HelloTalk and Tandem are popular resources for language learners interested in language exchange. They have millions of users between them and use built-in language tools to facilitate communication between native speakers and those learning their language around the world.
Both HelloTalk and Tandem are similar in the experience you’ll gain from them, but they do have their differences, such as:
- Aside from language exchange, Tandem offers a separate tutoring service, while HelloTalk offers audio lessons in 10 languages.
- HelloTalk allows users to post life updates and use the app as an all-round social platform, whereas Tandem focuses more closely on its private messaging function.
- While Tandem has a slick, modern feel to its design, HelloTalk is more cartoony and emoji-heavy.
Both resources are flexible and free to use (although both offer subscriptions for pro versions and additional services). It’s hard to recommend one over the other, and in our case, Tandem comes in slightly higher than HelloTalk, simply for aesthetic purposes. We also had better luck in finding partners on Tandem, but that’s subjective to each individual user.
HelloTalk and Tandem are great choices for people looking to learn a language through language exchange. They make good complementary resources to use alongside a structured language-learning course. You can check out our favorite resources based on the language you want to learn in the table below.
What I like about each resource:
- You get to practice with real native speakers, which is exciting.
- The app gives you the flexibility to visit whenever you have spare time, with no pressure to set unachievable goals.
- The built-in language tools are a great way to facilitate communication between users who don’t have much language overlap.
- There’s a good range of language partners to choose from.
- The interface is stylishly designed and easy to get to grips with.
- Tandem’s free version offers a great amount of value.
What I don’t like about each resource:
- It might take you a while to find a partner who’s prepared to put in the same level of commitment to learning as you.
- The additional audio lessons probably aren’t worth paying for.
- Other platforms, like italki, are probably better for finding tutors.
- The app makes you wait up to 7 days (it took us less than an hour) to get started after completing your profile. They let you skip this by paying for a subscription, which comes at a higher price than you’re offered later on.
HelloTalk supports a total of 150 languages for language exchange. As a student, you can match up with partners from around the world, or take advantage of the audio lessons for 10 different languages: English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese.
There are native speakers of over 160 languages on Tandem. You’ll be able to communicate with partners you match with or use the app’s tutoring service, where you can learn a range of languages via paid lessons.
The basic features of HelloTalk are completely free. You can also trial HelloTalk’s audio lessons for free, but they require a separate subscription, costing between $99 to $119 per year depending on your chosen language.
If you want to learn or teach more than three languages on the HelloTalk app, you can opt to pay for a VIP subscription. Other features of the subscription include no ads, the ability to filter users by gender, up to 25 new language partners a day, and unlimited translations. A VIP membership costs $4.99 per month on a month-by-month basis or $2.17 per month for a 12-month subscription. You can also pay $124.99 for lifetime access.
Like HelloTalk, Tandem offers a free version of the app that most people should find to be enough. You’ll still be able to find a good language partner and practice your language of choice without paying. If you do want some additional features, though, you can pay for Tandem Pro. This will give you a number of benefits, including unlimited translations, an ad-free experience, and the option to find language partners in your city.
Tandem Pro is available at $6.99 per month for a monthly subscription, $3.99 a month for a fixed 3-month subscription, or $2.92 per month for a year’s subscription. You can also pay extra for tutoring services on the app. Tutors set their own fees, so the price is dependent on your individual selections.
How languages are taught with HelloTalk
HelloTalk is a downloadable app that can be used on either iOS or Android. With 10 million-plus users, it aims to facilitate communication between native and non-native speakers via a messaging feature.
When you’re messaging another user on HelloTalk, you’ll be given a range of options from clicking on one of their messages:
There’s the option to view a translation or a transliteration. You can also listen to text-to-speech audio of the message, which gives you an idea of how the language would sound spoken aloud. If you’re speaking to someone who’s learning your native language, you can also make corrections to the message.
These tools are very useful for a language exchange resource, and we liked them. You’ll be able to learn how to communicate in your chosen language fairly quickly providing you have a partner who is patient and willing to point out your mistakes.
The only issue we found is that for an absolute beginner, it would be easy to rely on the translate tool rather than trying to work the language out yourself. Your level of learning is effectively in your hands.
The app is broken down into four categories: Talks, Moments, Search and Learn.
Talks is the main conversation feature and it looks like the majority of messaging apps. Moments lets you post pictures or life updates, or request questions and record yourself speaking. This is a good way to get additional language learning support.
Moments is broken down into smaller categories, which you can use to follow and be followed by other users, help users with language queries, search for nearby Moments, use the voice recording function, and find users learning the same language as you.
The Search function lets you find language partners. It lets you see native speakers of your target language who are learning your native language. If you’re a native English speaker, you’ll have plenty of language partners to choose from.
Finally, HelloTalk also offers a Learn feature, with audio lessons in 10 different languages. You’ll need to purchase a subscription for unlimited access to these lessons.
How languages are taught with Tandem
Although it is a social app at heart, Tandem uses built-in language tools and a strong focus on language learning to facilitate communication between speakers of different languages. With over 1 million users, you’re guaranteed to find a learning partner who’s a good match for you.
When you get started on Tandem, you’ll be asked to set up a profile with a photo and some basic information. You’ll then need to wait for your application to be approved. They say that this can take up to 7 days and you’re offered the opportunity to skip the waiting period by paying for a subscription. We felt like it was a marketing tactic to get users to pay for a subscription and sure enough, within the hour our profile was approved.
There are five sections that make up the app: Community, Tutors, Chats, Goals and Pro.
Community lets you search for language partners based on which users are native speakers of the language you’re learning and are learning your native language.
New profiles crop up at the top of the community section, which is why, as a new user, you’ll be contacted by quite a few other users at the beginning. You can select a profile to find out more about a user, including references given by other users.
Tandem’s Tutor feature connects users with language tutors. We didn’t personally use this feature, but it seems to be similar to other tutoring apps like italki, Preply, and Verbling.
On the Chats feature, you’ll be able to communicate with other users. In addition to leaving written messages, you can also experiment with voice messages or even initiate a voice or video call. There are a few tools to make messaging easier, including Correct and Translate, which let you translate a response or see where you made a mistake and how to fix it.
Goals is another way to pair up with language partners. It lets you post a personal goal or browse other goals as a way to start a new conversation. This feature is more likely to be useful when you’ve been using the app for several months and want to find new users to talk to.
Finally, Pro is the paid version of the app that provides a few additional benefits. If you really like the app or want the extra features, you could try it out. But for most users, the free version will be plenty.
Overall, Tandem and HelloTalk are very similar resources. They both offer a lot of functionality for free, and they only really differ in their overall feel.
We felt that Tandem is a trendier version of HelloTalk, but this is down to personal preference. It’s worth being aware that people apparently use both apps for dating purposes. We didn’t come across this ourselves, but it’s always good to keep in mind.
Both apps offer a cool way to practice a language on a daily basis without it feeling like study. If you’re really into social messaging apps, you’ll enjoy HelloTalk and Tandem. They’re great for supplementing study, but you won’t be able to rely on them solely to learn a language.
For language learning resources that will offer more depth to your learning experience, we’ve covered the top courses based on the language you want to learn below.
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