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Speaky Review: Better Than Other Language Exchange Apps?

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Quick Review

3.7 

Summary

Speaky is a social language-learning app for people interested in language exchange. It’s available for iOS, Android, and the web. Users can chat with other language learners, share photos, leave voice messages or even have voice calls. The basic features on Speaky are free to use, but access to more than five translations per day requires a subscription.

Community

There are some dedicated language learners on Speaky but not as many as similar apps.

Features

The platform is easy to use but lacks advanced features.

Value

Speaky is mostly free to use, extra features are available for a subscription.

Languages

There are over 100 languages on Speaky. These include popular languages like Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, etc.

Price

The basic features on Speaky are free to use. A premium membership is available for a subscription.

1-month Subscription $5.99/month
6-month Subscription $4.83/month
12-month Subscription $3.91/month

This is the Speaky logo, showing a blue icon next to the name

Speaky is a language exchange app. It facilitates exchange by allowing users to chat with others in the language they’re learning. Its function is pretty simple and straightforward — search for a partner with a reciprocal language combination and say hello.

There are some built-in language tools to make it easier to communicate in a foreign language, and you can practice just about any language you’re interested in.

The app is free to download and use, and the large user base means it’s got real potential.

For this review, I tried out Speaky to find Spanish-speaking language partners and to see if I could find someone to help me learn Albanian.

Getting Started with Speaky

As it usually goes, you can sign up for an account with Speaky using your Facebook, Google, or email account.

Then, after entering your birthdate and gender, you select your level in the language you’re interested in practicing (you can change this later).

This is the list of languages you can practice on Speaky - it's huge.

The number of languages you can practice on this app is simply massive. Hmong, Basque, even Esperanto, to name a new. I was especially excited to see Albanian, since I’m currently living in Albania and the resources out there for practicing the language are seriously limited.

There are even a bunch of Albanian users! Great news.

After you’ve selected your language, you’re asked to agree to the Speaky Pledge.

These are the terms of use that new Speaky users must agree to. It asks users not to harass, spam, or flirt with other users.

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This part of the sign-up process is trying to alleviate one of the top complaints people have with language exchange apps of this nature — users with ulterior motives. Flirting seems to be one of the most common causes of negative experiences.

While the Speaky Pledge is a nice gesture, my experience with the app led me to believe that not everyone found it especially compelling. I’ll talk more about this in the Speaky Community section, but there are certainly users that aren’t on Speaky for language exchange.

Soon after agreeing to the Speaky Pledge, you get a chance to select your interests. This will supposedly help you connect with partners that have some things in common with you.

This part of the sign-up process allows you to select some of your interests. The list includes things like meditation, running, mental health, music, and more.

The list of interests is impressively long and way more exhaustive than necessary. Have a special interest in milk, meat, or German folk music? You’re in luck!

One thing I thought was a neat touch here was the large collection of television series on the list of interests. I don’t really watch many myself, but I could see this being a great icebreaker.

After you’ve selected your interests, you’re ready to begin.

The Speaky Platform

The layout of the platform is pretty standard; there are four main tabs to navigate. The first one is where you’ll find other language learners to partner with. You can sort by language and by native or non-native speakers.

If you want to filter your results by gender, you’ll have to pay for a premium membership.

This is the home page on Speaky, where you can find other language learners to chat with.

This part of the app works just fine. You get a chance to see other users’ age, language, picture, name, interests, local time, bio, and country of residence.

The next tab over is the inbox. This is where messages and message requests are kept.

This is where users can find their messages and message requests from other users.

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The vast majority of my conversations were from message requests; I hardly started any of them. There were two instances, about a week apart, where I received a major influx of message requests overnight.

This is the long list of notifications I received when many users sent message requests to me.

I’m not sure what incited these frenzies, but I’m guessing I showed up at the top of the discover section of the app for some reason. In any case, it made it really easy to start a bunch of new conversations with people.

Speaky on Mobile Vs. The Web

A quick note on the web version of Speaky: it’s not very good. There were a bunch of glitches and I could never figure out how to use the translation tool.

This is the home screen of the Speaky web version.

Also, the points associated with my account didn’t show up on the web version, not that they actually count for anything.

If you intend to use Speaky on your phone, great. If you need to use a computer for some reason, your experience will be limited.

Speaky Language Tools

Chatting with people in a language you don’t speak can be tricky, especially if you’re just starting out with the language.

Speaky’s solution to this hurdle is its built-in translation tool.

In this example, I use the translation tool to translate an English message into Albanian.

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In the free version of the app, you get five free translations per day. This isn’t a lot, and you’ll obviously run out very quickly if you’re speaking in a language you don’t know yet.

Of course, you could use another translation tool like Google translate and switch between the two, but that kind of takes away the fun and ease of the chatting experience.

For unlimited translations, you’ll have to pay $6 for a month or slightly less if you commit to a longer subscription. This isn’t a lot of money and could be worth it if you like the app and have found language partners you vibe with.

Then again, how much you’ll learn by translating everything you read and say will probably be very little.

If you’re already advanced in the language you want to practice, paying for access to the translation tool isn’t worth it. I mostly used Speaky to chat in Spanish and was able to just ask my partner if I had a question.

The other language tool used in Speaky allows users to offer corrections for each other.

An example of a corrected message in Speaky chat.

The correction tool, like the translation tool, is intuitive and makes corrections very clear. It’s simple and effective and something I like a lot about the app. You can make and receive as many corrections as you like for free.

Accessing either of these language tools is as simple as long-pressing on any message in a conversation.

The Speaky Community

For an app like this where the functions are pretty simple and there’s no language instruction provided by the app, the community is what makes or breaks the experience. I wasn’t blown away by the Speaky community.

A decent number of users have something along the lines of “Just here for languages, please no flirting” in their bios. This makes me think that there’s a fair amount of funny business going on here. I didn’t experience much of it myself, but the male and female experience may differ.

Another thing I noticed was users with sexy profile pictures and bios that only include their Instagram handle. I have a feeling language exchange isn’t their greatest motivation.

Then there were the profiles that were downright disturbing. Extremely suggestive or graphic bios, names like “I’m Waiting For You…” I actually reported one because it was so unsettling.

While there were more questionable profiles than is desirable, the majority of users still seem to be interested in practicing languages. Most of the conversations I had with people fizzled out rather quickly (I don’t think my conversation skills are to blame…), but a couple of users were keen to continue chatting.

This is compared to my experience with Tandem, where there were plenty of users that seemed to want to practice a language with me for a prolonged period of time. Tandem has a feature where users can give each other public references. This might help incentivize the community to stay focused on language practice and to be helpful.

In Speaky, you can give stickers to other users based on whether they’re studious, helpful, friendly, chatty, etc. but this type of reference is limited and I doubt people pay much attention to it.

Alternatives

There are a lot of apps out there currently catering to those interested in language exchange. They’re best suited to learners that are beyond the very beginner level, but it’s still something I find very exciting.

HelloTalk is one that shares a lot with Speaky. It’s a social app built around chat-based language exchange. HelloTalk feels a bit more thoroughly built; it’s got more social features and some extra audio lessons you can pay for.

Tandem is another option for those looking to find native speakers to practice with from their phones. Tandem is similar to both HelloTalk and Speaky in its functionality but has an aesthetic that is a little bit slicker. I found the community on Tandem to be the most focused on language exchange out of the three.

Between Speaky, HelloTalk, and Tandem, I don’t think there’s a huge difference. To me, Speaky feels like the least well-developed out of the three, but your mileage may vary. If you’re interested in this kind of app, the right one for you could boil down to aesthetics. If you’re interested in other types of language learning apps as well, be sure to check out this page.

Another resource that allows users to get free language exchange is italki, although it’s quite different. It’s primarily a directory of online tutors where learners can go to find one-on-one lessons, and the language exchange is an additional feature.

You can practice by finding a language partner to chat with or you can use the notebook feature in which you submit a piece of writing in your target language to be corrected by the italki community. This is a great way to get longer-form writing practice.

One of the major benefits of having a language exchange partner is that you can ask them all sorts of questions. Native speakers are authoritative sources that can give more nuanced and relevant answers than a dictionary or an internet search usually can. This is what HiNative is all about.

HiNative is a question-and-answer app that’s free to use and very straightforward. You won’t learn a language using this resource on its own, but it makes a great additional study tool.

Pricing

Most of what Speaky offers is free to use. You can sign up for free and use it to find language partners from all around the world.

If you want to use the translation tool more than five times per day, get a crown next to your profile name, or search users by gender, you’ll need to pay for a premium membership.

This screen lists what users get with a premium membership.

The unlimited translations is surely the most valuable perk here and would be really useful to someone learning a new language with this app.

These are the subscription prices for a premium membership to Speaky. There are options for one month, six months, and 12 months.

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As is normal, you’ll get a cheaper monthly price if you commit to a longer subscription plan. Fortunately, the plans are all very inexpensive.

Final Thoughts

This language exchange app is quite similar to other social language apps out there. It brings people together from all over the world with the aim of making language learning more accessible, and that’s pretty cool.

As long as you’re aware that this isn’t a program that will teach you a language, but rather one that could make a great addition to your practice methods, I think it can be quite useful. It also won’t be very helpful to beginners, who will surely have to rely heavily on the translation tool.

As far as choosing between the best in this resource category, Speaky isn’t my top choice, but it’s still worth trying for free if you haven’t found one that works for you.

To find more resources for some popular languages, be sure to check the table below.

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