Speaking. An essential part of learning any language but not always people’s favourite to practise. If that sounds like you, then this post is your new best friend. Here’s all the speaking resources for language learning you’ll ever need.
The first step to successfully communicating in a foreign language is likely to be talking to yourself. First sign of madness, huh? Nah.
However, don’t feel that you have to completely avoid speaking with others until you’re ready. Because (and are you ready for some serious truth here?) if you tell yourself not to talk to others until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready. So get out there and speak away, amigo!
But for those moments when it’s just me, myself, and I, here’s how to make the most of speaking to yourself.
When people thing about speaking another language, they imagine a conversation with someone else. This is great, but in a conversation you’re normally only speaking for half of that time. The other half you’re listening.
This means that good speaking doesn’t really happen unless good listening is also going on.
We’re not here to talk listening today, but one of the best ways to cross-over listening to improve your speaking is shadowing. If you’ve got yourself some good quality audio, listen to it and repeat what you hear as you hear it…out loud.
And, if you’re curious about shadowing, check Alexander Arguelles’ YouTube channel for detailed videos on the technique. This example video will get you started.
Social media is a wonderful tool to help you practise speaking a foreign language, especially when it comes to video.
With more and more platforms introducing video, you’re spoilt for choice, and the decision as to which to use comes down to personal preference.
The original in my eyes that supported spontaneous language speaking practice is Snapchat. Their Story feature in particular is very useful and can be used in multiple ways for speaking. My favourite is mistake goals, but you can see other ways I’ve used Snapchat here.
The Story feature was quickly adopted by Instagram (and now Facebook). So even if you’ve heard about Snapchat and think “Another place to be online?! Really!?”, don’t worry.
The Story feature is still best for moments when you you just want to hop on and practise spontaneously, but Instagram also allows you to upload and share videos of up to 1 minute to your main profile feed too. I’ve written about how to use both Instagram and Facebook in more detail on the blog.
One thing that sharing on social media allows you to do is to record yourself speaking, which in turn gives you a place for reflection of your speaking progress.
Over the past few years of language learning, I’ve found that both documenting my language learning progress and sharing publicly to hold myself accountable are crucial to making good progress, so if I can kill two birds with one stone when I’m recording myself on social media, then awesome.
But I get that sharing on social media may not be right for you right now. No worries! You can simply record yourself at regular intervals on your phone or computer. Vocaroo is a great online tool that does this really easily for you.
This takes the pressure off of going public, but still helps you to listen back and notice any glaring errors you might spot. Of course, you’re unlikely to spot all your mistakes, and that’s fine too. If you’re working with a tutor or a native speaker, you can send the recording to them for further feedback if needed.
Once you’ve got some words and phrases in the bank, if you haven’t yet encountered others, now is the time. Speaking to other people is often the end goal for language learners, and if that’s the case for you, it’s something you want to be doing as much as possible.
Language Chat Apps
This is a great place to start, especially if you’re nervous about full-on 30 minute to 1 hour sessions with tutors or language exchange partners.
HelloTalk is primarily a text-based chat app designed specifically for language learners. The benefit for speaking is the option to send voice messages. Depending on your level, you can script these or speak spontaneously.
Check out my full HelloTalk review here.
Another similar option to HelloTalk is Tandem. When it comes to deciding which one to use, it really depends on personal preference, as both give you the option of sending voice messages.
I’ve found that generally, Tandem is good for European languages and HelloTalk is popular for Asian languages, but of course this isn’t a hard rule.
Learn more about Tandem here.
I tested a couple more language chat options when I was researching this post too. This included HelloLingo and SharedLingo.
I wasn’t a huge fan of HelloLingo from my little test. I couldn’t easily change key profile details like deleting last name after not being told on registration that this would be displayed in the chatroom.
SharedLingo has a voice chat option as well as text chat. Although I couldn’t get voice chat to work, people were willing to try Skype instead. Be careful with your last name when you join though.
Online language exchange
You’ll probably need some initial text-based understanding (reading and writing) of a language before successfully finding an online language exchange partner but once you’ve got a good thing going, you’ll be well on your way to regularly improving your spoken language skills.
Before we go deep here, let’s just clear something up: language exchange = half of your meeting time using one language and half using another. Normally one of you will be fluent in a language the other wishes to learn and vice versa.
This is different to a language study buddy in that with your study buddy, you could be learning different languages and the main purpose of meeting is to hold each other accountable.
And it’s different to a tutor because you’ve giving half the time in your own language in return. No money passes hands and you’re both happy with the other person’s time speaking their native language and helping you learn that. But in remembering that your language exchange partner isn’t your tutor, it’s also really important to remember that you can’t expect them to know everything about the details of the language. After all, could you explain that weird verb tense in your native language?
Not only is italki a great starting point to look if you’re after a tutor but it’s also a really helpful place for finding language exchange partners too.
As with all of these platforms, be firm and set expectations between you both before you commit. This helps to ensure you’re both on the same page and expecting the same level of commitment from each other to avoid disappointment.
Not as bigger choice of people as italki but WeSpeke is worth a look if audio messages are something you’re interested in but you aren’t one for apps. Another thing worth noting here is that the community shown to you is ordered by matching interests.
Other chat exchange sites
If you’ve not found much luck setting up a spoken language exchange with italki or WeSpeke, there’s plenty of other options that just allow for text exchange but could lead to a Skype/spoken language exchange once you’ve become acquainted with your partner. I signed up to lots of them a month or so before writing this post to test the best for you…
Language for Exchange – found lots for Guarani, no obvious voice chat on the site but is listed as an option, “basic user can only see messages for one week”, text only.
Language Exchange – messaged someone for Indonesian then noticed their last login was 1 year 8 months ago, when I viewed by most recent – most recent Indonesian speaker shown to me was online 1 months 2 days ago. checked about 4 weeks after signing up and had 5 messages, text only.
My Language Exchange – last login for Indonesian and Slovak speakers was same day as me for both languages, didn’t try to contact anyone, text only.
Conversation Exchange – no profile photos – just avatars, found someone straight away who speaks Guarani and is learning French, Spanish, English and Korean, lots of replies after a month but not from that Guarani speaker, text only.
Coeffee – quick login language exchange with extra features like games etc, no responses after 1 month, text only.
Babel Village – quite a new site, no Guarani speakers learning English, French, Spanish, last login for Slovak speaker 2 months ago, I had 2 messages after 1 month but both just “hi”, text only.
Real Life Speaking Practice
The internet has blessed us with access to speakers of far away languages available easily. But there’s still benefits that come with speaking in real life, such as an hour or so looking at people instead of pixels.
Meet Up is always the first place I recommend looking when it comes to real life language practice. The great thing about it is that if there’s not already a group set up where you live, then you can create your own instead. Woop!
Depending on where you live obviously depends on the number of groups you’ll get and the choice of languages, however it’s always worth a look because you might just be surprised. For example, in my relatively small city, there’s French, Spanish, German, a multilingual group, and possible Italian meeting regularly.
If Meet Up doesn’t give you what you’re looking for, then try searching on Facebook. Typing the language you want to practise plus the words “group”, “local”, “meet up”, “club” etc, in various combinations might just give you what Meet Up didn’t.
If you’re in a big city, Mundo Lingo could be an option to get speaking in the real world. It’s a growing network across the world of language exchange meet ups and I’m looking forward to trying this for the first time when we head across the pond!
If the thought of going into a room packed full of language learners is ridiculously overwhelming, consider a real-life tutor instead of (or as well as) an online one. This can often be arranged completely on your terms – prefer to meet in a cosy cafe instead of your messy living room? No worries. Don’t have a regular time each week for lessons so need someone who’s flexible? Let your tutor know and see if this is an option.
You might be surprised to find how many tutors are willing to work with you to make you feel comfortable.
If you need a place to start, try First Tutors, Tutora or Tutor Hunt in the UK and local sites elsewhere.
Travel + Language
There are a few options out there that incorporate languages and travel. Some are obvious, others are a little more hidden. Here’s a selction to get you started.
Firstly, CouchSurfing has long been recommended as a way to meet people around the world and stay for free, often in exchange for teaching a skill – in our case, language. Personally, I’ve been really unlucky with CouchSurfing in the past and so have never tried it since. However, don’t let my bad experiences be the benchmark for what could be something amazing!
GoCambio sounds AMAZING. It’s like CouchSurfing but with the actual intention of teaching someone a skill in exchange for staying with them. So if you’re worried about just “freeloading” and want to actively contribute, this could be a great option. However, at the time of writing, I was having difficulty navigating their website and couldn’t find any hosts where I was looking for.
If GoCambio doesn’t work, try MyHostpitality. This site gives you the chance to connect directly with people who are looking to host people, be guests, and also exchange. However, as is always the case with new sites like this, it’s building a community that’s tricky and it’s clear from the results after searching for different languages that this is a Spain-based company. So if you want to learn Spanish (or you’re Spanish and want to learn English!) it’s a great place, but for other languages, you might not find what you’re looking for.
Another great option for direct contribution, potentially going beyond language is Workaway. There’s various alternatives, and I’ve not tried any of them (or Workaway) myself yet, but look forward to doing so soon and have heard good things from my own mother who had a great Workaway experience. It’s a great chance to speak, speak, speak with some locals!
Finally, if you’re keen on actually getting a holiday rather than a week or two abroad filling your brain with language overload, then consider enjoying one or two local experiences given in the native language. AirBnb’s new Experiences feature is helpful, even if the searching isn’t great at this stage. Within minutes I found an art class in Shanghai in Chinese, a mosaic workshop in Paris in French and a scarf-making workshop in Barcelona in Spanish.
But beyond that, don’t be afraid to get out to local places beyond the tourist routes, such as fitness classes, where you’re likely to encounter the language and be expected to speak it with little wiggle room to revert to English like you’d get at that restaurant with the photos in the menu.
Hosting Exchange Students
If travelling to the language isn’t an option right now and crowds just ain’t your thing but you’d still like some real life lingo experience, consider becoming a host for exchange students (or consider becoming a host on any of the platforms mentioned in the last section).
If there’s one thing that’s going to improve your spoken language beyond the obvious things of practice, getting better at grammar, and increasing your vocab, it’s pronunciation.
There are a few awesome tools out there to help with this. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Rhinospike is a great tool if you have a text you’d love to hear spoken by a native. You simply submit your written text and request audio.
It’s also useful if you have audio that you’d like a transcript for. In this case, you submit audio and request a transcript. Easy!
This is a free service, so the best way for you to use it is to give one recording or transcript for every one you request. You get what you give.
If it’s single words you’re after, Forvo is your go to place.
What’s great about Forvo is that if you’re lucky you’ll get multiple pronunciation audios so you can compare different voices.
If all else fails, there’s always the slightly robotic pronunciation of Google Translate. This is one of the weaker features of the beloved language aide. That said, it’s a useful last resort to at least give you an idea of how to pronounce a new word if you’re really stuck.
How To Pronounce
How To Pronounce is a great option for hearing how single words are pronounced with multiple sources, which is good for quantity and variety but does meant hat some voices are slightly robotic.
Reddit – Jude My Accent
I’m not a Reddit user myself, but if you are and you’re feeling brave, the JudgeMyAccent thread could be a great place to post some audio/video of you speaking a language for some honest feedback. It seems pretty active and most of the feedback is quite positive and encouraging rather than just slamming people down for trying, which is always a plus. Vocaroo is the most popular way to share recordings here.
Phew. So there we go. All the speaking resources for language learning you’ll ever need. In one blog post. Yay! Bookmark this + share it with your equally-language-obsessed friends to come back to later when you need it.
What’s your favourite resource for speaking languages? Anything I missed in the blog that needed to be added, like, yesterday? Share in the comments below!