9 Unexpected Places To Find Real-Life Language Partners

How cool would it be if you could find real life language lovers to meet up with, learn languages together, perhaps even go to class or see a show in another language? Heck yes!

In this article, get few practical tips to help you reach out and connect with your new language squad IRL.

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What's The Secret To The Greatest Language Exchange Ever?

The most rewarding way of practicing your language is by connecting with people on a 1-to-1 basis. It takes commitment to make any language exchange successful.


In this episode of the Fluent Show, Lindsay and I brought on language exchange expert Jonathan Huggins, who runs several community challenges and groups for language learners.

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Language Practice: Why You Don't Need A Native Speaker

language learning

The native speaker is often considered an absolute holy grail of language learning: They naturally know how language is used, they speak it perfectly and of course you will be immersed in your target language if you speak to one. But today, I'm writing to make you re-think your dependence!

Have you ever found one of the following problems when practicing with a native speaker:

  • It's difficult to understand regional accents
  • You ask them a question, and they respond with "it just is like this"
  • They always want to practice your language with you
  • You run out of topics after a few hours of discussing family, hobbies and weather

What if you have NO native speaker to talk to? Does that mean you will stop learning a language?

Why You Do Not Need A Native Speaker For Practice

In this blog, I'm not advocating that you avoid native level input and natural sources of your target language. They are what makes it come alive! By all means, make full use of Italki, social media and your own network to find a good language buddy, but please note the following:

You don't actually need a native speaker to practice with. This is so important to understand. You just need someone who's good enough or a little better than you. Sometimes it even helps not to have the native speaker, because a non-native speaker has learnt your target language too and can explain grammar and other problems more easily. Natives often don't even know which bits are hard for non-native speakers.

Why Practicing Online Isn't For Everyone

In addition to this point, some people just don't connect so well with the Skype or phone communication method. As an online language tutor, I work on Skype all the time, and it's a different to meeting in person - some of my students love it, some find it odd at the start. For some, I can just tell that it's not the right medium. So if you're In fact, the teenager who will practice his school French with you might actually be a better option than the French native speaker that you meet online.

Moral of the story: Make your own rules for what works for you.

What To Do About It

My advice would be to try a tutor, and that's just because:

  1. They work hard to make sure you understand, by reducing their own dialects and breaking sentences down to where you need them
  2. They will stick with you when you run out of the first 3 conversation topics with a language partner and research topics you need to talk about
  3. They won't expect you to spend any time teaching them your own language

Personally I learnt English before the internet was everywhere and still got from "pretty good" to "pretty fluent", through being taught by German natives and spending a lot of spare time listening to Pulp all the time and talking to myself. But I cannot imagine having done it without teachers. When your target language is German,

I think it's even more important that you find native speakers who understand your needs. German is that much easier to learn when you can make sense of the rules - and our spoken language is different from the grammar books. Trust yourself most of all, but if you have no native speaker around you please remember: It's not going to stop you.

How To Bring In Native-Like Practice

Of course, working without a native person to learn a language does not mean it would be wise to cut out all native-language content. When learning a language, it's important to know how it's spoken and to get a sense of the place where it's spoken.

You want to hear the sounds, the idioms, you want to know that there is a point to what you're doing here. In all learning, it's boring when it's just theory.

To get native-level practice into your studies before you go hunting for speakers all over town, try bringing in audio resources or even TV. It's easy to watch television in other languages or use cool software like Yabla.

And if you have regular access to native speakers, don't avoid them. Go out of your way to say even small things like good morning, and ask them "How do I say this in your language?" You'll soon find that every one of them is a small ambassador for their own language, just like you are for your own. And what's better than sharing?

How Soon Do You Work With Native Speakers?

Has it ever held you back that you can't find the native speaker? Or has shyness stopped you from talking to natives?

Leave your comment below to tell me more!

Do You Need a Native Speaker To Practice a Language? (Podcast Episode 48)

Hello and welcome to Episode 48 of the Creative Language Learning Podcast!

We started off our episode with some insights into what's going on with our language learning - in a new format! It's called the good, the bad and the struggling. Listen in and tell us what you think!

What's your Good, Bad and Struggling?

We'd love to hear from you guys on this one. If you want to share what's good, bad and difficult in your languages right now, send your feedback to us. We read every one and your language news could make it to a show intro in the future.

Simply do one of the following:

  • go on Skype and leave a voice message for fluentlanguage
  • email us at podcast@fluentlanguage.co.uk - include a voice memo from your phone if you can, so we can feature your voice on the show

Topic: You Do Not Need a Native Speaker For Practice

This one had a controversial statement at the heart of it, and Lindsay and I debated the merits of hunting, finding, selecting, working with and learning with native speakers.

So, do you need a native speaker to learn a language?

Or can you learn a language just as well if you don't have a native speaker to practice with?

One of us argued that native speakers are almost "fetishized" in the world of language learning -- listen in to find out which one and see where our debate ended up.

Some Of The Arguments We Made

1. A Tutor Can Be Better

Tutors tend to know what learning is like, and they see people learn all the time. They know the grammar structures, the vocabulary you're looking for, and they're ready to help you out and set you up for success. So for a language beginner, working with the tutor could be way more successful than working with any native speaker.

The native language of your tutor doesn't matter - it's all about what they can teach you, and that their personality allows you to blossom.

2. Don't Procrastinate Through Searching

If you're always looking for a native tutor to practice with, could it be that you'd hold back when practicing with non-natives? Before you start setting irrelevant standards in your language learning, it may be time to consider what is most relevant.

Waiting to find the perfect native speaker to practice with can become its own form of procrastination.

3. Find The Native At The Perfect Time

When you're feeling shaky about your speaking speed, accuracy and fluency, the native conversation can become a struggle. There's no point in getting yourself frustrated. Instead, consider working towards that natural conversation and a feeling of it being "effortless" - the native speaker can become a goal you set yourself, not something you put in your way as a hurdle.

4. It's Too Vague To Have A Vague Goal

A "15 minute conversation with a native speaker" is a goal that you may find inspiring, but it's a tough one to put into reality. Try and go about this goal more specifically by putting in milestones, things that will happen on the way to that conversation, and will pull it into sharper focus.

I can't count the amount of times I've found an advanced speaker of my target language, and then we ran out of things to say within a few hours. You need to find someone who wants to help you on the path, but also someone you have a rapport with. And once you've got that covered, it's a milestone.

Five Tips For Beating Embarrassment When Speaking Another Language

We've all been there: You're up for half an hour of speaking practice in your target language, and right after you say hello, you notice the first mistake tumble out. Not good. Now they think you're an idiot, and you've forgotten the word for "bread" and while you're racking your brain that pause becomes longer and your cheeks are glowing red. Time for the ground to open up!

If all that sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. Millions of language learners experience embarrassment when it comes to speaking practice. Especially when you're trying out your language in another country, it's almost impossible to feel prepared.

My personal threshold for embarrassment seems to be pretty high in most social situations, I have also experienced that crippling sense of looking truly foolish.

I won't get into that one time on a Russian airplane where the air hostess shouted incomprehensible things at me, I smiled throughout with lots of "da, da"...and later found out that they had been debating whether I could safely fly considering they thought I was pregnant. The shame!

But fear not, I've got some good advice to share with you today.

If you're ready to start saying no to embarrassment when speaking another language, here are four tips to help you feel better:

1) Prepare Your Speaking Partner

Chances are you are already pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone by speaking in another language. There is no need to add further discomfort to your challenge by talking to someone who is unlikely to support you. Strangers at the ticket counter, crazy air hostesses and even strict teachers are not the right people to choose for conversation practice when you are suffering from social anxiety or embarrassment.

Instead, try and hold on to what makes you feel comfortable right now. It helps to share your worries with your speaking partner before you start having to speak your target language. If it's a tutor, this will prompt them to be more patient and hold back on the corrections. If it's a friend, it can remind them to slow down and let you build your sentences slowly.

This technique of preparing your partner will help both of you feel more at ease, and ready to tackle this challenge together.

2) Focus On Your Breath

When anxious sensations take hold, your body responds by tensing up, raising your heartbeat and even causing you to sweat and blush. That's the last thing you need when you are already worried about the many ways in which you're about to lose face.

Instead of freaking out about all the words you remember or forget, the best course of action is a simple calming exercise.

Focus on something that is real and constant, for example your own breath. Breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, retain your breath for 2 seconds if you can, and enjoy a long and restorative out breath for 8 seconds. Breathing exercises may not feel like the right tool for a foreign language panic, but you'll be surprised at how much language skill returns once that mental stormcloud is allowed to pass.

For more tips and techniques that help with overcoming stress and anxiety, try the SAM app on your smartphone. It's a little toolkit of instant self-help.

3) Build Up Your Filler Vocabulary

Filler sentences are a wonderful tool when you are getting ready for speaking practice. They're usually uncomplicated, short, easy to remember and very effective. Think of filler sentences as the extra cushioning that is built into conversations so each speaker gets some time to relax. In English, these are lines like "hold on", "let me think for a second" or "let me think".

As a little treat for the German learners among you, I've collected a bunch of fillers and stock sentences in the "Make Your German Sound Amazing" booklet, which you can download for free.

But what should you do if you haven't understood half of what your speaking partner just said?

You can buy yourself a little time by repeating the last words of their sentence, stretched out with some "Hm" sounds. This may tide you over until you can remember how to proceed, for example by asking them to repeat what they just said. It's perfectly acceptable for you to control some aspects of the conversation even if you don't know your target language very well yet.

4) Practice

Even if you follow every single one of the tips above, that feeling of embarrassment is unlikely to just dissolve into thin air. You may still feel discomfort in new situations, and it's still embarrassing to make mistakes. There's no way around this one: At some point, your only way is forward and right through the bad feelings.

Luckily, there is plenty of reward waiting for you on the other side, as you realize that your mistakes and awkward pauses did not cause the ground to open up and swallow you whole.

If you want to push your boundaries and go for speaking practice in a brand new situation, why not take advantage of your next trip abroad? We've got plenty of travel language tips on Episode 41 of the podcast.

Even better, put yourself into an immersion experience with other learners, for example in the Fluent German Retreat led by yours truly. These retreats aim to create a speaking environment that pushes your boundaries without embarrassment, helping you to realize how good you actually are.

It's Not Easy, But It's Worth It

These tips are just a few examples of the many small steps you can take to keep yourself from suffering crippling embarrassment in speaking practice. Keep yourself reminded that this is not easy, and the fact that you are even trying is a testament to your bravery.

And I promise you: The rewards of speaking a foreign language are just as great as you've imagined.

Have You Dealt With Embarrassment and Anxiety About Speaking?

If you've got a story you would like to share, go ahead and share it in the comments section for this post. I'd love to hear your own tips and experiences.

How To Get Germans to Speak German To You

One of the most common questions I hear from you guys is how to deal when other people refuse to practice your target language with you. I'm excited to present some awesome advice from Anja at The Germanz in Australia.

Matching this awesome topic, I've created the new guide Make Your German Sound Amazing, featuring 26 Key Phrases For Conversations with German Speakers. Just click on the little black button here to download it and use it alongside Anja's tips.

Germans and their love for English

When you get lost in Australia, the States or the UK and ask for directions, people will most likely answer in English. When you get lost in Germany, people will most likely answer in English too. 

Studies suggest that (only) 62% of the German population is actually able to hold a conversation in English and most movies and TV shows are still dubbed into German. In fact, most German customers still prefer things the German way and speaking German is still a necessity no matter where you live in Germany (with the exception of Berlin).
 
So why is it that German learners complain that Germans respond to them in English? 
 
What if I told you that you don’t just have to take it? No doubt, you can help Germans stay on track and chat away in German for ages. 

I’m German myself and I’m going to tell you about a few easy things you can do.

Why Germans Switch To English

Germans switch to English for three reasons. 

  1. Sometimes they want to help you
  2. Sometimes they want to help themselves
  3. Sometimes they just prey on the vulnerable and make you the practice tool

But most of the time, they just don’t know any better. 

1. They want to help you

Sometimes Germans simply think it’s being polite. They want to help you communicate more efficiently.

When you ask them, “How goes you? I not finds the station train”, they will most likely help you out in English without speaking a word of German. ‘Oh, that’s cool, they tried in German. They’ll probably understand better when I tell them where to go in English!’, the efficient mind will think.

Germans love speaking English, even when speaking German. Even though many Germans learn at least one foreign language in school, some of them fail to remember that only practice makes perfect.

Additionally, some seem to forget that the comprehension skills of a learner usually outweigh their speaking abilities.

The innocently English speaking German simply doesn’t get that you may understand, that it would be polite and helpful to respond in German. It’s like they buried their teenage memories somewhere in the deepness of their minds, along with that sneaky first kiss behind the school building.

Germans will think you just want to break the ice by saying a few words in German. They will return that favour and will try to make the conversation as unconditionally comfortable as possible for you. In English.

2. It's easier for them

But Germans are not always driven by lovely innocence. Some Germans are simply not patient enough: ‘It will be quicker and easier if I just tell them in English. I’m almost late already!’
If their guesstimate places your German skills below their own English proficiency, they might respond in English.

For Germans, it’s all about communicating efficiently. No overexcited small talk, no politely beating about the actual topic, no exchange of unnecessary information, but rather direct communication, cutting to the chase and getting this question answered as accurately and quickly as possible. In English.

3. Germans want to practise their English skills

Of course, let’s face it, a few Germans simply want to practise their English on you because they know how awesome it feels to finally speak in your language of choice. 

Moreover, they want to show off how good their English is to impress you (and others). They are going to take advantage of you. 

Imagine how convenient, they don’t even have to leave their country to get what they crave. Speaking English. ‘Perfect! This guy from England gets to speak German every day; doesn’t he live here in Germany?’ 

They quickly forget that a lot of others see their opportunity as well, and this poor guy from England and his German skills fall by the wayside.

Here’s what you should do, as well as what you should avoid, to keep up the conversation in German. 

How to Make Them Speak German

How can you fulfil your dreams and get those Germans to speak in German to you? Embrace these two rules that everything boils down to:
 
1. Speak no English to Germans

And

2. Make your German sound better than it is.

These two rules are the magic tricks that will lead to a happy life in Germany. 

Let’s have a look at how to put them into practice with concrete examples and workarounds.

Respond in German

To really cash in and get the Germans speak German, you want to stay away from English as much as possible.
 
Certainly, it will take some courage especially when you think your German is not good enough. But you know what? The Germans will work it out. If they don’t get what you mean, they will ask (in English or German, it doesn’t really matter). 

But if you’re asked, you’ll get a second chance to say it. You may even get some valuable feedback.
 
More importantly, when someone starts speaking English to you, just keep responding in German. 

If your German is already good enough, try to translate the English response into German and say it back to them in German. Be patient and stick to German to get them back on track, no matter what.
 
If you don’t understand, ask them what it means, in German

Once more, under no circumstances switch to English.
 
If you can’t remember the word and you really need to know it, do the following:

Describe the word in German and ask them about the correct word.

  • Was heißt nochmal das eine Pedal im Auto? -Nein, das andere. Ach, ja, das Gaspedal. - What would you call that one pedal in the car? -No, the other one. Ah yes, the gas pedal.) or

Ask them for the translation in German.

  • Wie heißt nochmal ‘dog’ auf Deutsch? - What’s the word for ‘dog’ in German again? 

Work on your pronunciation

As Germans like to switch when they think that communicating with you might not go too smoothly, how about you make your language skills less of a problem? 

If Germans think that you’re comfortable speaking in German, they are less likely to switch.
 
One way of making your German sound better than it is, is to be amazing at pronouncing things. Just practice the proper pronunciation and know how the intonation pattern of a sentence works.

Use phrases and conversation fillers

You could also use phrases and conversation fillers to make your responses sound more natural. 

The idea is again that we want to make our German sound better than it is. It’s like saying, “Keep going, nothing to see here”.
 
To keep up the flow when speaking, it’s a great idea to have handy the vocabulary you will need. But also don’t forget that natives use clichés and filler words, and they say ‘uhmm’ a lot. 
 
Here are some examples:

  • Ach wirklich/Echt? - Ah really?
  • Cool!
  • Macht nichts!/Kein Problem. - That’s alright!/No problem.
  • Hört sich gut an. - Sounds good.
  • Ach so. - Ah yea.
  • Stimmt!/Genau - I agree./Yeah, that’s right.
  • Na ja, vielleicht. - Yeah, maybe.

Compromise

Let’s face it, sometimes there’s no way that subtle hints will get them back on track. 

Please don’t take it personally, they might not even notice. The only thing that will help here is to be very clear about your goals, about genuinely wanting to learn proper German.
 
Apart from saying “Bitte nur in Deutsch”, you can decide to blitzkrieg and offer a language tandem. Your compromise could be
 
One hour speaking in German, another hour speaking in English.
 If you see them every day, you could agree to speak English from Monday to Wednesday and German from Thursday to Sunday.
 
If the two of you agree to correct each other properly and also provide alternatives for certain sentences and phrases, you could both benefit from the language tandem quite a bit.

Make (new) German friends

As your language skills progress, you’ll be able to chat away on more and more topics. You will be developing your ‘German You.’ It may be the same as — or completely different from — the English-speaking you.
 
With your ever-improving skills, making new German friends will become a lot easier.
 
If you have moved to a German-speaking country, you’ll hit the jackpot by joining a club (der Verein) in the German countryside, but clubs can be found anywhere across Germany, even in the big cities. Similarly, you want to get involved and lend a hand at the local Tatort night, the German-speaking weekly handcraft meeting or the local climbing hall.
 
Try to maintain a healthy ratio of English-speaking and only-German-speaking friends. You have a choice among about 100 million German native speakers in the European Union alone.
 
Don’t forget, the more you get to speak German, the easier it gets. Just let Germans know you’re up for a challenge. They will be up for it as well. 

Summary

In summary, please don’t get turned off by responses in English, keep learning German and remember these two fundamental rules: 

  1. Don’t speak English to Germans.
  2. Make your German sound better than it is.

On a concrete note, you could:

  • Always reply in German.
  • Ask for missing words and explanations in German.
  • Improve your pronunciation.
  • Use conversation fillers and ‘uhm’ a lot.
  • Compromise by offering language tandems.
  • Move to the German country.
  • Make (new) German speaking friends.

You’ll find more nifty tricks on learning and speaking German on my German language blog. 

Don’t forget to tell me in the comments about your favourite strategy in dealing with English speaking Germans. 

This article was written by Anja. Anja lives in Melbourne, Australia, is originally from Germany and writes about the German language and culture on her blog when she is not busy teaching German language classes. Hang out and have a chat with her on Google+ or Twitter.

A Complete Review of the HelloTalk Language Exchange App

Übung macht den Meister.

C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron.

Usus magister est optimus.

Man, does every language have a proverb meaning practice makes perfect?

Practice is one of the key principles of learning, and probably one of the most demanding ones.

One of the most helpful way to practice your skills in language learning is to speak the language you're studying. No matter if you've just begun or were fluent 3 weeks ago, if you don't keep using that language it's likely to get pretty rusty.

In today's blog article, I'm going to give you the full review of an app that has been designed to help you with that need for practice. It's all about language exchanges. Read on to find out if this could work for you.

How Should a Language Exchange Work?

Language exchanges work on the basis that both people in the conversation give a little bit of their skills to each other. You find a person who studies your native language and help them by correcting them and chatting to them. And then you switch the exchange and benefit from the same help in your target language. And if you chat to them online, you don't even have to leave your house/bed/swimming pool.

Of course, the real challenge is getting to the point where your conversation with the practice partner is as easy as possible. It can be really difficult to find a native speaker of the right language who also wants to spend time practicing with you. And then you have to hope they want to learn your language, too. And then you still have to get over how to translate most of what they say.

A Language Exchange App On Your Smartphone

In the past, my language exchange experiences have never really delivered.

Even though I found people online and wrote to them, I felt like my own language skills didn't improve. It was scary to hop on Skype and share my face, voice and mistakes with a stranger. When I tried email exchanges, I felt bad because I couldn't write a long stretch of text.

It seems I wasn't the only person who had this problem. When HelloTalk contacted me earlier this year with an invitation to review their app, I was ready to try again.

First Impressions

My first impression of trying HelloTalk was very positive. The app is about making language exchanges on your smartphone as good as they can be. There is no course, no website and no payment system for tutors, and I really appreciated that focus.

After downloading the app, you'll be asked to fill in a profile. HelloTalk allows learners to register one native and one target language for free (though you can unlock more with an in-app purchase). You can connect your profile to Twitter, record a spoken intro, or write an introduction for yourself. For users who want to keep their details private, the app also allows you to hide details like your age or location in the advanced privacy settings, and to set how you want to appear in the search.

Test 1: How Easy Is It To Find Language Exchange Partners?

After signing up, HelloTalk directs you to its Search function so you can start finding people whose needs match yours. It automatically suggests matches that have the right native language/target language combination for you, but you will not be restricted by this at all.

When you find someone who looks like a great match, you can send them a message or a partner request. I found that most of the promising matches were not online straight away, so sending them a request that they could accept when they come online was a convenient alternative.

It seems that people who indicate "English" as their native language receive a lot more requests (for example, Shannon from Eurolinguiste found that she couldn't keep up) than other natives. Setting the app to "native German speaker who is learning Welsh" was a pretty tough ask, so I tried some search alternatives to find native Welsh speakers. With those options, it became simple enough and I was quickly able to get talking to several people.

Language Exchange App Review

Once the chat got started,I was impressed with the many tiny but useful features. For example, HelloTalk shows you the time of day where your language partner lives and supports emoji. You can send photos, voice messages and doodles. All these options make it very easy to start texting other people straight away.

Test 2: How Good Is HelloTalk's Interface?

HelloTalk's app has lots of buttons and settings, but none of them felt pointless.

I quickly found that the help menus and settings were simpler than they looked. HelloTalk can do lots of things, but it has pulled off a design that doesn't overwhelm users with all of them at once. Instead, the app takes advantage of how you use your phone, and the bottom menu makes it simple to keep track of conversations.

The quality of the app was fabulous as well. Even though I haven't had the chance to try the free phone calls, I was impressed overall. It was fast, didn't crash and the machine translations were pretty useable too. Overall, a big thumbs up for HelloTalk's design.

Test 3: Does HelloTalk Make It Easy To Use Your Target Language?

In previous language exchanges, I often found that it was difficult to keep up a balanced exchange between speaking my own language and my partner's language. HelloTalk has an approach to solve this problem: There is a dedicated Language Exchange Mode where you can set the computer to remind both exchange partners when it's time to switch languages. I was super excited about this feature.

The app also allows users to communicate in the way that works best for them. Free phone calls, instant messages, voice messages - no problem!

Once you've started chatting, you may find that you and your language partner need a few corrections. The app has a great long press feature for any message sent or received, allowing you to correct the partner's writing easily. For someone as enthusiastic about writing in another language as I am, the app's features make a great addition to the tips I've blogged about before.

The full long click menu offers even more features, such as:

  • Adding any message to your Favourites menu for review
  • Converting from the Latin script to other writing systems
  • Copying the message
  • Translating the message to the language that you have set as Target Language in your profile (even when I chatted to French people in German, I could still learn Welsh this way)
  • Get the computer to read out any message so you know what it sounds like

Test 4: Does HelloTalk Work?

If you want to keep studying based on what you're reading and writing in HelloTalk, there are a few really helpful features in the app.

language exchange with the hello talk app

The corrections feature automatically saves your received corrections to the favourites section where you can go back and review them regularly. In this area, I thought it would be cool to have a flashcards or other learning feature but on the other hand I was pretty happy to just use my notebook.

HelloTalk is not about acquiring another language by studying a linear course, but instead it brings real life practice to your phone and it does this one thing brilliantly.

The Best Tips for Using HelloTalk for Language Exchange

Even with an app as excellent as this one, it can still be daunting to start a language exchange. Based on my own experiences and tips from fellow language lovers like Olly from IWTYAL and Stephanie from To Be Fluent, here are three top tips to help you get the most out of your experience and your time spent using the app:

1) Be Clear About What You Want To Do

I found that it's easy to start chatting aimlessly, but much harder to get a true exchange going. Chatting to everyone who sends you a request or gets to know you through your profile can feel like a waste of time.

If you want to practice equal exchanges in a specific language, tell this to your partner right at the start and be a bit tough when you need to be. Working with the Language Exchange feature in HelloTalk felt great to me as it allows the app to do the policing.

2) Have Some Starter Topics Ready

Okay, so you've asked them where they're from and how old they are. What else can you chat about with your language exchange partner?

It helps to have a few topics up your sleeve that are comfortable for any user. For example, I chatted to a Chinese partner about food and got tips for new bands to check out from a Swedish music fan. Going beyond the first small talk is important for building rapport and getting the other person interested enough to keep talking to you.

3) Have A Little Patience

This final tip is based on my own experience with HelloTalk. When I started the app, I was so excited to chat to people in Welsh and French and Spanish that I could not wait to get going. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that not everyone was online and ready to go!

HelloTalk works best as an instant messaging app when you give it a little time, wait a few days for the right people to find you or allow for a bit of trial and error. After all, language practice is a regular activity.

My biggest suggestion to make this app even better would be to add some learning features. Based on the chats, the system could create flashcards or prompts asking you to repeat new expressions so you don't forget them. And an in-browser version would help me type without having to switch the mobile keyboard to another language every few minutes.

Where to Download HelloTalk

All in all my verdict of HelloTalk is very very positive. As an app, this provides the nicest language exchange environment I've seen so far.

You can find all links for HelloTalk at www.hellotalk.com.

Have you tried HelloTalk yet? What's your impression?

Leave me your story in the comments below!

How to Stop Worrying About your Language Talent [Infographic]

Today it occurred to me that we have not had an infographic on Fluent for a while, and I fancy sharing another good one with you. I do collect cool infographics related to language learning on my Pinterest boards, but every now and then it's cool to do a deep dive.

Before I jump into the points I'll be making, I just want to point out that my views on aptitude, attitude and training are not accepted by all. Linguists do often maintain that some natural aptitude for language learning exists. In fact, the military has apparently even started testing for it. I am personally not in the camp of people who want to promote a message of "There is a chance you have no talent for this project" simply because becoming the best ever language learner is not the point. If you do want to be an army quality translator in 6 months or become a finished product in a minimal amount of time, it might be that you aren't cut out for it. Let me tell you a story: I am not cut out for fitness. I grew up overweight, heck, I am not exactly slim now. But I can swim a mile, run 10k and do an hour of tough exercise these days. And I love it. My aptitude does not matter when it comes to enriching my life.

So cut out the target of perfection, and think about whether your practice is meaningful and right for you. Language learning aptitude may account for how quickly you pick up a language, perhaps even whether your speaking voice ends up beautiful and accent-free ten years into the future, but it will not account for not even trying.

There Is No Such Thing As A Polyglot Gene

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Today's chosen infographic is this illustration of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule. When I first read his book Outliers, this principle was absolutely fascinating to me. I had never even questioned the idea that some people are just naturally born for being great at what they do. We are often confronted with terms that reinforce this whole idea even more, for example "child prodigy".

But Gladwell came out with some data (in the realm of pop science, of course) investigating high achievers from a different angle, and found that practice is mightier than talent in most cases.

How Can You Overcome The "No Talent" Fallacy

One of the most common misconceptions about language learning that I encounter is this persistent idea that learning another language is a skill that is open to an exclusive group of people. The English blame their whole nation for being "rubbish at language learning." The active language learners on the internet look up to "polyglots" who are awarded rock star status. The real language learning masters though are invisible and just get on with it. Click to Tweet This

If you want to make real progress and become one of those people that other people consider talented, the secret is to practice. Gladwell says that there is even a number of hours you can put on that practice: It is 10,000. The hours add up with every second we spend deliberately practicing - and that means focus, repetition and engagement.

Watching Youtube is Not Practice

According to this infographic, you can see that watching an expert perform the task you want to master is not something that really helps you improve. Neither is mindless repetition. Just like you can see in educational settings, it's pointless to demonstrate.

Here are some interesting questions to get you thinking:

  • Will 100 hours of Duolingo give you real progress or make you feel frustrated enough to believe that you "have no talent"?
  • Is accountability the most important aspect of 10,000 hours of practice?
  • How many hours can we get into 6 months?
  • How many language learners are aware that practice in the second foreign language will require so much less work than practice in the first foreign language?

I would love to hear what you think. No matter what it is, here is the bottom line: You are NOT missing a talent for language learning. You are NOT making progress more slowly than others. Even The Beatles were not born as great musicians. Neither was Mozart.

Get back to basics. Practice deliberately, embrace the learner status and remember what you came to language learning for.

The Importance of Learning Skills

In my experience I have seen students succeed the most when their systems and learning styles were set up very well. Students in full-time education are in a learning habit, they take better notes and revise by habit which gives them an advantage. In fact, this was part of the reasoning behind how I wrote The Vocab Cookbook: It's designed to help language learners understand a good vocabulary learning process and apply it easily. The idea is to form habits that are easy for you, not creating extra burdens. Does it work for you?

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