What’s the best way to become fluent in any language? By practicing with people who already speak it! In this article, you’ll learn about 8 online communities you can join (for free) in order to improve your fluency and make friends along the way…
Ever try holding a conversation in a language you aren’t comfortable speaking? Most of us would find that quite difficult. But here’s something you should know: Having real conversations is the best way to practice a language.
Some people achieve this by moving to a country where the majority of the population speaks the language they want to learn. And while that’s an awesome way to practice conversations, it isn’t the most practical. Thanks to the internet, we can practice speaking with other people in the comfort of our own homes. This practice is often called “language exchange.”
Language exchange is a simple concept: You pair up with someone who already speaks the language you wish to learn, then they teach you that language in exchange for you teaching them your fluent language. There are plenty of language exchange websites out there, and we’ve put the best ones we could find in a single list. Each of these communities withhold judgment, meaning any criticism you receive will be supportive and friendly.
Are you ready to increase your fluency? Let’s take a look at 9 great places to practice a language with real people!
It’s like learning a language with a friend! My Language Exchange is a modern day pen pal system. Here’s how it works: You sign up, search for someone who speaks the language you wish to learn, and then you practice conversations with them. It’s that simple!
Over one million people have joined this language learning community and it seems to be growing every day. In case you haven’t decided which language you want to learn, there are 115 different languages to choose from. To make your life even easier, My Language Exchange put together an extensive How-To section, outlining everything you need to start learning; this includes guided lesson plans and a special “Cormier method,” which has been proven to help people achieve fluency.
Here’s what the website’s creators say about language exchange:
In a language exchange, you practice more than you would in a class, talking with native speakers of the language you’re learning, in a relaxed and supportive environment where there is patience and time to understand.
A language exchange is also a wonderful way to learn the real spoken language of the culture, with all its “incorrect” grammar, informal expressions and slang. Therefore, a language exchange is the best training to bridge the gap between classroom learning and communicating in the real world!
With over 3.5 million members and counting, you’ll have no problem finding a partner here. Interpals is another modern day pen pal system. There are usually thousands of users on the website at any given time, which means you can practice your new language whenever it’s convenient for you.
If you can’t find a partner (or don’t one want one just yet), you can join the Interpals forums. The forums are great if you aren’t into the fast-paced nature of live chatting. And as a nice bonus, you’ll be able to get criticism for your writing from multiple people, not just one partner.
Here’s a very concise summary of what Interpals is all about:
InterPals is the top site to meet people and make new friends, penpals, language partners, travel buddies!
Lang-8 works differently than most language exchange websites. On here, you write a journal entry in the language you’re learning (usually a paragraph or more) and other users critique it. The best part is that it’s an entire community critiquing your writing, not just one or two people.
Lang-8’s main features are free, but for some of the fancier options, you need to purchase a premium membership. But don’t let that discourage you, because the premium account is not necessary for achieving fluency.
Here’s how Lang-8 describes their service on the company blog:
Lang-8 is a free language-exchange social network.
Just write a journal in any language you’re learning, and it will appear to native speakers of that language. They’ll correct it and leave useful comments and feedback.
By checking each other’s journals, you can improve your skill in any number of languages, help others to master your native language, and make a lot of friends along the way.
This is perhaps one of the largest, most active language learning forums out there. Almost 650,000 members are registered, contributing to more than 2.8 million discussions to date. Users must follow a set of rules about posting etiquette, which provides you with a clean, quality learning experience.
WordReference Forums features individual message boards for the world’s 10 most popular languages, as well as boards for dozens and dozens of lesser-known languages. Its parent website is a handy dictionary that gives you conjugations and practical examples of words you’re trying to learn.
This was created by the same people who made Ling-8. The difference here is that HiNative is more of a Q&A platform, not a journal writing platform. If you have any questions about the language you’re learning, just ask them on HiNative and watch the answers pour in!
One cool feature available is the voice recording system. With this, you can record a question with your voice and other users will help you answer it, as well as critique your pronunciation at the same time.
Here’s what HiNative says about their service:
HiNative is all about the languages and cultures of the world. It is a service where you are free to ask questions to native speakers from around the world via your smartphone.
Questions are easy to make thanks to our pre-established question formats and they are just as easy to answer as well! Questions can be asked with a simple word and they are also automatically translated to the language of other native speakers.
This website is at simple as it gets; you can engage in real-time conversation with someone in a matter of minutes. It’s still a growing community, so don’t expect to always find a partner who speaks your desired language. When you’re connected, however, you’ll find that the easy-to-use interface makes your learning experience completely enjoyable.
Here’s how SharedLingo describes their service:
SharedLingo is a language exchange platform focused on quick real-time conversations. It allows you to chat with native speakers of many languages instantly, without waiting for an answer
It’s like Facebook, but strictly for language learners. Speaky is a social media platform that allows you to connect with as many language learners as you’d like. There are currently for 100,000 members registered, so you’ll have no problem making a few friends.
If a social network isn’t the type of learning environment you’re after, you can also form partnerships with individual members. There’s a good amount of profile customization, which means you can search for people who share your exact interests. You can chat via typing or you can even make audio and video calls.
Here’s what the creators, originally from Belgium, say about their service:
It’s only once we moved abroad, discovered new cultures and talked to people that we finally got to a sufficient level to finally speak fluently.
That’s how we got the idea of Speaky. If schools didn’t teach us a language, native speakers did. So why shouldn’t it be the same for billions of other people around the world?
Since September 2014, when we first wrote the first line of code, we have been working hard to connect language learners around the world and help them achieve their goal.
With over 130 languages being exchanged, WeSpeke is a bustling service that serves thousands of language learning students. You can chat via text and video with other people for free, but you must pay if you want the guided language lessons.
If you like making connections with people for possible career opportunities, WeSpeke is just the service you want. Traveling to another country? You can hook up with people on WeSpeke who live in that country and they’ll help you with your travels. You can learn on-the-go with WeSpeke’s handy mobile apps. Here are the links for iPhone and Google Play.
Here’s what WeSpeke says about their service:
Our aim is to make language education engaging, fun and motivating by scaling a disruptive model for language education and cultural exchange. We are combining social networking, crowd-sourcing, integrated text>audio>video chats, content and matching technology to allow anyone, anywhere at any time to practice languages and exchange cultures – for FREE!
We promise, this isn’t a shameless plug! TakeLessons features online group classes that make learning a new language a breeze. You can have real conversations with the instructor, as well as other students in the class. You can sign up for free online Spanish classes today, with lessons such as, “Survival Spanish for Travelers,” “Spanish for Business Success,” “Fun Spanish Slang and Idioms,” and many more.
Sign up today and improve your fluency. We’ll be adding many more languages, so be on the lookout!
That’s our list of 9 great places you can practice a language with real people! Be sure to join these language learning communities if you want to improve your fluency. Ask your private language teacher about other opportunities to practice conversations. Happy learning!