Hi there, everyone! This time I decided to write about two language exchange apps that I use. There are so many apps out there with so many different feels that it can be hard to pick one that suits your needs properly. So, I decided that I would take some time to review two apps so you all can have an idea of what they’re like. Of course, my opinions here are all my own based on my own personal experiences using these apps. Maybe you have used one (or both) of these apps and had a totally different experience, and that’s sure to be the case quite often, but I can only write from my own experience.
Anyway! Let’s get into it— HelloTalk vs. Tandem!
As far as language exchange apps go, Hellotalk seems to be one of the most well known ones. I have used this app on and off for some years, so I would say I’m pretty familiar with it.
Getting started and settings
Making a Hellotalk account is easy! Just choose a name; mark where you’re from, the language you speak, and the language you want to learn; write a little summary about yourself (or not), upload any photo you want, and there you go! The photo does not have to be a picture of yourself, and anyway, if someone taps on your icon to try to enlarge your photo, they will be met with a message telling them that Hellotalk is not a dating app. Sadly, a lot of people use it that way, and I have gotten more than my fair share of messages from guys who are only looking to hook up. Fortunately, blocking and reporting people is very easy, as is controlling who can and can’t find you in the search. You can filter by gender (same gender only or mixed) and age to keep the people who contact you within the bounds of whatever you feel comfortable with.
A feature of Hellotalk that I think seems sort of cool but that I don’t really use much myself is the “Live” section (is it “Live” in the English version too? My phone is set to Korean, so the app displays in Korean also). “Live” is sort of like a social area where people can post photos and text about whatever they want and other users can comment on it, offer corrections, and so on. As I already said, I don’t really use it, but it seems like it could be a good way to start conversations with people or just interact with others on the app without getting in too deep.
Once you’re in a chat with someone, there are a ton of options and little tools to play around with! You can do normal text chat of course, and if you long-press a chat bubble you get a set of options including translation, text-to-speech readout, copy, correct (to make corrections on your conversation partner’s text, or your own), and a option to show tone-marked pinyin for Chinese characters. You can also send voice notes and do voice calls, send photos, and pretty much do anything you can with any current messaging app. However…
The dreaded paywall!
One of my biggest bones with HelloTalk is that there are some useful tools and settings on it that are limited or inaccessible unless you pay extra. If you want to set more than one learning language, you have to pay, so either pay up so you can get native speakers of all of your learning languages to show up in your search at once, or just deal with constantly having to change your search terms or your set learning language. Also, some of the nice features that I mentioned above, like the translation and text-to-speech and all, are limited if you have not paid for the VIP membership. A membership is 3,800원 per month (if you do it just month by month; they also have a yearly plan and a lifetime plan), so I guess you would have to decide if the little extra things are worth it or not for you.
It’s a bit buggy…
Another thing about HelloTalk is that sometimes it’s a bit buggy. It was a lot worse back when I started using it, but still sometimes I have messages that refuse to send despite a perfectly strong connection, an inbox that takes minutes to load, new message notifications when I have no unread new notifications at all, and a few other weird things. Especially the slow loading of the inbox at times and the messages that refuse to send are real pains to deal with. If I’m having a good, long conversation with someone, we usually end up switching to another application pretty quickly for more convenience.
In general, HelloTalk has worked out for me. I’ve met a few people from the app in person, but it is of course a fairly small number compared to all of the many people I’ve actually had conversations with. As with any language exchange app, you get out of it what you put in, and even then your mileage may vary!
- Lots of users= more potential partners
- Easy to make an account
- Live function allows you to make posts that others can comment on (and you can comment on the posts others have made)
- Voice notes, voice calls, translation, and correction features
- Contact controls—can restrict who can message you by age and gender (same gender only or mixed gender; no opposite-gender-only)
- VERY buggy—shows that I have new notifications but does not load the new messages without entirely restarting the app (or waiting about a thousand years)
- Another bug thing—sometimes does not send messages in a timely manner
- Can only have one language as your learning language unless you pay for their premium features
- Translation functions also limited if you are not on premium
- A lot of users clearly looking for a date
- Ads unless you pay for VIP
I haven’t been using Tandem as long as I have Hellotalk, but I’ve got a pretty good feel of it I think.
Application and rules
While making an account on Hellotalk is instant, making an account on Tandem is not. You can choose to connect through your Facebook or some other profile, and they actually review your registration. Once you are approved, you receive a notification saying you can get started. If you don’t want to put your face and/or name out there this might not be the app for you. However, they seem to do this for the sake of weeding out trolls and fake accounts and the like. Tandem makes it very clear from the start that it is not a dating app and users who use it as such, or who break any of the app’s other rules, may be banned and unable to use the service again in the future.
When you make your account, the app asks you so answer a few simple questions about your hobbies, what kind of person you would like to talk with, and your languages goals. You also must select your native language, languages you speak, and languages you’re learning. Unlike with HelloTalk, you can select multiple native, speaking, and learning languages for free! Actually, ads are nowhere to be found on Tandem. One of the menu tabs on the bottom of the screen is for language tutors, which do cost money, but that tab is very easily ignored.
Perhaps because of the bit of advanced screening, I feel like the user base of Tandem is a little bit more mature than that of HelloTalk. Almost everyone that I have talked to so far has been very serious about doing language exchange, which is wonderful!
On Tandem, you can review users that you have talked to, but only if you have actually talked to them, as in, you have done a voice chat with them. People who have done those calls will have a symbol on their search icon denoting how many reviews they have from people that they have spoken with, and I suppose you could use these to screen your language exchange partners a bit more if you want. Tandem seems to really want people to do these calls, as there is a big button at the top of each chat window to start a call (and it turns green if that person is actually online at the moment), and there is no other way to get reviews from other users outside of doing the call feature.
Topics? No thanks.
Something that I feel kind of meh about is what Tandem calls “Topics.” The Topics are little conversation topics you can write that will show up alongside your icon in the search window. You can also make a topic from templates the app provides. A lot of people seem to just go that route because they cant quite be bothered to actually write one, so you end up with your search results having multiple people with different versions of the same awkward request to help someone learn ten new words today or whatever else. Nobody I’ve talked with so far really seems to engage based on those Topics anyway. I just ignore them and talk to people who match the languages I’m looking for.
Bugs and features
Tandem has shown one or two of the bugs that I experienced while using HelloTalk, but they occur less frequently. Sometimes I will get messages that don’t send in a timely manner, which is annoying.
In terms of in-chat features, Tandem is very lacking compared to HelloTalk, with only message correction and commenting. I never used the other features much so it’s not a big deal to me, but the other features could certainly be useful to others.
Overall, I like the feel of Tandem more than HelloTalk. It feels a bit more grown up and serious, but it does lack a general social aspect. It also lacks some features that Hellotalk incorporates.
- User verification
- Strong encouragement of reporting
- Strictly anti-dating
- More mature, serious user base (in my experience)
- User review feature (limited, but useful)
- User verification (you might not want to put your actual face and info out there)
- A bit buggy—sometimes messages send very slowly
- No real community aspect
- Limited in-chat features
Your experiences with these apps might be similar to mine, or they might be very different. Just test out a few apps for a few weeks each and see which one meets your needs the best!