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HelloTalk Review – Make Friends & Practice Languages

Quick Review

4.5 

Summary

HelloTalk is a mobile app for language learners interested in language exchange. It facilitates communication between native speakers and those learning their language with the use of built-in language tools. It also offers audio lessons in 10 languages as part of a separate subscription.

Community

There’s an active community of dedicated learners, but you’ll have to do some searching.

Features

The app is easy to use and the language tools are helpful, but you could end up relying on google translate.

Value

The app is easy to use and the language tools are helpful, but you could end up relying on google translate.

Languages: There are over 150 languages supported for language exchange, and there are audio lessons for 10 languages: English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese.

Price

The basic features of HelloTalk are free. Audio lessons require a separate subscription after a short trial period.

HelloTalk VIP is available for:

$4.99/month
$2.17/month (12-month contract)
$124.99 for lifetime access

The HelloTalk audio lessons are available for a one-year subscription at prices ranging from $99 to $119 depending on the language.

Learning a new language when you’re nowhere near other speakers of that language can be tricky. For example, I’m currently in Nepal and trying to learn Italian. I don’t exactly get a lot of opportunities to practice Italian here.

Fortunately for me, and many others, the world wide web is making the world smaller every day. Opportunities for language exchange are becoming more accessible all the time, and HelloTalk is part of the movement.

HelloTalk Logo

From the HelloTalk website: “Our mission is to utilize technology to connect the world through language and culture.”

To this end, they seem to be doing a pretty good job. But will you be able to learn a language with HelloTalk?

It won’t take you all the way, but it could potentially become a valuable part of your language learning process.

HelloTalk is a language-learning app available for iOS and Android that facilitates language exchange between over 10 million users.

The profile page of a Chinese HelloTalk member.

The app also offers audio lessons, but it’s primarily a social medium centered around language learning and exchange. It aims to connect users that are interested in practicing with others through the use of language tools and social posts.

HelloTalk Language Tools

HelloTalk uses built-in language tools to enable communication between people that don’t necessarily have a lot of language overlap.

The idea is that even as a beginner of a language, you’ll be able to communicate with someone using that language. Here’s what it looks like:

The language tools menu for messages.

Long-pressing any message will display this menu of language tools. You have the option to view a translation, a transliteration or listen to text-to-speech audio of the selected message. You can also make corrections to the message if speaking with someone that’s learning your native language.

The other options in the menu are pretty basic and what you’d find in most messaging apps, things like copy, forward, and delete.

I’d never used a resource that used these tools in this way, and I liked it. If you’re able to find a language partner that is patient and willing to correct your mistakes, you can learn a lot fairly quickly.

For absolute beginners, it’s hard to see how you wouldn’t rely entirely on the translation function, which would be minimally helpful in learning the language.

This is a cool way to communicate with someone from a country whose language you’d like to learn, even if you’re not in that country. I’ve been able to communicate with Italians who are living in Italy, and that’s boosted my confidence with the language; I’ve also been able to ask questions about the culture and places I’d like to visit.

Layout

The app is broken up into four major categories: Talks, Moments, Search, and Learn.

The first three categories are all social features. They’re for connecting and communicating with other HelloTalk members.

The final category, Learn, is where the language instruction happens.

Talks

This is where all of your conversations with language partners are kept.

The messenger inbox in HelloTalk.

Aside from the language tools, the Talks are just like most other messaging apps. You can also draw and send a doodle if you’re feeling artistic or use the introduce button to connect two users with each other.

More options for messaging like doodles or attaching images.

I was happy with the functionality of the Talks feature. It’s intuitive and practical — no problems here.

Moments

Moments are similar to posts on other social media sites. People post pictures or updates about their lives and they become public to people learning relevant languages.

You can also do nifty things like request corrections and record yourself speaking. Most people seemed to be posting pictures from their hometowns or asking for specific language help.

Social posts in the Moments section of HelloTalk.

The Moments section is broken up into seven smaller subcategories, each of them acting as a filter to see only certain kinds of posts.

All: In this tab, you’ll see all of the Moments posted by people that are learning or speak the language you’re learning.

Help Others – If you select this tab, you’ll only see Moments posted by people looking for guidance. This means they’ve tagged their post with “Please correct me” or something similar. This can be a good way to find language partners to practice with.

An example of a HelloTalk member asking for corrections.

Following – Much like Instagram and Facebook, you can follow and be followed by other users. Following someone means you’ll receive a notification any time they post a Moment.

Nearby – This filter shows you Moments posted by people that are near your location. I used the app in Pokhara, Nepal, and there were no other users nearby.

Learn – Looking at Moments from the Learn tab will only show those Moments posted in your target language. This is kind of cool — it’s not unlike having access to a foreign language Facebook feed. If you have a habit of idly scrolling through social feeds, why not use it to improve your language skills?

Voice – These Moments utilize the voice recording function. You’ll come across quite a variety of content using this filter. Some people use it to read in their target language and are looking for pronunciation feedback. Others use it to speak slowly in their native language to help others with pronunciation. I also got to hear some interesting singing, though whether this is unique to the Italians using the app I’m not sure.

Classmates – You’ll find other users learning the same language as you here. For me, this meant I saw only Moments posted by native English speakers that were learning Italian.

Search

The search function is for finding language partners. It shows users that are native speakers of your target language and are learning your native language. This means I saw native Italian speakers that were learning English.

Search results for a native English speaker learning Italian.

If you’re a native English speaker, you’ll have no shortage of language partners.

In my experience, which I found seconded in this Reddit discussion, it’s significantly easier to find good language partners in the Moments section instead of Search.

Though I haven’t come across any myself, it seems that a fair number of people use the app for dating purposes and flirting as opposed to language learning. This wasn’t an issue for me, but the female experience might differ.

While I didn’t have a problem with flirty language partners, I did message people that never responded and others that just didn’t seem that interested in practicing a language.

By interacting with people via the Moments section before messaging them privately, you can be sure you’re messaging people that are active on the app and also share a common interest with you.

Learn

In addition to facilitating language exchange, HelloTalk provides language learning in the form of audio lessons for 10 languages.

List of languages that have audio lessons.

These audio lessons were not developed by HelloTalk, and some of them are still available through the original developers. More on this below.

The audio lessons page for Italian.

For Italian, the audio lessons are marketed as HelloTalk’s HelloItalian learning product, but the speakers in the lessons refer to ItalianPod and ask you to visit the Praxis Languages website. If you try to visit these sites, you’ll find that they no longer exist. It’s a similar story for all of the app’s audio courses.

For unlimited access to the audio lessons, you’ll need to purchase a subscription, and the price varies slightly for each language. For access to any of the languages, you’ll only have the option to pay for a year at a time. For HelloItalian, the price was a discounted $102.

The subscription page for Italian audio lessons.

There’s some fine print that says you’ll be charged through your iTunes account and that the subscription will be managed through iTunes.

It’s very important to note that paying for a subscription to these audio lessons does not appear to give you a VIP membership to the app and vice versa. They are two different services available at two different prices.

This all felt very strange to me; it seemed uncoordinated and awkward. I wasn’t able to find any trace of HelloItalian audio lessons outside of the app. My searches on Google and iTunes came up empty.

As with Italian, I wasn’t able to find the original podcasts for Spanish or Russian online (SpanishPod and RusPod), but I was able to find those for Chinese and Arabic.

ChinesePod Logo     Arabic Anywhere Logo

HelloTalk uses audio content from ChinesePod as its HelloChinese course. The price through HelloTalk is just slightly cheaper than paying directly through ChinesePod, but it isn’t clear whether you’ll get the same amount of content.

For Arabic, HelloTalk uses some of the paid material from Arabic Anywhere for its audio lessons. They offer quite a few lessons and resources for free, so it’s probably worth checking their website out before you drop a hundred dollars through HelloTalk.

I sampled several audio lessons from different languages and found them to all be similar in structure. You first browse the lessons by level or topic.

Where you can browse by level or topic for audio lessons.

The lessons are all short, around 10 minutes, and are centered around a piece of dialogue. The lesson begins by playing the dialogue three times. Then, the hosts of the lesson go through the dialogue slowly, translating the conversation and giving extra information.

I liked the hosts for the HelloItalian lessons. They were engaging and playful and offered some cool insights into Italian culture.

In addition to the audio, you have access to the written dialogue where you’ll be able to see translations of each line and listen to a select piece of audio.

Written dialogue of HelloItalian audio lesson.

The explanation button for each line of audio provides a translation of each word in the phrase.

In the vocabulary section of each lesson, you’ll have access to a list of all the words in the dialogue plus some related words.

Vocabulary list for HelloItalian audio lesson.

You can listen to the pronunciation of each of these words and save the important or difficult ones to your favorites list.

The sentences section shows some extra sentences that are related to the topic of the lesson along with audio and translations.

Extra sentences for a HelloItalian audio lesson.

The grammar provided with the audio lessons is presented as a block of text — not the most engaging content I’ve come across.

The grammar explanation for a HelloItalian audio lesson.

There’s actually some good information in there, but the formatting makes it really hard to digest. It’s unfortunate; all it would take are some paragraph breaks and maybe some bullet points to make the material much more useable and easier to take in.

You get access to a few lessons in each language for free before your free trial ends. You’ll then need to purchase a subscription in order to listen to any more lessons.

Overall, the audio lessons seemed just okay to me. The grammar instruction is limited, there aren’t any assessments, and it’s entirely self-directed. They feel disconnected from the social aspects of the app and I was never tempted to purchase a subscription.

Me

This is your HelloTalk profile. It’s made up of basic information such as your name, age, location, self-introduction, native language and target language. It also lets you see some stats regarding your use of the language tools.

Profile page of an English speaker learning Italian.

The Notepad feature in this part of the app is simply for making personal notes and playing around with the app’s language tools.

Notepad section of HelloTalk where you can practice using the app.

This is kind of a nice extra feature, but not all that useful once you get the hang of things.

HelloTalkVIP

For users that really enjoy the app and want to get a little bit more out of it, there’s the option to upgrade your membership to HelloTalkVIP, which offers the following benefits:

  • Top ranking in search to get more matches
  • Unlimited translations
  • Learn/Teach up to three languages
  • More language partners – up to 25 new partners a day
  • Filter users by gender
  • No ads
  • VIP stickers and greeting cards
  • Personalize your profile by pinning three of your favorite posts

In the app it also says that a VIP membership will enable you to “search around the world” and “search for nearby users and Moments,” but this is something you can do with the free version.

It’s pretty inexpensive, and if you used the app a lot it could make sense for you.

The only advertised feature of a VIP membership I found myself wanting was the ability to learn more than one language at a time. You can freely change which language you’re currently learning at any time though, so I got around this pretty easily.

Pricing

Most of the social HelloTalk features are available with a free membership.

For those that want to learn or teach up to three languages and get a few extra perks, it’s possible to get a HelloTalk VIP membership. You can pay monthly, yearly, or for lifetime access:

$4.99/month
$2.17/month (12-month contract)
$124.99 for lifetime access

List of prices for HelloTalk VIP subscription.

The audio lessons in the HelloTalk app are available to those willing to purchase a year-long subscription. The price varies slightly by language and range from $99 to $119.

Alternatives

italki is a great resource for finding one-on-one teachers, and it’s also got some similar features to HelloTalk. Its language partner feature allows for language exchange much like HelloTalk, but it feels less social and more serious.

italki also has a notebook feature, which allows users to make posts in their target language for others to correct. This is very similar to the way HelloTalk lets users post Moments and ask for corrections.

Another language exchange resource is Tandem. It has a lot of similar features to HelloTalk, and works in much the same way, but the overall feel is a bit different. Both options are worth checking out and if one doesn’t suit you, the other might.

If audio lessons or language instruction is what you’re after, there are a bunch of options out there. Our top picks vary by language, but you can check out our favorites by clicking on a language in the table below.

Final Thoughts

HelloTalk is a cool way to bring language practice into your everyday life without it feeling like study. If you’re someone that really likes social apps and messaging people, or likes to spend idle time scrolling through social feeds, this app might be able to turn your downtime habits into something productive.

I don’t think there’s that much value in the VIP membership, but it’s inexpensive and would make sense for someone that uses the app religiously.

In any case, HelloTalk is at most a great resource for supplementing study. The social chat feature is what it does best, and it makes it easy to connect with other language learners around the world.

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