Learning a language is hard when you’re not immersed in the culture and surrounded by people who speak the language; that’s why WeSpeke hopes to connect you with fluent speakers of the language you’re trying to learn.
Using the magic of the Internet and webcams, WeSpeke allows you to chat with people who are fluent in the language you’re trying to learn. Even better, if they’re trying to learn your language, you can both switch off practicing in your two languages.
It’s painfully hard to become fluent without talking conversationally with a native speaker, making WeSpeke a real standout among language-learning services.
You can get started by heading over to their website and creating an account with your email or by linking your LinkedIn or Facebook account. It will ask you a series of questions as you get started to help give you some topics of conversation with the people you’ll be talking to.
First up is ranking your level of the language you want to learn from 1 to 5. A 1 is a complete beginner, and a 5 is near fluent; novices and experts are welcomed here. You simply enter in your native language and the one you’re trying to learn.
Next up is identifying your interests. The topics are really vague, but you’ll have a chance to expand on them later. For now, the website will ask you for your location (although it isn’t required), and what your role is. This service is meant to be used by either individuals looking to learn a language, or by teachers who are teaching a language class and want to give their students the opportunity to talk with native speakers.
In the My Interests section of the website, you will have a chance to get into more specifics about your hobbies. These will become potential conversation topics for you and your partner.
Once you’ve got your profile all set up, it’s time to dive into the real guts of this site!
A running banner on the left side has the currently trending topics on WeSpeke, which are just broad topics like World Cup 2014 or Movies. You can comment on these as in any forum and find people with interesting views who you’d like to chat with.
If this isn’t your scene, you can also try to have WeSpeke match you up with someone whose native language is the one you’re trying to learn, and vice-versa. From the homepage, you just have to press a button, and WeSpeke does the searching for you, although you can also search more specifically if you want.
When you search for people, you can either add them as a friend or shoot them a message if they’re offline. If they’re online, you can just directly request to video, audio, or text chat with them. Any request for chat you receive will appear in the upper right of your screen under the Invitations button.
When searching for people, it will show you if they’re online, busy, or offline, as well as their native language, the one they’re learning, their sex, their age, and where they’re from.
Most of the site seems to be filled with English, Spanish, and Portuguese speakers, but they support over 500 different languages. The challenge is finding someone to chat with in your language if it’s not one of the previously mentioned ones. Your best bet is to find people with similar interests and just shoot them a message to see if they’d like to set up a time to chat.
Chatting With Strangers
Once you find someone to chat with, the experience provided by WeSpeke is great. It’s not just a typical video chat; there are options for quickly translating things and topics for conversations in case you run out of things to say. While services like Duolingo are a solid alternative for learning a language in a text-based way, WeSpeke makes it conversational and spoken, and that’s why it is uniquely helpful.
In the video chat mode, you have four buttons for getting clarifications when you don’t understand what the other person is saying: write it, slow down, say again, and rephrase. There is also a translator available when you cannot understand or think of a particular word.
Text and audio chat are also available if you don’t have a webcam or aren’t completely comfortable video chatting with strangers (I don’t blame you). The text chat just has a simple translator along the bottom, but it’s incredibly useful for getting in a quick conversation with someone in another language.
Even if you talk to someone in your own language to help them practice, you’re still gaining valuable insight into another culture. WeSpeke really helps in that by facilitating interesting discussions between people from completely different parts of the world.
Get a glimpse of the WeSpeke experience in the video below:
Keeping it up
WeSpeke, like any language learning service, is only as good as the time you put into it. You need to remember to continually use the service to get the most out of it. Set alarms, reminders, or calendar events if you have to, but be sure to keep it up! Schedule lots of times to talk with many different people, and your conversational ability is bound to get better.
Plus, if you haven’t got time to sit down at your computer and use the WeSpeke website, they also have apps for Android and iOS [No longer available].
Want more ways to learn your language? Chrome has some fantastic extensions for learning a language while you browse the Web, you can also learn a language on your Kindle, and don’t forget to check out these other great language-learning apps.
Have you tried WeSpeke? What do you think of this unique take on language learning? Let us know in the comments!