is Anki, whose user interface is a little outdated but 100% free. Brainscape is also comparable to Lexilize, but they each have their own strengths. While Lexilize has a variety of flashcard activities, Brainscape only has one type of card. However, Brainscape’s free decks for language learning teach you words and phrases that build on each other as they advance, rather than just focusing on simple vocabulary. Brainscape also has refined the SRS system by letting you identify your recall strength on a 5-point scale, while Lexilize only lets you identify ‘forgotten’ or ‘recalled’.

Visit

Lingbe

4.5 
Price: Freemium, Add-ons start at $0.99

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Lingbe is like chat roulette for language learning, instantly initiating voice calls between users who want to practice or help others learn different languages. After your call with another user, you can choose to become friends on the app and continue to message or call each other (although calling them still requires Lingos). As this app was created for Spanish and English speakers, learners of other languages may have more difficulty finding someone to practice with. However, the community is growing, so it may not be difficult for long.

Although it may be an introvert’s nightmare, this app might be the fastest way to practice languages with native speakers. By helping other users learn your native language, you can earn ‘lingos’ and then trade them in to practice your target language. You receive more lingos per minute by answering calls in your native language than in a practice language. Because making calls costs the most Lingos, you will probably spend more time speaking your native language than practicing your target languages. However, you can also earn lingos by answering questions or by increasing your level (through helping more people).

The Pro version seems to give you access to unlimited calls, take away ads, and let you know who you are talking to as soon as the voice call starts.

Visit

Amikumu

Price: Free, Premium subscriptions cost $4.99/mo, $19.99/half-year, $19.99/year

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Unlike Tandem, which sometimes feels more like a dating app than a language exchange site, Amikumu’s users seem to be serious language learners looking to connect with other serious language learners. There are community chats and private messages, and users can arrange to meet in person (or online) to practice their skills. This is an awesome app for people who are travelling (or at home) and want to find fellow language learners.

The Amikumu community is mostly composed of polyglots, with an average of 5 languages per person. If you have been looking for a platform to practice minority languages, this is the place for you! The site was originally created for Esperanto learners, but has over 650 languages within the community, including several dialects of sign language.

Amikumu will display 100 people who are geographically closest to you that speak at least one of the languages you are learning; even if no one is physically nearby, you will always have someone to chat with through the app. Moreover, with a Gold membership you can ‘teleport’ your location and chat with people anywhere in the world.

Visit

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Chinese Grammar Wiki – 4.2 

Chinese Grammar Wiki is an excellent place to learn Chinese grammar, and it’s free. Grammar points are arranged according to difficulty level and include lots of example sentences. It’s a great way to learn what you need to learn at the level you’re at, without getting weighed down with too much information. It is also available as a book.

Visit The Chinese Grammar Wiki

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

The Best Language Learning Apps – We’ve Tested 40+ Options

language learning apps banner

What a time to be alive! The number of language learning apps out there is mind-boggling. New resources are constantly being released, and the classics are continually being improved upon.

This is great news for language learners. It’s never been easier to find quality resources that cater to your learning style, level, language, and interests.

While the variety of language apps is impressive, so is the range of quality. The truth is that some work really well and some really don’t. We’ve tried a gazillion of them (okay, half a gazillion), and have found total gems alongside scams and flops.

This isn’t one of those reviews that only lists the Top Five Language Apps of All Time. We’ve pulled from the neverending list of apps we’ve tried and grouped them into categories to provide a more comprehensive list.

While this list is long, it isn’t exhaustive. We haven’t included any language-specific apps that are only available in one language.

Within each category, you’ll see our Top Picks, the ones we like the most, and Other Options — apps that are commonly recommended but aren’t necessarily our favorites. You’ll see why we like certain apps more than others and hopefully get a feel for some that are right for you.

General Courses

Top Picks: Pimsleur, Babbel, Duolingo, LingoDeer

Other Options: Rocket Languages, Busuu, Coursera, edX, Mango Languages, Udemy, Chatterbug, Mondly, Rosetta Stone, Word Dive

Vocabulary Acquisition

Top Picks: Memrise, Anki, Lingvist, Clozemaster

Other Options: Speakly, Quizlet, Mosalingua, Drops

Reading and Listening

Top Picks: Innovative Languages, News in Slow, LingQ, Beelinguapp

Other Options: FluentU, Yabla, Audible, Flowlingo

Speaking and Writing

Top Picks: Speechling, italki

Other Options: Glossika, HiNative

Tutors and Language Exchange

Top Picks: italki, Tandem, HelloTalk

Other Options: Verbling, Preply, Rype App, Speaky (more…)