However, speaking seems to be the most elusive aspect of learning the language for those of us that can’t afford to work or study in another country where we would naturally be exposed to the language every day.
What’s more, speaking is crucial to obtain the feedback that we need to consolidate all of our other learning.
Perhaps fifteen years ago, it was near impossible to practice a language without actually traveling to the country where it was spoken. But nowadays, the world is more connected than ever, and it’s easy for you to find people to speak to; both native and non-native speakers.
I’m going to share with you some resources which helped me to practice French in Brazil, Catalan in Chile, and Hebrew in Barcelona.
These seven websites can help you practice with or without living in the country where it’s spoken, both online and in-person, free and paid.
On RealLife Global, you can connect with English learners and speakers from every corner of the globe anytime, anywhere at the push of a button.
In addition to the Power Chat, where you can practice your English three minutes at a time, we also have a forum and all the functionalities that you expect of a social network. You can make friends and talk to them via text or video chat right from RealLife Global. And it’s all FREE. Aww yeah!
Be one of the first to join here.
I’ve been using italki for a while to connect with other language learners and practice Catalan, Spanish, and French. More recently, I have found it to be an indispensable resource for learning Hebrew, which I’ve taken on as a part of the Add1 Challenge (learn more in this podcast).
Italki has both paid and free functionalities. I’ve used both, and will divulge on the pro’s and con’s here. You can also learn a lot more about italki in this article.
On italki you can find exchange partners. For example, if you’re from Saudi Arabia and your native language is Arabic, you could find an American or Brit who is learning Arabic to do an exchange with via Skype–speaking perhaps 30 minutes in Arabic and then 30 minutes in English. It’s a win-win as both of you get to practice your target language.
Although I’ve found a few great exchange partners, there are a couple downsides.
- It can be difficult to find someone you get along with. For some languages, I’ve sent many requests without finding anyone that I could talk to regularly. For obvious reasons, attractive girls get more exchange requests than guys.
- It can be difficult to match up your schedules and find a time to speak regularly, especially if there is a big time zone difference. Sometimes, your partner might cancel or not show up at the planned time.
- This is great for conversation, but your partner might not have any experience teaching, and just because they are a native speaker doesn’t mean they can help you improve.
In the past I have never wanted to pay a teacher with so many free resources available, but because learning Hebrew is such a big challenge, I thought I would give it a try. I’ve been really pleased! I found two wonderful teachers, one who helps me understand the structural differences between English and Hebrew, and the other who gives me conversational classes.
Exchanges can be a terrific, free way to connect with the language, but there are a couple advantages I’ve found to having a private tutor:
- Experience – it’s easily apparent that each of my tutors has taught many students and knows what they are doing. This is something that you’ll rarely find with an exchange partner.
- Schedule – You know your teacher will be there at the planned time.
The reason I mention italki for classes is that you can find many native speaking English tutors for less than $10 per hour. If your willing to spend a little money, this can be a great way for you to get in that structured learning and accountability that you need to grow your fluency. You can learn more about tutoring and language exchanges here.
If you live in a big city this can be a great way for you to connect with speakers of your target language. I’ve used Facebook groups to meet Spaniards in Brazil (some who I’m still close friends with) and Israelis here in Barcelona.
How does it work?
This will take some experimenting, but generally the best way to do this is trying different searches in the language you’re learning. For example, if you want to practice your English and you live in Thailand, you might try:
Americans in Bangkok / Brits in Bangkok / Australians in Thailand
Or any other variation. Keep experimenting with different keywords until you find a good-sized group, then join.
Once you’ve been excepted, write a message. You can offer to help people with your language, to give tours, or treat them to a beer/coffee. Expatriates are generally quite open to connecting with locals; so don’t be afraid to reach out!
This is one of my favorite websites for traveling and meeting people.
You can use Couchsurfing to find people in your city that speak the language you’re learning through a simple creative search. Couchsurfers in general travel a lot and are very open people, so it’s the perfect place to look for an exchange partner or new friend.
Simply login, search by hosts in your city. Once you arrive at the page of hosts, you will see a search filters box to the right. First make sure you check the box for ‘Wants to Meet up’ then fill in the ‘Languages Spoken’ with the language you’re learning, English, then press search (see photo).
This will show you Couchsurfers in your city who speak the language you’re learning. Like on Facebook, reach out with a nice message.
I haven’t personally tried Cambly, as it’s currently only for English learners, but I’ve talked to a couple students who love it.
Cambly allows you to instantly connect to an English tutor 24/7. This is not a free resource, but it’s economically priced and is likely cheaper than most formal English courses or private lessons.
The tutors are native speakers, but they are not certified teachers. In general, Cambly is a great resource if you are just looking to get in more conversation practice.
So check it out, it’s free to try.
There are other websites I’ve used like WeSpeke, Conversation Exchange, and Interpals, but I didn’t extrapolate on them here, as I’ve had no success finding serious practice partners there. You can learn more ways to practice speaking online here or in-person here.
Want real life fluency? Then it’s important to get creative with ways to practice your English every day. Speaking plays an essential part of this whether you plan to use your English professionally, for travel, or just for fun.
I want YOU to try at least ONE of these resources right now. Then, help other learners like yourself by commenting below about your experience. It will take just a minute, but can make a big difference for your fluency, aww yeah!