One of the major issues I face as an aspiring French learner in Southern California is the simple fact that there are hardly any French speakers anywhere! Southern California is diverse, but the main demographics in Los Angeles according to the 2005-09 American Community Survey are:
- Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 47.5%
- White: 41.3% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 29.4%)
- Asian: 10.7%
- Black or African American: 9.8%
- Two or more races: 2.8%
- Native American: 0.5%
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%
- Other: 25.2%
Luckily technology provides numerous options to find French speakers, but sometimes they are not the most cost-effective. Using websites like meetup.com to find other French speakers result in limited options depending on the area you’re in. Many of the meetups require payment per session (ex: $30) which can be difficult for students in school. Another option to learn French is hiring a private French tutor and using Skype to interact. Many of the French tutors are highly qualified but their rates average around $25-$45 per hour. This is challenging as well especially for beginners who have a limited background.
That is why I was overjoyed when I found the app HelloTalk! HelloTalk is an innovative app that matches speakers from different countries with each other. For example, if I am a native English speaker that is aiming to learn French, then it will partner me up with native French speakers that want to learn English. And this all free too!
Here is a screenshot from my iPhone showing how you can find numerous speaking partners online. FR and EN identify what languages the person speaks, so French and English respectively. The bars next to the language identify the level of their speaking abilities. The higher the levels, the more proficient they are at that language.
Once you have chosen the person you want to speak with, then you can send them a text message! After they have responded and started conversing with you, then you can invite them to become a Language Partner. If they accept, then you can take advantage of the other functions that HelloTalk has.
For example, if you are typing French, they can make corrections to the grammar and punctuation. I also do this when they speak in English. That way you can see what grammar concepts you need to work on. HelloTalk can even translate a sentence from English to whatever language you prefer. You can also record your voice using the microphone button so the person can critique your speaking skills.
In all, HelloTalk is a free way to talk to with native speakers from all over the world! It also allows you to learn slang words and the culture of other countries, which some other language apps cannot provide. If you are interested in improving your speaking skills, this is the app for you!