I have always been an advocate of learning languages. There’s just something about being able to communicate in a foreign tongue. Personally, it makes me feel awesome to be speaking in a language I didn’t grow up using. I grew up in a trilingual household. Well, make it bilingual with a dash of the third language. And so, learning languages wasn’t foreign to me. I would even copy different accents when watching foreign movies.

We all have different reasons why we want to learn a new language. Some want to advance in their careers while others want to make friends from around the world. Others simply enjoy learning languages as a hobby. As for me, I love learning languages because I love to travel. I want to be able to communicate with the people of the country I am visiting. I actually brushed up on my Spanish, French, and Italian (just the basics) before my Eurotrip. I also took a crash course in Japanese and Korean before my Asia trip. And I’ve never regretted learning basic phrases, even just to ask how to go to the toilet. My language stock knowledge has always helped me, even getting me out of a sticky situation in Rome (when this man near the Pantheon held my hand and asked me to smell his perfume).

In this digital age, there are many ways on how you can learn a language and practice using it, even without traveling to the country of the language you are learning. There are a multitude of Youtube tutorial videos, podcasts, and apps that all aim to help the language learner. My favorites include the Michel Thomas courses (still the best for me in language learning), Duolingo, Mindsnacks, italki, and Busuu. And the latest addition to my arsenal of language learning tools is HelloPal.

What is HelloPal?

HelloPal is a social language learning app which connects you to other language learners from all parts of the globe. You don’t even have to get out of your seat to start conversing with someone who lives all the way in Korea or Spain. All it takes is a few clicks to set-up and confirm your account, and voila! You are ready to start conversing with people who speak your target language. Think of it as a language exchange. You help someone learn your language (i.e. English) and your new friend helps you learn their language (i.e. Japanese).

How to Use HelloPal

I’ve been tinkering with this app for sometime now and I find it very easy to use. I set it up using my email and after inputting bits of information about myself, I was ready to chat with the world. The interface is very similar to any chat or messaging app, making it easy to use. It even comes with emoticons, for those times when you can’t find the words to say.

Adding chats is very easy. You just click the green “Add Chat” button on the Chats tab and it will show you a mini search engine which you can customize with the available filters. For example, since I indicated in my profile that I am learning Korean and Spanish, I set the search filter to show users who speak Spanish and Korean, and who are learning English (which is the language I can teach them). I can also further customize their location and nationality but I chose to just leave this in the default choice which is “Any”. I did filter the age group as I wanted to talk with people who are in the same age range as I am. That way, we will have more in common to talk about.

After I click “Ok”, the list of users fitting the search filters I set appears. I can choose from this list who I want to contact and I can check out their profile first before sending them a message. For me, it’s important that I check out the person’s profile first. They may indicate additional preferences in their profile as to who they want to talk to. I took the following screenshots of my HelloPal app, showing how to look for people to talk to and the list of users that was displayed after I entered my search filters.

People whom I’ve contacted and who have responded to me are displayed in the Chats tab. Chats from people don’t automatically appear in this tab. Instead, they are listed in the New Chats screen which you can access by clicking on “New Chats”. This appears at the very top of the Chats tab and all of those who have contacted you, but you haven’t responded to, appear here. You have the option to reply to the person or ignore them using the “Ignore User” button. If you choose to ignore the person, their message disappears from the New Chats list. If you respond to the person, their message is transferred from the New Chats list to the main Chats screen. The screenshots below show the Chats screen. The one on the left is the main screen while the one on the right is the list of New Chats.

The best thing about HelloPal is that it comes with phrasebooks and translators. With the conventional messaging apps, you have to exit the app and go over to Google Translate in order to get the translation of the message your new friend just sent and to translate what you want to reply in his language. That’s a lot of hassle and the phrasebooks and translator within HelloPal eliminates that. This makes your conversation flow smoother and more quickly.

Another feature of the app that I like is the audio message feature. This allows you to record messages and send it to your new friend through the app. Just press and hold the record button and record your message. You can play it back to hear if it’s good enough to send before you send it. This comes in very handy when you want to practice speaking in your target language but you and your friend don’t have the time to engage in a voice call. Your friend can then help you correct your pronunciation by replying with an audio message.

Before I end my review, here is a word of caution. Like with any other messaging app that connects you to lots of people (in this case, the world), this app also has users which may have intentions other than language learning and making friends. Now, don’t let this take away the fun from genuinely learning languages because there are people on HelloPal who are awesomesauce (like my new friend Hyeon-Jun oppa who is very patient in teaching me Korean) and would genuinely help you learn their language. You can choose to ignore people you don’t want to talk to and you won’t be bothered by them anymore.

It’s up to you if you want to entertain them or if you will stick to your language learning goals. Another thing I’d like to note is that there are people who would ask you to take the conversation outside of the app and use other messaging apps instead. Again, this is up to you. But if I were you, I’d stick to using HelloPal and take advantage of the translator and phrasebook. Lastly, be careful about the information you give out to the people you get to chat with. You can still have fun while at the same time being safe.

HelloPal is a great app for language learning and for making new friends from different parts of the world. It makes language learning fun because you are learning while socializing. It throws you right into the action of using the language in communicating with someone whom you are interested to get to know. You don’t even have to be at a conversational level in your target language to have fun. I’m not even at a conversational level with Korean and yet I can communicate with my newly found Korean friends because of this app. I’m lucky that I found people who are very patient with my pronunciations and wrong spellings. And I’m excited to meet them someday when I visit Korea again.

So before you go on a trip (or even if you aren’t going anywhere), check out HelloPal. You may just find your newest bestfriend or a kindred spirit there.

Have you downloaded HelloPal? Share your experience in the comments section below. If you have any suggestions on how to improve the app and the user experience, share it as well. Let’s all help the devs make this app better!

Meet the world and learn a new language with HelloPal, a social language learning app. |www.kristinecamins.com

Meet the world and learn a new language with HelloPal, a social language learning app. |www.kristinecamins.com

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