It has been a very long time since an app grabbed me and has been so addictive. The last time something like that happened was with Facebook back in 2007/2008, the early days before smartphones took over.

Enter stage left, HelloTalk.

First and foremost, HelloTalk is a language-exchange app. It is an app where it seemingly takes the best of services such as, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google Translate, and beautifully combines them into a single platform where you can meet and talk with other language learners. In a recent blog post, I stated that this year was going to be the year that I knuckled down and got more serious about learning Spanish. This app has been instrumental into me kickstarting my journey in working towards that goal and I am sure it will continue to be a close companion of mine.

Why is the app so good?

I strongly believe that the app has captured my attention because of the people that I have had conversations with. The app has millions of users, which made me wonder why I had never heard of it before. Then again, if you are not looking for something you won’t find it, right? By breaking down the core elements of the app, we are left with four key features:

1. HelloTalk

This is the instant messaging element of the app. Once up and running and using the app for a few days, this is where the bulk of my usage has been. Similar to other instant messaging apps, there are options to message people and create group chats. Additionally, there is built-in functionality with the translator and to make voice and video calls (although the latter is a premium feature). I have used the calling feature whenever possible because it helps to develop your confidence in the language that you are learning whilst getting to know people as well. Win, win. There are of course other common features such as sending:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Voice notes (up to a minute)
  • Stickers
  • Doodles

It gets better too. Long pressing any message not just in HelloTalk but on moments too, provides some handy controls:

  • Correct messages
  • Translate what was sent
  • Favourite a message
  • Copy
  • Audio
  • Transliterate

It’s pretty amazing what this app can do.

2. Moments

Moments are a collection of status updates. These are comprised of four different tabs:

  • Default – These are made up of native speakers of your target language who are wanting to learn your native language. For example it could be native Spanish speakers who post updates in Spanish or English.
  • Following – These are made up of people/friends that you are following. This is nice because it means that you don’t miss their updates.
  • Learn – Here, you will only find moments in the target language that you are learning (for example, if that happens to be Spanish, you will only see Spanish updates)
  • Classmates – These are moments from people who speak your native language but are also learning the same language as you.

3. Search

This is a particularly handy feature because you are able to search by a number of different filters. By default, the search is set to Best Match, but it is not entirely clear what that means. Does best match mean in terms of learning abilities? Distance? Either way, I have had some interesting conversations with a variety of people!

4. Profile

In a similar sense to a profile on other social media channels, this is your voice to the world. There is an option to add a self-introduction to help those that come across your profile to understand a bit more about you, what you like, what language you are learning and so on. You can even add an audio clip to go with your introduction!

There is also the option to view moments that you’ve previously posted, view favourited messages, change your language and much more.

In closing

There are some improvements that could be made within the app such as, better design consistency, but overall, my experience has been very positive so far. I feel that my Spanish has improved and I have made some great friends along the way. You just never know who you may meet and what you may have in common which is fun.

We all have stories to share and this app is a great example of breaking down language barriers, helping us to learn and interconnecting the world.