We Recommend CUCAS For BLCU Students --- Free Applications For 2014-15

HelloTalk Chinese Language Exchange App (iOS/Android)

In this post, The BLCU Blog takes a look at the Chinese language exchange app HelloTalk, available on both iOS and Android platforms. After spending some time with it, we are confident in recommending it to anyone studying Chinese at the Beijing Language and Culture University, or anywhere else for that matter. The app offers almost all the benefits of a Chinese language partner from the comfort of your own home (or home country), and caters to different levels of learners from beginner to advanced.

Let's be clear, this is a free service and so there's no reason not to at least check it out. All the Chinese students you can find on it are simply wishing to practice their English (or other language) with a native speaker, giving you the chance to do the same with your Mandarin or Cantonese. Don't confuse this with a paid teaching platform.

Finally, don't forget to check out The BLCU Blog's exclusive Q&A with one of HelloTalk's main developers at the end of the post.

To get a general overview of how the app looks, feels and functions, take a few minutes to watch HelloTalk's official video:

There are a few things that really strike me about this app:

  1. Ease-of-use: HelloTalk is designed in a way conducive to a very friendly user experience. Almost every part of the interface is intuitive to use and easy to navigate. The actual conversation exchange, whether in text or audio, is also straightforward and effective. It is clear that the team have spent a lot of time testing and perfecting the app in these areas, and it's paid off.
  2. Filling a gap in the market: There is certainly demand among smartphone and tablet users on platforms such as iOS and Android for an app like this. To date, I have not seen another app nail the concept of a Chinese language exchange as well as HelloTalk does. Because of this, as word spreads and updates continue to roll out from the developer team to further improve the user experience, HelloTalk is bound to become a household name among serious and casual learners of the Chinese language alike.
  3. Free service: HelloTalk as a concept and in its execution is actually so good (even in these early stages) that it could easily operate as a paid service on a subscription or other basis. The fact that it is entirely free to use makes it a must-have. In the way that LinkedIn connects businesses, HelloTalk is connecting Chinese language learners to native speakers, and vice versa. Unlike other China-based social apps (Weibo and so on) where it's possible to find language partners, with HelloTalk everyone using it is there for that reason alone, and so it is much easier to instantly connect and get talking -- because both parties are online with the sole purpose of language exchange.

Some of the benefits of HelloTalk, according to its website, include the ability to: "Find native speakers of the language you are learning locally or worldwide; Help each other learn foreign language through text and voice language exchange; Share photos with your language partner about your life and home country culture; Practice constantly and you will be amazed that language learning can be fun!"

Talking to The BLCU Blog, one of HelloTalk's head developers was excited to announce a new update coming to both platforms in the very near future: "We just submitted a new major update to iOS (Android maybe in 10 days), which has many new features. Major functions include: transcribing your language partner's voice message into text; sending a voice message with text to your language partner to help them learn; message read statuses; horizontal mode for chat input, and more." You can scroll to the bottom to see some screenshots from the new update.

Finally, here is the exclusive Q&A with a developer from the HelloTalk team:

Why did you decide to make this app?

HelloTalk is made by a group of language enthusiasts, so it's basically an app out of our own need to find language exchange partners. The founder lived in Korea before where he had received language exchange help from volunteers of a language exchange cafe. Practicing a language with native speakers had been such an amazing help to language learning that the HelloTalk Team wanted to bring this to language learners worldwide.

What has the response been to the app?

Response so far has been great. The app has 4.2 (out of 5) average ratings on the Apple App store and Google Play. For people who can find suitable language partners (usually 3-5 is enough), they are delighted to be able to learn not only language but culture from real native speakers. The app currently supports learning and language exchange among 80+ languages. Most popular languages have more than 5,000 active native speakers and learners using HelloTalk weekly.

How do you see it growing/changing in the future?

HelloTalk developers are focusing on adding features users need most at the moment. A new version coming in about ten days will add voice to text, filter users by timezone/my turn to reply/native language functions. Other features such as being able to learn multiple languages and groups are next in line to be developed. The focus in the next six months is just to add more features for language learning, and let the app grows organically through word of mouth.

Are you working on any other projects?

Currently, we are only focusing on making a single app: HelloTalk.

Do you have any connections with BLCU?

Originally HelloTalk was only conceived to start with English/Chinese language exchange and learning. The founders originally intended to set up the HelloTalk project right within the BLCU campus, and had interviewed students and graduates of BLCU (including some who worked in Confucius Institute overseas).

Eventually HelloTalk was launched one and a half years ago with ten language pairs. With so much pollution and traffic problem in Beijing, the intention to be based in Beijing was scraped lol...

Do you offer some premium features for a fee?

HelloTalk offers a very convenient way for users to translate, transliterate, and transcribe (voice to text) messages instantly within the app. Users can mark all these as favourites for review and learning later in flashcard style.

Courtesy free translation, transliteration, and transcription is available 20 times total per day, which is basically the amount 90% of HelloTalk app users will not go over. For those who would like to have no limits, they can pay for unlimited service at US$0.99 a month or US$9.99 a year.

Any final comments?

HelloTalk is an app made by and for serious language learners. Naturally for any app that connects with strangers based on a common interest, it's easy for people to use it as a dating app etc. HelloTalk developers have put a lot of efforts and measures in place in order to maintain a true language learning environment.

We strongly encourage serious language learners to try out our app, and help us spread the word about HelloTalk to similarly avid language learners worldwide.

For those interested, you can find HelloTalk on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android):


  1. speaking is important as writing. But for a non native speaker, if you'll stick yourself on the rule to communicate with native speaker, you'll find in disappointing and frustrating.

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  2. I agree with the tip of not trying too hard to imitate the way of speaking. Aside from it's annoying, I think it will just blow their chances. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Nice. This app is also very fun and interesting: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lingovideocast.mandarindefense

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  5. I'm practicing my target language every day using this HelloTalk app and it's awesome. You can get a free membership from them by texting "M3L" to HelloTalk Team. They'll send you a gift card.

    Anyway, great review! Thank you for sharing! :-)