IN THE BEGINNING
I had studied Italian on my own for a few years, but approximately three years ago I studied Italian very seriously. I studied hard. I read, I wrote, I listened, I spoke….er, sorta. I went through countless text books, watched movies, listened to podcasts and other audio…Pimsleur…Teach Yourself…
All great stuff! …But, there was something lacking…
Enter HelloTalk. I stumbled upon this app on the Apple Store (back when I had my iPhone 5) and downloaded it to give a whirl, like many other apps I’ve tried. Ah, but this one was different. It was exactly what I needed. Don’t get me wrong. No app is perfect. No app is all magical and miraculous and that, but this one came close. Yes, indeedy!
WHAT IS THIS HELLO TALK?
HelloTalk is an app that was created to enable you and me to connect to native speakers of our target language all around the world. It enables us to practice what we have learned, helps us to learn new stuff, and allow us to put it all into practice. But what did I find so special about this app?
Personally, I realized that what was missing from my language learning regime was the common language, what people really say when they speak to each other. Real speech. Not the oh-so-formal stuff we learn in the textbooks. Nothing wrong with that at all. But what I am expounding on is the fact that we do this:
- We study a textbook, a phrase book, listen to some audio and now…Yes! Now we know how to order food in a restaurant, purchase a plane ticket, introduce our kids, and talk about our jobs and our red socks.
But we’d rather do this:
- Make some new friends that speak our target language, talk to those friends in the day to day language that they actually speak: “¡Hola! ¿Qué onda? ¿Qué tal tu día? ¿Yo? Pues aquí, nada más, descansando y tomándome un emparedado pero buenísimo!” If you are a language learner, you can relate. We want to be fluent. Speak smoothly. And learning the “filler words” and other neat things to say is very useful. We can learn all this with HelloTalk.
You download the app, set up a profile, type or record a self-description if you wish, choose your native language and the language you want to practice. You’re ready. There are many languages that you can choose form to practice – over 100 of them. You can search for native speakers of the language you are learning and find native speakers that are learning your native language.
I’ll stop rambling and get to the nitty gritty. Here are some of the features that I really like about HelloTalk:
- You can record your voice and send it to your language partner. They can listen to it, critique it and give you feedback. (Something you can’t get form a text book.) In turn, they can send back voice messages, so you get some listening practice as well.
- Another cool feature is that this app now has a text-to-speech and speech-to-text feature. For example, your language partner sends you a text message that says “Igual para usted.” You simply long press the text, click the little speaker icon and it reads it for you. Cool right?
- You can also translate the text right there from the message. You long press on the text and click the translate icon and it translates it into your native language.You can also type in your native language, translate it into your partner’s language, and send it.
- You can correct your partner’s text and send it back. He/she can do the same for you. The feedback is great! When you practice with a live person like this, you tend to remember things easier, in my experience.
- You can also “group chat”, if you’re into that kind of thing.
THE GOOD STUFF
You can do a lot on this app. It is the first of its kind on any app store. It’s available for iOS and for Android. (I now use HelloTalk on my HTC One M8 with Android Lollipop.) You can read, type, listen, speak and get helpful feedback…all on this one app. Another great thing is that you can use this app to find people in your area, since it shows location, and perhaps meet up in person to practice speaking.
THE BAD STUFF
Uh…hmmm… I’ll think of something… Oh, the app is very stable on iOS, but you may see a few little glitches here and there on the Android version. Nevertheless, I know for a fact that the HelloTalk team members are working very hard to get these fixed. No worries. I personally haven’t seen any in a while…
I highly recommend this app. I started studying Spanish again exactly three months ago and this app has helped me tremendously. I’ve met some great people from all over the world and have taken part in some awesome language exchanges.
Give me fluency!