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One of the age-old problems of language exchanges is that learners find it hard to know when to switch languages. HelloTalk has a handy feature to prevent the awkwardness of trying to be strict with a relative stranger. If you turn on “Language Exchange mode,” you’ll get a notification when it’s time to switch languages. With so many users passing through, it’s slightly more suited to those who want to casually chat than to have a more developed language exchange. However, HelloTalk deserves its great reputation.

2. Tandem

Like HelloTalk, Tandem is a very up-to-date language exchange app with millions of users. As the name suggests, it is a Tandem language app, which has been called the Tinder of language exchange apps. But don’t let that put you off: the majority of people are here to learn. Once you’ve filled in a quick profile, your inbox will quickly receive lots of messages.

With so many users, it can be hard to focus on one conversation at a time or to move beyond superficial topics, but the app is very slick to look at and easy to navigate. You can leave reviews of other users, which makes the relationships between students feel more professional and less akin to a dating app. You can send voice notes or video chat, but there isn’t much of a culture of doing either, since most interactions are spur-of-the-moment. There’s a handy “correct this message” feature to help your partner out without derailing the conversation.

3. Bilingua

Some language exchange apps allow you to (digitally) meet a seemingly endless list of learners. You might end up sending “hello, how are you?” to dozens of strangers, but rarely developing a deep enough connection with one person to try out an in-depth conversation.

Bilingua’s big selling point is that it combines a modern interface with help to find “the one.” Which in this case, means a compatible fellow student to swap skills with for the medium term. This free language exchange app uses a matching algorithm to pair learners based on their personalities, language level and what they want to talk about.

Yes, it does sound like a dating app, but fans say it has saved them time in narrowing down hundreds of potential study buddies. Some users find the app too glitchy, especially if trying to type in Mandarin. But it’s worth a try to see if it works for you.

4. MyLanguageExchange

The MyLanguageExchange website looks older than the concept of language itself, but don’t be put off. Although no-one has updated the website itself since the mid-2000s, MyLanguageExchange is a thriving network of learners, with new members joining every day.

It is a straightforward database of people looking for language exchanges, with columns for a short bio and details of what they’re looking for. If flashy apps like Tandem and HelloTalk are suited to short-term chatting with many strangers, MyLanguageExchange is the opposite. Once you have connected with someone, it is typical to switch to an alternative form of messaging, like email, Skype or WhatsApp. Study buddies blur into the realm of “new friend” very quickly.

This is language exchange for those who loved doing language exchanges in high school. You could meet someone on this site who will become a part of your life long term. A person you might Skype with for years and eventually fly halfway across the world to meet. Students who are used to the anonymous and instant feel of modern apps might find this a bit creepy or even potentially dangerous. It depends on what you are looking for, and how much of yourself you want to share.

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