HelloTalk: How to Learn a Language for Free

While I like to brag about being conversationally fluent in Chinese, the honest truth is that I’ve been lazy. In the last two years I’ve barely learned any new words and my writing is actually horrible. I just started my new job in Beijing, and after two weeks of trying to negotiate electricity bills, set up my internet and keep up with coworker chat during lunch, I found myself admitting: I need Chinese lessons.

HelloTalk the free language learning app

PIN me!

The only problem? I’m broke and I have no time for real Chinese classes. I could find a language partner, but at the end of the day, all I really want to do just go back to my apartment and lounge on my comfy blue couch.

While I live in Beijing and language-learning opportunities are all around me, not everyone is so lucky. How do you work on your language skills when you’re back home? How do you practice for an upcoming trip? How do you improve when you’re too broke for a real class or Rosetta Stone?

Allow me to introduce HelloTalk


What is HelloTalk?

HelloTalk is a FREE mobile social app that helps you practice a language with native speakers. Through the app you can text or call language buddies who will chat with you and help you learn. In turn, you can help other people who want to practice their English (or whatever other language you speak). HelloTalk is all the fun of a language partner, without actually having to find and meet one. Better yet, I can do it right from my comfy blue couch.

HelloTalk contains over 1 million users that speak 100 different languages! It can help connect you with language partners near you, or let you search by country or city. People can reach out to you for help learning English, and in turn, you can reach out to others.

Through HelloTalk, you can talk on the phone for free through their app using wifi, or you can text! They even have amazing talk to text abilities, that will translate your oral English into text in the language of your choice. You can also listen to standard pronunciation of every text you send and receive and compare it to your own pronunciation to make sure you’re saying things right. This is especially helpful for those learning a language like Chinese that doesn’t have an alphabet.

Finally, HelloTalk lets your language learning partner easily correct your grammar, helping you learn in a more natural way than an automated app.

Still confused? Here’s a video!

Overall, HelloTalk is very similar to WhatsApp or WeChat, if you’re familiar with the Chinese texting app. It allows you to send voice chats, cool emojis and even draw pictures with your finger like Snapchat! Like WeChat, you can also “long press” on a chat and translate it into English. But HelloTalk takes this one step further and even lets you translate Chinese characters into pinyin.

Main Benefits of HelloTalk

I’ve tried a lot of different language learning apps to help me practice my Chinese. To be honest, most of them are actually horrible. I’ve even had a few different companies ask me to work with them and after a quick test, I turn them all down. Thankfully, HelloTalk was a pleasant surprise!

Here’s some of the main benefits:

1. Practice a language without feeling embarrassed 

Sometimes I feel embarrassed or awkward when I try to practice Chinese with my coworkers. Their English is better than my Chinese, so it’s easier to just speak in English! I need someone patient who actually wants to spend the time teaching me, but I don’t have the money for a teacher. With HelloTalk, I can practice my Chinese with people who are also learning English. Since we’re both on the app for the purpose of learning a language, there’s no need to feel embarrassed.

2. Find a language partner in your city

I keep hearing that Tinder is great for finding local friends in your city. Well you know what? Maybe I don’t want to deal with the implied “romantic” aspect of Tinder and I just want to get right to the language learning. While I haven’t used HelloTalk to find a language partner in Beijing yet, I plan on doing this once I’m a little more settled in.

This opinion is also great if you want to try to find a language partner in your home country. For example, if you want to practice your Chinese in America, you can use the app to find an expat or international student who wants to improve their English!

3. Keep up with your language at home

I really wish I had this app for the year after I returned home from studying abroad in China. It would’ve been great for practicing my Chinese back in DC, AND I could’ve asked my language partner friends for help on my business Chinese homework. Double win.

I’m not the only person who’s obsessed with this new app. Ben from Fluent in 3 Months actually did his own review on HelloTalk last December, and he even made a video on how to use it to learn Chinese!

What about the creepers?

Being a girl, of course my immediate thought is: how do I fend off the creepers who want to “practice their English” aka practice hitting on girls in English. It’s unfortunate that us girls have to worry about stuff like this, but it’s an important thing to address.

Thankfully, HelloTalk includes a “hide from search” function, meaning random people can’t message you unless you want them too. Better yet, the app has a privacy filter function similar to Tinder, in that you can limit those who contact you to a certain gender, age range or location!

You can also decide whether or not to display your age, gender, and your online status, and you can block all incoming calls. Finally, worst-case scenario you can even blacklist other users who bother you.

HelloTalk privacy

Let’s Get Started!

Honestly, I can’t wait to keep playing around with HelloTalk and hopefully find a language partner once I’m a little more settled. I’m looking forward to practicing my reading and writing (which is my biggest struggle), and hopefully I’ll make some Chinese friends outside the office!

Want to download HelloTalk? They have free versions for both IOS and Android

Big thank you to HelloTalk for bringing you this article. I had never even heard of the app until they reached out to me, and it’s now my new favorite toy! 



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

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