Learning languages is always a challenge. Practicing languages can be even harder. Here are a few sites (one app) I’ve used to make that process a little easier. Also the sites I’m listing are for almost any language so feel free to browse through!

1. Lang-8

This site allows users to get corrections from native speakers on their writing. You choose your native language and target language. You can write an entry about anything from what you did that day to an essay about economics. It can be long or short. Then you sit back and wait for native speakers of your target language to make corrections. I’ve used this site for a few years and I’ve found it really helpful.

Pros

  • You get corrections pretty fast. I usually get corrections in a few hour. Always under 24 hours.
  • Corrections are easy to see. Some users may just rewrite what you wrote, but most cross things out in red or reword something in blue.
  • Native speakers can explain their corrections sometimes in your native language so you can understand why they are correcting it.
  • This site is great for writing practice (especially long essays).
  • FREE! (Of course there are upgrades you can purchase though, but I don’t think you need it)
  • A beginner or near fluent speaker can benefit from this site.
  • You can write your entry in your native language as well so people correcting it can know what you meant to say (and perhaps they can offer a better word or phrasing.

Cons

  • The site is entirely focused on writing and nothing else.

My thoughts: The perfect site for writing especially when you are at an advanced level. I’ve had zero problems with getting corrections. People are quite friendly. However, besides writing practice and some reading practice, there’s not much else.

2. HelloTalk

This one is an app for your phone. It’s a messaging system where you can text those who are native speakers of the language you are learning. You can find native speakers by age, sex, location, etc. There are tons of cool and helpful features on this app.

Pros

  • You get to chat with a native speaker and get more of that conversational practice.
  • You can send voice messages, so you get speaking and listening practice!
  • You can correct text messages and they can also correct yours. There’s writing practice!
  • There is a translation button that you can use. However on the basic level you have a limited number of times you can use this translation function per day.
  • There are always new people to message and who will message you.
  • FREE! (basic level)

Cons

  • People. People are fickle and inconsistent. So your language learning partner may suddenly disappear and/or stop responding. It happens and it’s something you can’t control.
  • At the basic (free) level you can only focus on learning one language. You can change it, but you cannot look up both French and Spanish speakers at the same time for example.

My thoughts: HelloTalk is great. I think my skills definitely improved from chatting with native speakers because I learned how people usually communicate instead of that “textbook way.” People do come and go, but some stay around for months and there are always new people who will message you.

(EDIT (9/27/2016): I recently redownloaded this app and actually I don’t like it so much. With the newest update it’s turned into something like Instagram or Facebook. You can now post statuses and pictures. You can follow people too. There’s nothing wrong with these things especially if you like them. But the old version was so much better. I felt I actually had conversations with people. The reviews on the Apple App Store also listed some new problems. This app wasn’t perfect, but it’s quite different from how I remember it. Most people seem to love Instagram so I’m sure most people will like these features. I’ll have to keep testing it out.)

3. LearnWithOliver

I have been using this site for a few years as well, but I have the least experience with it because I haven’t used all of its features. It is mostly a site that deals with flashcards and is good for grammar, vocabulary and writing practice in general.

Pros

  • Great for building vocabulary!
  • Each word has example sentences so you know how to use the word correctly.
  • You can have the site email you daily with the sentence of the day with a breakdown of each word and grammar point used. They also include the word of the day with an example sentence.
  • Email subscription serves as a consistent daily reminder so you can always study even just a few minutes everyday!
  • You can mark words that you want/need to learn and can have yourself quizzed on only those words.
  • You can write an essay on the given topic of the day and have it corrected. (I’ve never tried this though.)
  • Free basic level.
  • Great for beginners!

Cons

  • There is audio so you can get some listening practice, but you need a premium membership.
  • The site is a bit confusing.

My thoughts: I like this site because of the emails. I can always get a little bit of practice in everyday. The vocabulary and example sentences are really helpful. Also it’s not just textbook vocabulary. They have slang and informal words/phrases too.

4. Interpals

This site is a real stretch for me because I did have some good experiences, but I also had some less than great experiences. It really depends on the people and the language you are learning. This site is the most “friendliest” site because it encourages real friendship between users while learning a language. This is a social networking site where you create a profile and can search for friends by age, sex, location, language, etc.

Pros

  • Native speakers!
  • You can edit your profile to show what language you know, which language(s) you are studying and who you are looking for to contact you.
  • This site is great for intermediate/advanced learners.
  • You have a good bit of control on who can message you. You can block continents or countries and limit the age range of those who can contact you. You can also block by sex.
  • Totally FREE!
  • There are forums where you can post in the language you are learning.
  • If you live in the same country, you could meet them and have a language exchange in person. (I did this before. But be careful!!! Lots of creepos out there!)

Cons

  • People. Again, some may come and go, but also some are jerks. You should also be wary of scams, catfishing and such.
  • This is a language learning site, but in recent years it’s become quite sleazy and more of a free dating site.
  • Based on what I’ve experienced and read, people learning an Asian language tend to have more trouble finding language partners.
  • There are no translation or correction features.
  • You’ll probably have to message lots of people before you find a good language learning partner.
  • Women with a picture of themselves: prepare to get some crazy messages from men. You can always block or ignore them though.
  • Unless you and your language exchange partner decide to chat elsewhere, you will only be practicing writing.

My thoughts: You could have good luck or bad luck on Interpals. It can be difficult to find language exchange partners, but there are people who’ve done it, including me. You just have to be upfront about wanting to exchange languages, deciding how you will do it and then following through on that. It helps if you are at least intermediate or advanced, but I also got by as a high beginner at first.

I hope some of these sites seem interesting and worth a try to you. I took a break from learning and practicing languages this past summer, but I’m really gonna need to get back on board with that!

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these sites before and what your experience was!

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