Most of us have studied at least one foreign language in school. We studied vocabulary, sentence structures, formal and casual expressions, etc. This allows us to read and write in that language.Not as much emphasis is placed on speaking the language in school classrooms, however. And students who plan to travel to a foreign country, to study abroad, or to look for a career with a foreign-based company, must learn to speak the language in as close a manner as a native.
So how is this accomplished?
By learning to converse or to get tutoring help from a native of the language, of course.
Enter tech platforms – apps and/or websites that provide practice for speech fluency in foreign languages. Here are five that have proved to be highly effective.
This is perhaps the most popular language apps out there. To date, there are about 18 million users. This is commonly referred to as a language exchange app and operates much like a dating service. The app is downloaded, and the user will be asked to set up a profile. From this profile, a “match” is selected – someone who shares the same interests and who is also a native of the target language. From there, the two “partners” can exchange conversations, by audio or video. The basic subscription is free, but for the more enhanced features, the premium subscription is better.
Find a language partner on this site – one who wants to learn your language while you learn theirs. This is close to Hello Talk in that you are looking for a “match” based upon the criteria you set up and the profile you create. The additional option is to find a native language tutor on the italki site. This is an individual who is already fluent in your native language but who will ensure that you will learn how to speak your target language fluently.
- The Mixxer
A lot of language exchanges are via audio. But video chatting is really ideal, as the two learners and see facial expressions and other non-verbal cues, as expressions are absorbed and then practiced. The Mixxer requires users to connect with their partners via Skype, and it’s free to use. The one important note here is that students who sign up for this exchange understand that the site does not vet its users, so there is a slight risk of getting someone who is not all that “professional.”
Here is a platform for one-on-one language tutoring. While language exchanges are great, because they pair two individuals of similar interests and usually ages, there are some drawbacks. Pairing up with another can be “hit and miss,” and may be involved “trial and error.” This can be frustrating and slow down your progress. Hiring a native-speaking tutor, on the other hand, forms a contractual relationship with greater stability. Tutors are professionals with experience who can help you learn all facets of a foreign language, including speaking proficiency.
This website is a great find for mastering vocabulary and speaking in context. While students of a foreign language can find watching an entire movie or even a television show laborious, they can be motivated to view small snippets of media. FluentU has a full library from which to choose cartoons, short news snippets, commercials, etc. turned into language lessons. Students thus learn the language in a real-world context and hear native pronunciations. Because the videos are all downloadable, students can access them offline, or use their smartphones on the go.
Why Tech Platforms are So Beneficial
There are many reasons for individuals to learn a foreign language – personal and professional. It allows them to navigate within a country, perhaps even establish business connections much more effectively. But one word of caution here: Fluency does not make someone a translator of important documents – student transcripts or legal documents, for example. For these, professional services are needed, and they are available online too. Check out The Word Point reviews when you need professional translations.
Students are busy people. If some of their foreign language learning can occur as they are able to catch small amounts of time, especially on their mobile devices, they can work toward speech mastery. And these five platforms allow such practice to occur in real-world environments that are also safe. What’s more, conversing with natives cannot be replaced by classroom instruction from a non-native.
Take advantage of what the 21st century has provided – the ability to communicate with others all over the planet and to learn from them, wherever you are.