I have been self-learning Korean for a little over a year now. And like all enthusiastic language learners, I’ve explored almost all resources available out there to help me learn the language. Since I am learning Korean on my own and that too not in South Korea, it is not easy finding a language partner to practise my language skills. So I was desperately looking for a solution, which came in the form of this awesome app called HELLOTALK (Thank heavens for that!). HelloTalk is basically a language exchange and learning app, which provides you with an online messenger platform, to meet native speakers of the language you are trying to learn. The idea is to find language partners so that you can teach each other your native language (or languages that you are fluent in).
I found out about this app from Hyunwoo Sun (선현우) of the Talk to me in Korea (TTMIK). If any of you are learning Korean, then I am sure you are well aware of Hyunwoo, his awesome TTMIK team and his abundant resources (most of which are absolutely free) at talktomeinkorean.com. The fact that TTMIK was introducing this app itself was quite reassuring for me. So I tried it and I am in love with it ever since.
HelloTalk has the widest assortment of fantastic features, which have been especially tailored designed for the language learning purpose. (I’ll explain in more detail in a while). But the best thing about this app is that it has a huge community of users, 2 million users worldwide, which I think is the largest among all (strictly) language exchange apps till this date (you are welcome to please correct me if I am wrong). Since I am learning Korean, I can vouch for a humongous community of Korean users in the app. There are dozens of Koreans joining this app every single day). And from the app reviews by other users, I gather it is the same for multiple other languages too. So as there are more than enough number of native language speakers, it is very easy to meet friends or language partners of all ages, gender and places around the world. Especially I have seen that Koreans are pretty keen on learning multiple languages. English tops the list by far, as good English skills are regarded as a valuable skill in the South Korean job market. (TOEIC is a big deal in South Korea).
I have been using this app since June 2015, and I have made many good Korean friends through the app. I have met Koreans who want to genuinely learn English and we’ve been helping each other through regular “paragraph writing in the target language” exchanges, grammar corrections, pronunciation mistake corrections as well as simply chatting and more chatting in our target languages. And “Oh My!” I have made four times the progress in my language skill, especially my Korean writing skills (I sucked before) than I made in the entire year.
Language learning is all about training your brain to remember the new patterns of words and new sounds. Similarly, as one Korean teacher Mr. Sung Bong Lee (이성봉) puts it, “It is not making your own sentences in the target language but rather finding the sentences that are already there (previously used by native speakers)”. So language exchange apps like HelloTalk help us to do just that- get used to the sentences so that you can easily retrieve them from your memory when you need them.
To fulfil that very purpose I have tried almost all language exchange apps available out there. But so far, none of them have managed to beat HelloTalk and its features and especially its community of users. Some apps had features similar to HelloTalk but they just didn’t have enough users to communicate with. It’s the tiniest details like the font size, the help centre response time, the speed, the memory usage, that kept me sending back to HelloTalk. So here I am spending my evening sharing my lovely experience with the app so that all language learners out there can take the benefit of it too (If they already aren’t using it).