Do you want to practice a language with native speakers? Well, you can do it easily on your mobile. If you’ve spent your time looking for a language exchange app, you might have come across HelloTalk. Is it any good or waste of time? Let’s find out everything in this HelloTalk Review 2021!
There are many benefits of online language education. It is flexible, convenient, affordable, offers tons of language choices and customized programs.
As with everything, there are also some clear disadvantages of e-language learning.
For example, it is a big distraction and often impersonal in its approach. The functionality is usually limited, and one needs lots of self-discipline.
Plus, these apps alone cannot make you fluent. Well, not even semi-fluent. It should be a starting point and not the end. Combine it with a formal course and other resources to make the best out of it.
Of all the online language learning choices, language exchange apps have become increasingly popular in recent times.
Table of Contents
- What is language exchange apps?
- About HelloTalk
- Features of HelloTalk
- Pros and Cons of HelloTalk
- Free Vs. Paid
- My HelloTalk Review: Good – 4/5
What is language exchange apps?
Language exchange apps help you find language partners for conversations from around the world. You can make friends with native speakers and practice your target language with them.
You can also study through plenty of tools, games, updates, and activities.
Unlike language tutoring websites and education apps, language exchange websites don’t teach you a language through tools and teachers.
Instead, it allows you to find native speakers of the language you want to learn with a few clicks.
How does the Language exchange platform work?
Suppose you speak English fluently and want to learn Spanish. Likewise, some native Spanish speakers from Spain or Latin America wish to practice English. Language exchange websites help meet each other.
So, you can teach English to him/her. And in return, you can learn Spanish from him/her.
To sum up, you can trade each other’s mother tongues. This is called “Language Exchange.”
You interchange your role as both student and teacher. And thus, you can improve your skills and reach your language goals.
There are many language exchange smartphone apps out there in the market. Some are great, and some are — ah jeez, well, you get the idea.
Here, I’ll cover a detailed review of HelloTalk, one of the most popular language exchange app.
Zackery Ngai launched HelloTalk in 2012. Today, it is the world’s largest cross-cultural language exchange apps.
With over 25 million user bases across 200 countries, it supports over 150 languages, such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, German, French, Russian, Arabic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and many more.
HelloTalk is a Chinese app, and their international team is based in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China. They have successfully used modern technology to connect people all over the globe through language and culture.
As you’d expect, it is available on Android and Apple iOS. There is also a browser version, HelloTalk web, with basic features.
How does HelloTalk really work?
The way it works is quite simple. You can register for a free account at HelloTalk.com. They have a few easy steps to sign up.
Go to the Android play store or iOS app store. Search HelloTalk and install. Then register with Google, Facebook, or any email account.
Finally, add your profile picture and choose your birthday, gender, country, native tongue, learning language, and current level.
Voilà, you have created an account!
This will barely take two minutes to wind up the onboarding process. You can then complete your profile page, start contacting language partners or check moments to track everything about languages.
Features of HelloTalk
There are tons of fantastic features to explore!
Some of them you won’t discover anywhere else. While most are free, some are only available to VIP and paid subscribers. Let’s check in detail.
1. Search the World
Regardless of your target language and location, you can find language partners in native languages, target language, age, gender, country, city, and distance from you.
You can further shortlist by serious learners, type of profiles, interest & hobbies, and learning points.
After a few minutes of search, you can find hundreds of suitable profiles to start a conversation to practice. And this is when language learning truly takes place.
If you’re active and genuine, many will also reach out to you seeking help or support you in your language journey.
HelloTalk has its own feed, called “Moments.” It is like Twitter, LinkedIn feed, and Facebook wall, but for topics associated with language learning. It feels more like a social media site.
Members can post and read many language-related quotes, images, daily routines, videos, questions, thoughts, updates, travel notes, cultural characteristics, etc. The list is pretty much endless!
You can also participate in the discussion, correct the mistakes, like it, reply and answer the question to help the language enthusiasts.
You can filter the moments according to your target languages, nearby locations, the profiles you’re following, learning approach, or search topics like we do hashtags on Instagram.
3. Language Learning Tools
HelloTalk has several language education tools to make your stay worthwhile. Let’s find out one by one.
Are you learning Japanese, and you’re confused about what the sentence in Kanji means?
You can use their translation tool to translate any text from source to target language in one click.
While the machine translation isn’t accurate, it does the job pretty well. You can select 100’s language combinations to encourage you to move ahead.
Unlike translation that translates the meaning into the target language, transliteration gives you an idea of speaking the word in an unfamiliar language.
In short, it converts the words or phrases in one language into another, keeping the pronunciation intact.
Suppose you’re learning one of the character-based languages like Mandarin, Japanese, or Korean. You don’t know how to pronounce the sentence.
Try transliteration, and it will show the pronunciation in the readable roman based language you understand, for instance, English.
Correcting someone’s mistakes is a way of learning. This is an excellent feature of HelloTalk.
While you are talking to someone, you may find many grammatical, spelling, and typos mistakes.
Instead of just writing and replying in the chat and moments, you can take this chance to help others by correcting their sentences. By doing this, you will also enhance your language ability. They can do the same for you.
Listening is a key to effective communication. And if you’re practicing a new language on HelloTalk, you’re in luck.
The text-to-voice or speak feature allows you to listen to the standard pronunciation of every message you read.
The quality may vary a lot and sometimes terrible. Still, it is a start if you don’t know how to speak a particular phrase.
You can listen to the text and then compare it with your own tone and accent to compare, practice, and learn!
Do you want to create your own diary of essential foreign language words, grammatical rules, audio files, pictures, expressions, and phrases so that you can use them in the future?
HelloTalk does that job quickly by saving it as a favorite.
You can bookmark as much as you want for future use. When needed, just go to the tools section of your profile and copy-paste from your favorite list.
They also provide a notebook where you can write and save important information, reminders, and notes for later purposes.
5. AL Grammar
Sometimes back, the HelloTalk team introduced a grammar checker to assist you in writing better and more accurate English.
They use AI (Artificial intelligence) based on big data and machine learning technologies. This isn’t fully ready and currently in the beta version. They aim to make it more accurate by continuously improving its effectiveness.
This isn’t a free feature even for VIP members. After 10 tries, one has to upgrade to PLUS for unlimited grammar corrections.
The price tag ranging from $30/Quarterly to $200/lifetime is costly since it is still a beta tool. I won’t recommend this as many better products like Grammarly and ProWritingAid are available at reasonable prices.
6. Chatting Tools
HelloTalk offers plenty of chatting tools and language learning-specific features to communicate with your partners.
It comprises sending text messages, smileys, images, and one from the camera. You can also forward doodles, cards, gifts, introduce someone, and share GPS location.
Notifications and backup settings are also available in this mobile app.
Voice and Video calling
HelloTalk boasts top-notch VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). The phone app allows its users to make free voice and video calls for a better and friendlier language learning experience.
You can do that with your trusted language partners for real-life connections.
Based on my experience, the sound quality ranges from good to superb and similar to WhatsApp calling. Try through Wi-Fi instead of the mobile network for better clarity.
7. Language exchange feature
You can initiate language exchange with one partner or multiple ones by group practice sessions. It also has voice-to-text and text-to-voice features to enhance your learning experience.
How does it work?
Let’s say you start a language exchange with someone for 30-minutes. In the scenario, we divide the entire conversation into 2 parts of 15-minutes each.
If you turn on “Language Exchange mode,” and once you reach the time limit, the app will recommend when it’s time to switch languages.
This exists to not have a one-sided conversation and make sure both parties get equal benefits.
8. Curated learning materials
They provide their own proprietaries like HelloWords and HelloChinese like learning with dozens of language choices.
Through HelloWords, they impart 2,000 most common words in that language using spaced repetitions methods.
The course is available in 22 languages like Dutch, Bahasa, Swedish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Vietnamese, Turkish, Portuguese, and other widespread languages.
The price of HelloWords plus ranges between $25 to $100, depending on 3-months and annual term.
They also provide HelloFrench, like dozens of language courses that contain immersive audio lessons and bit-sized reading, writing, and listening exercises to impart the training.
The team has divided the entire course into 6 sublevels — beginners, elementary, Pre-elementary, intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced.
They have designed the levels as per the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Although, I don’t think it can match the same competency level.
The price is again high, ranging from 100 USD for annual and 200 USD for a lifetime. They do offer a 7-day trial period.
They have also collaborated with many language teaching websites and linguists to offer lessons in various languages.
Some of them are personalized Korean courses, one-to-one French classes, and Mystère à Paris, Misterio en Madrid through stories in French and Spanish, to name a few. Again, it costs a decent amount to avail of one of these services.
I didn’t care to check these courses since similar products are available at lower prices or even free. I don’t think you really need them. Skip it!
Pros and Cons of HelloTalk
Like other language learning resources, HelloTalk as a language app has its benefits and downsides.
Some of them could be subjective and depend on your goals.
For example, it isn’t a language learning software but actually a language exchange app. The primary focus is to improve the conversation skills by talking with native speakers.
However, it is a negative for someone who needs a more comprehensive plan to learn a language.
To evaluate whether it will be beneficial, let’s touch upon the positives of HelloTalk as well as its shortcomings.
Here are some known advantages.
1. Connect with native speakers for real-life talks
One of the most prominent features of this app is native speakers from all over the world. No matter which language you’re learning, you can find an abundance of them to practice in your target language.
You can use the search feature and connect with people who are ready to accommodate each other. Use this app to brush up on your proficiency rather than meeting up with strangers who can be anyone.
Do remember this isn’t a dating app, but a language exchange app. If you’re not a serious learner and looking for a time pass, this is definitely not meant for you. They also regularly ban the account who indulge in such activities.
2. Robust Privacy Settings
HelloTalk has many good privacy settings to safeguard user and protect your personal information.
If you are wary of strangers, you can restrict who can reach out to chat with you by exact language match, age, and gender.
For instance, if you want to practice Japanese with natives only, you can make that happen. You can also restrict based on age and “same gender only.”
You can hide your like location, region, city, age, and online status in the advanced privacy settings if you wish to keep such details private.
Plus, you can restrict your profile so that no one can find you with your HelloTalk ID and email or even disappear entirely from the search pages.
You can also decide who can send your voice calls, hide your moments that you shared earlier, and even blacklist members who annoy you.
3. Tons of learning tools to improve language skills
HelloTalk has incorporated several language-related tools to make your stay pleasant.
The app provides many features like translation, transliteration, grammar, and correction to enhance your learning practices.
Suppose you want to practice speaking and listening with a native speaker. Search and talk with a few like-minded people. And once confirmed and mutually agreed, then start a voice or video call.
If you’re stuck during a call, you can use the voice-to-text option and other tools to understand the pronunciation more precisely.
Despite some definite incentives linked with the HelloTalk platform, there are some drawbacks of the language app that you must keep in mind before diving deep into it.
1. They don’t teach a language
Unlike other famous language platforms like Duolingo and Memrise, HelloTalk doesn’t have a way to teach you a language from scratch.
That is because this isn’t a language learning app in the first place.
If you’re not motivated enough and without a proper plan, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere. In short, you’re on your own.
There are no teaching modules, grammar drills, practice sets, vocabulary quizzes, phonology exercises, games, and activities that extend a systematic learning technique.
There is no feedback or option to track your progress.
With no formal instruction, you are just doing stuff randomly without concentrating on aspects that are more appropriate to your style, goal, and existing level.
What you have are some tools to locate and practice with learners all over the world. They are also here to learn from others.
No one has time to teach anyone a language, especially free of cost, if there is no mutual benefit.
That’s why most talks die down in a few days, and a vast majority of members delete or become inactive here. So don’t get surprised if you had the chance to talk to someone for a day or two and then see their profile go completely inactive or deleted.
So if you already possess a decent command of your target language or ready to teach someone adequately, you have an opportunity.
By helping others, you’ll be helping yourself. This is what the app is all about.
2. You’re at the mercy of others
Do you want to learn Korean by engaging with the native population from South Korea?
But why someone from Korea should help you learn Korean when they are on the app to practice another language, say English?
So, unless you speak English fluently with the standard accent, it would be challenging to find enough takers. Will you prefer learning Korean from someone who just started out a few days back or speaks not-so-good?
The problem is the same with everyone. Unless you are willing to offer some real help to others, they won’t do that either. This requires your time, dedication, and effort.
You may contact many profiles, but if they are not keen on writing back, correcting you, or helping you, you will hit many stumbling blocks in the end.
Suppose many are not interested in voice chat. In that case, you will be left with writing and reading more than actually speaking and listening.
The back-and-forth interaction messages are pretty slow. This happens as both parties take time to process the information, busy with their lives, and reside in different time zones.
You are also relying on people to correct your mistakes and help you improve. Who knows if they are right?
And what if they don’t bother to update you when you’re wrong, or they make right into wrong?
Well, that’s some problems with such apps.
Of course, if you’re interested in it, there are thousands of profiles to choose from for profitable practice. Still, finding a few good ones that can help you out regularly in the quest of the language journey is difficult.
3. Confusing Pricing
I still don’t understand why they keep so many price variants. Instead of having various price tags for different products and services, why not keep one for all?
They offer 4 different kinds of products — VIP, AI Grammar, HelloWords, HelloFrench like several languages, and 3rd party learning materials.
To make things more complex, they have different prices depending on the duration and products. For example, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, yearly, and lifetime too.
4. Some Bugs and drain your battery quickly
The app is principally a language exchange app. However, lately, it has tried to add too many features and products to compete with different sub-niches.
This all has resulted in many bugs and unresponsive UX sometimes. They are trying to do jack of all. You will be overwhelmed at first due to confusing UI and buttons all over the place.
Sometimes, there are stability issues and crashes, especially on a slow network and old devices.
If you prefer keeping apps in the background, your battery will drain quickly.
So, I’d suggest turning it off completely. But in that case, you won’t get any notification when people are interested in speaking with you.
Once you get the hang of it, you will like the interface. Being a free app, it is good enough for most users looking for conversations exchange.
Free Vs. Paid
As with most popular language apps, HelloTalk has a freemium model.
The free version of HelloTalk is sufficient for most learners, but it has ads everywhere. The free account has all core features, and you don’t really miss out on anything vital.
If you are looking for more language learning perks, try HelloTalk VIP!
HelloTalk VIP — Is it worth it?
They have 3 subscriptions. The monthly memberships cost $6.99 per month, whereas $45.99 for a year. There’s also a lifetime membership for $175.00.
The price will vary, depending on the country.
For example, it will be more in a country like the USA, but on the lower side in India or the Philippines. They frequently give a discount that varies from 20% to 50%.
In the free version, you can only set one target language. But with VIP, you can try to master 3 languages at once.
There are a few more privileges like unlimited translation, no ads, initiate 25 chats per day, unlock visitor’s pages, and extra profile exposures. But these things are optional, and you might never need them.
Install the app, create a new account, and try it. If you really need the VIP feature, you can buy it later.
I have lifetime VIP membership for a while, but I doubt it makes any significant difference. I don’t like studying a language through translation, nor do I contact many. Thus, the free version is just fine for me.
My HelloTalk Review: Good – 4/5
Interested in practicing a new language the fun way?
HelloTalk, the most popular language exchange platform with a growing community, might just be the app that helps you learn a language more enjoyably.
With thousands of active users at any time, you will never be out of choices! If you’re looking to try one, this can be a great possibility.
Take it as a supplement and not a replacement for traditional education. This app is more suitable for practicing than learning.
The best thing to do is to check out the official website Hellotalk.com where you can download the apps. It is free and will take a few minutes of your time.
Overall, I recommend trying HelloTalk, but make sure to have modest expectations. Take it as a supplement rather than a primary language learning tool. By taking everything into considerations, I’m giving a rating of 4/5, i.e., “Good.”
Let me know if you have questions about my review of HelloTalk or any suggestion about what I should write in the future.