HelloTalk

HelloTalk

Difficulty: ☠ ☠

Rating:  ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

HelloTalk is an app which lets you chat directly with native speakers of whatever language you want to learn. The translate tools are surprisingly useful having both translate and transpose in case you still want to attempt the Japanese but are stuck on the kanji.

Much like Lang8, HelloTalk allows users to correct each others’ messages line for line, though it can be a touch glitchy.

If you are a basic member you will have a daily translate limit, but that disappears if you become premium. On top of this, they have recently added a section similar to twitter where you can write posts which will be shown by everyone who speaks the language you want to learn. This is a far more effective method for finding people than the original search feature and also lets you have some casual chats with strangers.

With the ability to chat, leave messages, leave audio messages, send pictures, and audio call each other, it is an app with many useful tools. I cannot speak for the English community, but almost everyone I have met on that app so far has been helpful and fun to talk to. I will leave a slight warning though NOT to talk to anyone who says hi but isn’t from the language you have selected as what you are interested in. They pop up from time to time somehow and in my case at least, have almost always ended badly making me think they are probably troll accounts.

My main complaint about the app would have to be the way chat history is saved. Instead of saving your chat history to a cloud network such as what facebook messenger would do, it instead saves your chats directly to your device. This is a bad idea for two reasons.

1) this means that you can only be logged in to one device at a time, which is hard for people like me who use their phones for notifications and tablet for messaging. It also means that if you are not near your commonly used device, you cannot simply switch over to continue your conversation as your past messages are only on one device

2) It fills up your device’s memory after a while!

Lang-8

Lang-8

Difficulty:  ☠ ☠

Rating:  ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

This is another one of those simple concepts that are well executed! The basic concept is that you sign up choosing the language you speak, and the language you want to learn. You then write out essays anywhere from a sentence to a couple of pages in the language you want to learn and native speakers will edit and comment on it. The more essays you edit, the higher your rank, the more likely your essay is to show on other peoples’ home pages.

This concept of give and take keeps the community pretty active, and it’s also very easy to end up editing for people from countries aside from Japan. I’ve gotten to talk with Russians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Dutch, Mexican, Brazillian, and more and I have to admit I found it quite addicting for a while.

The two qualms that eventually turned me away from the site were a) it was a little too slow for my liking as you write a long text, and someone edits it, and b) the site DOES crash from time to time. Thankfully one of my friends on the site eventually led me to a new app that I still use to this day which will be reviewed next!

Kakehashi Japan

Kakehashi Japan

Difficulty:  ☠

Rating:  ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

This one is a tricky one to give on accurate rating on as it’s not so much a learning site as much as a resource tutors can use to teach other people.

The concept is simple: Tutors in Japan set what times they have available to teach students Japanese, and people wanting to learn Japanese book those time slots for themselves. Then when the allotted time comes, you both do a lesson over skype video chat, and your payment for the lesson gets transferred over the site.

I will confess I have only done the one free lesson that comes with the account, but it was a VERY pleasant experience that I wish was more in my budget zone! Lessons are about $26 per lesson, so the price adds up quickly!

The site itself lets you see the tutors’ profiles, schedule, focuses, as well as reviews from past students. This lets you get a good idea if you both would be a good match or not, and I can say (at least in my case) I had a very friendly tutor!

Japanesepod101

Japanesepod101

Difficulty:  ☠ –  ☠ ☠ ☠ ☠ ☠

Rating:  ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

I have been with Japanesepod101.com for about 2-3 years now and have had basic and premium membership both. I am going to state my one qualm with the site up front so we can get it over with…. you are going to get a TON of e-mails from these guys and they will seem very spammy… but if you can get passed that it’s worth it!

Japanesepod101 has been going for quite a few years now and as such it has a TON of videos and podcasts for various levels of Japanese proficiency. I mean a TON! I have been here 3 years and I’m still not done! (though I have relistened to a ton as well… If you are unsure about joining, I suggest checking out their channel on youtube which they have been getting a lot better at keeping updated as of late. My favourite lessons are still the original ones with Peter and his team as I really found the three of them had the most natural chemistry, but their new host Risa is also equally enjoyable to listen to.

They have a variety of lessons, from grammar, to writing, to Japanese culture, and my favourite part is that they tend to have fun with it. There are times when acting seems forced or such, but there is rarely a time when you can’t tell the actors are enjoyably bouncing off of each other!

Their top level membership will let you have access to a teacher who will give you weekly assignments, and while that in itself is a fairly nice concept, I would appreciate it if it was more a tutor relationship where you felt more open to discuss issues and questions vs simply “Do the assignment. Okay here’s what was wrong” Because of this I can’t QUITE suggest the premium plus membership unless you have the time or desire to do more assignments, but anything below that is more than worth the annual fee!