A crucial piece of language learning is putting what you’ve learned into practice. That was a key element missing from Living Language and Duolingo, the other two applications we tested. Again, we lead busy lives so meet-up groups or classrooms aren’t an option for a lot people. Language learners need and want something easy and inexpensive, while still being able to gain an understanding of the language---especially one with which they're unfamiliar. The final mobile app review in this three-part series is HelloTalk.
When learning a language, the best way to improve your skills is to have regular conversations with people who speak the language natively. We found that’s what was missing in our language learning application experience. HelloTalk connects you to users across the globe who are interested in learning a new language and or teaching their native tongue.
Learning to Learn
Once downloaded, navigating the app isn’t as intuitive as with other the other two language learning applications we tested. Adding basic personal information is easy, but beyond that, maneuvering through the application requires some thinking. For instance: if you want to change the language you want to learn, you have to go into the user profile and tap language preferences on the profile page rather than accessing them from the settings tab. But as with anything, the more you use it, the easier it is to use.
Unlike the other two apps, HelloTalk has a more bare bones website. The only extras are the FAQs which are graphics that answer some basic user questions. On one hand, it’s convenient that it’s all in the app, on the other hand, not being able to use the website for user guides or as a point of reference might frustrate the non-tech savvy user.
Be sure that you know exactly which language you want to learn. In the free version of HelloTalk, you can only switch between languages once every two days. If you want more freedom to explore learning the hundreds of languages the app offers, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version which ranges from $3 USD a month (billed as a yearly subscription) to $75 USD for a lifetime of access. The other advantages to the paid versions are that you get unlimited translations (whereas with the free version, the user is limited to 15 translations per day,) and it becomes free of advertisements.
You’ve downloaded the application; you’ve made your language preferences, now it’s time to find a partner. Under the search icon, HelloTalk gives you a list of people who are speakers of the language you want to learn. You can organize your results by the best match, who’s online at the moment, or any user who has a fully completed profile wherein you can learn more about them. From there you can choose your partner(s) and start a conversation.
The also app features a “Moments” section. It’s a Twitter-like feed where all users of the app can post photos or questions. You can interact with all users, partners with whom you’ve already started a conversation, or as a group.
Because you’re interacting with humans and not machines, HelloTalk has an edit feature so a teacher can correct a learner’s grammar to show proper use of a word form, thereby making the experience of learning a language more powerful.
The Internet is not without its dangers and certainly neither is using an app, especially when personal information is involved. HelloTalk has strict rules about what information can be posted or exchanged between partners and groups. They’re dedicated to keeping it a learning environment and not a dating app. This makes it safe for users of any age.
Hello or Goodbye?
Globalization isn’t going away and we’d all be better served learning to navigate this new world. HelloTalk can play a significant role in building a bridge in cultural and language learning, building a new generation of translators and interpreters, and machine learning. Since we upgraded to the paid version of the app, we’re going to give it a score of 10 out of 10 because where it falters in its ease of use, it more than makes up for it in being a practical way to learn a language.