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.
Table of Contents
Quick Tips for Using a Language Exchange Platform
To make sure your language exchange is fun and effective rather than frustrating, follow these tips:
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- Try to adjust your speaking level to your partner. They might have different strengths and weaknesses to you, so adapt as needed.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Get to know your city while practising your language skills with in-person language exchange groups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Messaging a new friend via a language exchange app.
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.
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.
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.
Video calls let you do language exchanges with people all around the world.
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.
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.
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?
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”.
Doing a language exchange from home – or at work, or on the bus, or anywhere.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn from community feedback on your writing.
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 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.
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.
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.