Finding language partners online, or online tandem partner, is one of the most effective ways to practice a foreign language for free to improve your language skills. And with today’s digital age, the amount of resources available online is just so huge that it overwhelms most of the time.
Furthermore, one of the biggest problems for people who are learning a language at school or who are self-taught is how to practice it, especially speaking. It isn’t always easy to practice speaking a foreign language, especially when you are unable to travel.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of material online that can easily link you up with credible teaching sites and native language speakers. There are tricks that can help, like finding an online tandem partner.
In this ultimate guide, we will give you best language exchange websites where you can find your language partners online as well as tips on how to get the best of foreign language online learning.
How Does Language Partners Online Learning Work?
If you really intend to practice a language, one of the most effective and fastest ways to find an online tandem partner is to take advantage of websites dedicated to language exchange using the tandem language learning principle.
Tandem language learning involves breaking a conversation down into two parts: roughly half of it takes place in your native language, and the other half in the native language of your language partner, that is, your target language. Your partner could be from the United States, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, or anywhere else, actually!
These exchanges are free; the principle is to exchange your time and language expertise. You both give something, and get back something very valuable in return. It’s a very effective method for practicing a language and making quick and impressive progress.
Allow us to share one ConnectPals user comment (she found her language partners online in our platform):
I’ve been using ConnectPals language exchange site for a year now. It’s great because it allows me to practice speaking and make friends with people around the world. I find online tandem partners very helpful both at the beginning of the learning process and later on, to maintain a learned language. For example, I have a lot of Spanish language exchange partners that help me maintain my level of Spanish.
We stayed connected through WhatsApp!
How to find your Online Tandem Partner
Again, in today’s digital age, there is a wealth of material online that can easily link you up with credible language exchange websites.
Simply subscribe to one of these language exchange communities to get in touch with people from around the world who, like you, want to learn a language. If you study Japanese, for example, you can find a few conversation partners from Japan who want to learn English and talk to them in English and Japanese. While each site’s interface is different, the basic principle is the same:
- Register to one of the community websites (see our selection below).
- Find an online tandem partner who speaks your target language and who also wants to learn your native language. There’s usually lots of search filters to help you find people easily. Because your main focus is on pronunciation and speaking fluidly, you should aim to speak with somebody who’s native language is your target language.
PS: look for somebody with a similar level to you so that you both progress at the same rate. This makes the exchange much more equitable, and fun!
- Finally, just get in contact with your prospective partner! Don’t worry — we’ve prepared tips for beginners like you to get started.
These sites work so well that over the years, many similar sites have emerged, and it can be difficult to choose one. Having tested dozens, we’ve picked out the best language partners online sites dedicated to language exchange learning.
Where to Find Language Partners Online
Here’s a roundup of the best online websites to count on for practicing the language you’re learning with other people.
- It allows you to exchange with external chatting apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Kakaotalk, Line, and many others
- Social network with activity feeds, groups, and private messages.
- Good language exchange community by featuring user’s audio pronunciations in its blog
- 100% FREE!
- Not always easy to find people who are online and active (depending on what time you are available and what language you are learning)
- Not very suitable for iPads or tablets, as it takes a little time to get used to the interface and find all options
- Easy to find a language partner quickly
- The chat system with the ability to correct others’ mistakes (and to be corrected)
- The calling system (no need to go through Skype) with suggestions for topics and questions, the timer and the ability to take notes
- Badges and competitions motivate people to find a language tandem
- 100% FREE!
- The live feature is nice, but it is hard to see your conversation partner’s level for sorting purposes
- It would be better to have more added filters and options to choose the appropriate language partners
- You have to register with a Facebook or Gmail account (although it does make signing up easy)
- The self-assessment system is based on the European Framework: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, etc
- Good graphics
- The search engine makes finding a perfect match for conversation partners very convenient
- The site has many members and you can find native speakers easily
- To start, you need to send a friend request and wait to be accepted.
There is no internal video conferencing service so you need to use Skype or a similar service.
- To start, you need to send a friend request and wait to be accepted.
4. Conversation Exchange
- The search for partners by exchange mode (if you want to talk, no need to find someone who just wants to exchange letters)
- Fast and convenient website
- No integrated video chat (but you can use Skype)
- It is not clear whether a user is online, so you first need to exchange messages
- You have to send each other messages before you can start your language exchange
- Well-known site, so there are close to 3 million members in 150 countries, making it easy to find language partners, and especially language partners at the same level as you
- You can communicate via email or voice chat, which means that, based on your goals and level, you can improve your spoken or written correspondence.
- Not free. To make real use of the site as a discussion platform, either you or your language partner will need to have a subscription. Regrettable for a free language exchange site — but otherwise, you can easily exchange on skype, by email or by telephone.
- The user interface and graphics of MyLanguageExchange are, as you’ve surely noticed, quite outdated. But really, what’s more important: an interface that’s easy on the eyes, or rich and interesting language exchanges, right?
Tips for Beginners in taking Online Tandem Learning
Once you’ve picked a language exchange site, it’s time to dive in!
But wait, before you do that, here are some tips on taking your first steps and, especially, the best way to take advantage of this method. Here are our best tips to help you get started:
1. Find conversation partners at your level
Yep, this is one of the most important points. If you want to make progress, it’s essential to find a language partner that’s at about the same level in their target language as you are in yours. This way, you can advance together, at the same pace, and it will be equally rewarding and challenging for both of you.
2. Do some preparation before jumping in
Before starting your first conversation, you can prepare some material of which you may have need. Notably: an English/target-language dictionary (e.g. English/Spanish or English/German dictionary) — the best is an online one, already open in a new tab, for finding words quickly. You should also check out one of our conversation guides. Again, keep it open and at hand.
3. Set some ground rules from the get-go
All in the interest of good fun, of course! Don’t forget that this is an exercise that should be fun. Nonetheless, it’s good to set some ground rules, especially concerning the time spent in one language or another. Otherwise, you risk becoming an amateur English teacher, or taking advantage of somebody’s kindness or poor time management skills (know what I mean?) — neither of which is the goal here! You can split it up as you like: 50/50 each session, or one session English and one session in your target language, or swap every 5 or 10 minutes.
You can even alternate your phrases: you speak in your target language, and your partner responds in English! It’s up to you, but deciding all this, in the beginning, will help you get into a good rhythm. It will also help you figure out if you “click” well.
4. Introduce yourself and find common interests
During your first exchanges, you’ll want to start by introducing yourself and asking some of the standard questions: Where are you from? What’s your line of work? How long have you been studying English? To quickly find new more interesting subjects, don’t hesitate to ask your interrogator what they’d like to do in life and why they’ve decided to learn English. The point is to find some common interests in these first few exchanges. This will allow you to have enriching conversations moving forward.
5. Learn how to react even when you’re not sure how to respond
One more thing, before your language exchange: learn the most essential phrases for expressing yourself, especially, for example: “Can you please repeat yourself?” or, “How do you say _____?” This will allow you to have a fluid back-and-forth, even when you don’t understand everything 100%. We suggest you keep those useful phrases at hand while chatting with your conversation partners.
Final Worlds: Our Verdict
In our opinion, the best language exchange websites are Speaky and ConnectPals. However, this may depend on personal taste, so try them out and pick the one you like best.
All these sites are very useful, and you will not struggle to find conversation partners with them. Many other language exchange sites offer similar services, but we wanted to give you the best to save you time. For completeness sake, I’ll mention those that didn’t seem as good or functional to me. For instance, Verbling which used to be free but now is paid, Livemocha, Busuu, 12Speak, and Free4Talk (which is primarily for English learners). Hellotalk, too, is a great language learning app but only available on mobile devices.
Some sites, like Polyglot Club, appear to be best suited for people who prefer offline interactions.
And please do not also underestimate the power of Facebook groups! There’s a lot of Facebook groups dedicated to language learning where one can easily find language partners online in no time!
That said, feel free to join ConnectPals’ Facebook group: Ultimate Language Exchange Group (ULEG). Yep, it’s ultimate! =)
So yeah, good luck and don’t forget to have fun!