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Buntaro

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There are people out there who are interested in finding online language exchanges, but the process can be quite daunting. I thought it would be fun to start a thread on the subject. Does anyone know good webpages or apps to do online language exchanges on? Is anyone willing to share their experiences doing online language exchanges?
 

Buntaro

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I have done some research and it seems the most popular app for language exchanges is HelloTalk so I want to take a closer look at it. (Apparently, HelloTalk has millions of members.) Has anyone used this app?
 

mdchachi

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I've also heard HelloTalk mentioned a lot. I've also heard of apps/sites called Tandem, iTalki and Asao. I haven't tried any of them myself.
 
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First, thanks a lot for the initiative, it could help people a lot, me as well

As you asked about experience, I don't have as I'm real noob for these things, even forums I started very late, BUT, places I've heard about are the same, Discord and Hellotalk. Duolingo too but it seems to have different methods

I use Discord but I haven't looked for language exchanges there yet, in fact I was about to do it a little b4 this topic got frequent in some threads in this forum, so if I have any luck I could update here

And Hellotalk I'm very new to it so I don't know much yet. Despite it having a lot behind paywall, it has a very bright side that is some video meetings, I dont know how they work, and, as my Japanese level is beginner and I have no idea what they were talking about, I avoided going again for a while as many people in general don't like silent people in meetings, so I get a little unconfortable in participating for now.
Anyway I still intend to do it more often though, Im getting familiar with it yet
 

Buntaro

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I took the step, downloaded the HelloTalk app, and signed up for an account. I thought I'd share some of my first impressions.

First (I may have mentioned this elsewhere) is that HelloTalk is only for cellphones (and tablets?) meaning it cannot be used on a Windows computer.

The app allows for text messaging, voice messages, 'phone call' voice conferencing, and 'face-to-face' video conferencing.

It also seems to have a feature where we can set up 'rooms' where members of the room can congregate (although I haven't used this feature).

I first established my account, then had the opportunity to set up my profile, where I can list my interests, etc., so like-minded people can contact me to discuss common interests.

The app has free areas and paid areas, but I haven't done a lot to distinguish the two. It seems the app is for free language exchange, but also has areas where we can get Japanese lessons (for a fee). It seems there are also 'professional' people I can chat with for a fee.

The app has a search function, where I can search for people in my time zone. I can also do a search and specify age, languages, skill, nationality, city, etc.

I can type something in English, tap a button, and it will translate it into Japanese. Of course, this automatic translating is not super good and I would rather type directly in Japanese, but I haven't figured out how to do this yet. (I bought my iPhone in America, so I don't think my iPhone has Japanese-typing ability already built in.)

One of the benefits of sending text messages is that the other person doesn't have to be online at the same time, eliminating the big problem of time-zone differences. But I get the impression that most most people send and receive text messages and get responses right away.

I was hoping to jump right into a one-on-one video chat right away, but I guess it doesn't usually work that way. It seems people want to get to know each other first, via text, before moving up to one-on-one video chatting. (I never thought about it before, but this sounds like a good idea.)
 

musicisgood

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Buntaro

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Sadly, there are a lot of creepy people out there who try to use online exchange apps selfishly. In this video, from 3:18 and 5:17, a woman tells how she has received numerous unwanted posts from men trying to start a romance with her. She says it has gotten so bad she doesn't use the one-on-one feature any more, she only uses the Moments feature (which is similar to posting info and photos on Facebook). For any men out there, they have to put it first in their mind that this is a language exchange app, not a dating app, that Japanese women are very sensitive about this, and will quickly drop contact with any man who says anything of a dating nature.

In another video I heard about people who will say in their first post to someone, "Let's be friends!!"(Some people can be really clingy.) I also heard another story where a man started a 'friendship' with a woman on one of these online exchange apps, contacted another person in the woman's city, and had that person drop off a present for the woman at the woman's workplace. Then there is the problem of people who are very pushy and only want to learn English. Some people will say, "I want you to teach English to my son." I have heard of people who post lists of vocabulary and ask the English speaker to transfer all of the vocabulary words into the target language. Other people only ask for help with their English homework. (I actually had this happen to me many years ago at an in-person Japanese-English language and cultural activity in Tokyo.) The way to solve this is, from the very beginning of a one-on-one, lay down the rule that you help me with my Japanese for 20 minutes, then I will help you with your English for 20 minutes.

We just have to watch for these people, quickly Ignore them, and only have exchanges with good, helpful people.

 
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Haruto Uzumaki

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First (I may have mentioned this elsewhere) is that HelloTalk is only for cellphones (and tablets?) meaning it cannot be used on a Windows computer.
It seems you can actually use HelloTalk on the web as well, with "HelloTalk Web", but you have to create an account through the app first. Once you create an account, you can scan the barcode on the HelloTalk Web page, and it will sign you in on any modern browser, regardless of the device you're on :) As for if the features are limited when using the web version, I can't answer that yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case! Anyway, it's useful to know that you can always respond if you're doing work on your computer, and have a tab open to reply to people on there, or even better, have a dictionary or some learning tool for Japanese open while you use HelloTalk.
Other people only ask for help with their English homework. (I actually had this happen to me many years ago at an in-person Japanese-English language and cultural activity in Tokyo.) The way to solve this is, from the very beginning of a one-on-one, lay down the rule that you help me with my Japanese for 20 minutes, then I will help you with your English for 20 minutes.
I forgot to mention, I actually did do a language exchange last week... except it wasn't exactly an *exchange* 😅 I created a laid out English lesson for one of my friends on Discord who was struggling with prepositions in English, though he could understand English perfectly fine. He just didn't understand when to use things like "at, in, over, under" etc. so I made a deeply thought out lesson for him, but... well, I got carried away and the lesson lasted over 30 minutes, and I didn't expect him to give me any Japanese lesson in return (I just couldn't bring myself to be a bother like that) so I didn't mention it 😅 oh well! At least I helped him!
 

Buntaro

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Here is a very long video (55 min) video about HelloTalk. In this is video we can watch on screen as this guy goes through the entire process of signing up on HelloTalk and exchanging text messages. He signs up, exchanges a few texts with a Japanese person, corrects a Japanese person's mistakes, a Japanese person corrects his mistake, he puts stuff in Moments (similar to Facebook), talks about being a VIP (paying) member vs. a free (non-paying) member, etc.

 

Buntaro

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Once you create an account, you can scan the barcode on the HelloTalk Web page, and it will sign you in on any modern browser, regardless of the device you're on

I looked on the webpage but I didn't see any barcode. Can you walk us through how to find it and use it?
 

Haruto Uzumaki

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I looked on the webpage but I didn't see any barcode. Can you walk us through how to find it and use it?
first, you go here to the above website, where you'll be greeted with a page similar to this:
1668987471272.png

once you pull out your phone, follow the steps provided in the image (go to the language talk/hello talk tab, tap the button in the corner, and tap "scan QR code". At that point you should be automatically signed into HelloTalk on your browser, but I haven't tried it myself to know if there's anything else that needs to be done. It should be more or less simple :D
 

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Discord is the name of an app I have seen mentioned a few times on this forum. It is a platform that some people use to do laguage exchanges, so I thought it would be good to take a look at it.

Discord originally started as a platform for gamers to meet online and play games. But over time the features that Discord offers have expanded, to where even activities such as language exchange as now possible on the platform, where non-gamers as well as gamers can "build their own community".

One of the interesting features of Discord is that we can set up our own "server" and use it to host activities for members of that server. When people talk about Discord they sometimes talk about being on this server or that server, and this is what they mean.

One of the nice things about Discord is that it can be used on a Windows, Macintosh, and even Linux, so that it does not have the cellphone-only limitation that other apps have. You can download it or just access it from a browser, making it accessible for just about everyone.

The video below was made by someone who is an educator, and he talks about how educators can set it up to where it is used by teachers and students in an educational setting. (This video was created mainly to show teachers at a particular school how to set up Discord to be used by students in their classrooms.) The video even shows us how Discord has things like two-factor identification for log-in.

Discord consists of three parts; servers, categories, and channels. Servers are communities created by users, categories are different areas within a community, and channels are places where people can meet and have specific conversations. The rest of the video deals with the technical details of how to set up a server, a community, create a text-message channel, set up a video-meet, etc.

When we create a server, we can create within it channels, including private channels, where only people we invite can access them. This is important in that students at a regular school can create their own servers and channels and invite people in to discuss topics about their classes. Think of a server as a Google drive, think of a category as a folder on a Google drive, and a channels as a doc within a folder.

In the video, the man creates a server at 3:55 and then starts setting everything up. At 4:55 we see how we can set up text channels and video meets (both of which can be used for language exchanges). At 8:34 we can hear about building a 'community'.

 

Buntaro

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first, you go here to the above website, where you'll be greeted with a page similar to this:
View attachment 91282
once you pull out your phone, follow the steps provided in the image (go to the language talk/hello talk tab, tap the button in the corner, and tap "scan QR code". At that point you should be automatically signed into HelloTalk on your browser, but I haven't tried it myself to know if there's anything else that needs to be done. It should be more or less simple :D

I tried to do this, but all I get is an error message on my phone that says

{"status':1, "message":"bad req"}

on my phone. If anyone know how to get past this error message, please share.
 

Buntaro

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Here are a couple of videos on how to long onto Discord. The first video is on how to log on via cellphone and the second video is how to log on via a Windows, Mac, or Linux browser.





 

Buntaro

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It's time to look at one specific server/community on Discord. Here is a video by a YouTuber named Taka, who has his own server/community on Discord called Taka University. This is a good video to take a look at because we can watch as Taka enters a 'room' that aleardy has several people in it. He enters the room at 7:47, says hi to everyone, then starts a discussion with the people there. (Notice how he says everything in Japanese and English, because he has both Japanese speakers and English speakers in the room.)

Some people (like our own Jref member Haruto) prefer to go into 'rooms' rather than to have one-on-one chats with people. For these kinds of learners, Discord is a good choice.

It's important to note that Taka makes several mistakes while he speaks in English, but he doesn't let it slow him down at all. Many of us English speakers are afraid of making mistakes while speaking Japanese, but we shouldn't let this bother us, just keep plugging along, just as Taka does.

By the way, Taka also talks about how he sometimes invites people to a Zoom meeting that he hosts.


 
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Buntaro

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I'd like to show everyone what an audio chat on Discord looks sounds, and feels like. (In the video, the young lady is learning Spanish, not Japanese, but it doesn't matter, this video gives an excellent idea of what an audio chat is like.) The thing to notice is how disjointed and needlessly meandering the discussion is. I want to recommend to everyone that such discussions are more beneficial when a specific topic is decided on at the very beginning. For example, we can say, "Do you like music? What kind of music do you like? Do you play a musical instrument? Which musical instrument would you like to learn?" It is also important to note that it is okay to have discussions that only last a short time. For example, we can say, "Okay, I think we have finished talking about music. What topic would you like to talk about..? How about sports? Do you like sports? Do you like to watch sports? Do you like to play sports? Which sports and teams do you like to watch? Which sports do you like to play? Did you have an 'Olympic games' in your PE class when you were in high school?" Or we can start by simply asking, "What topic would you like to talk about?" Or maybe start by starting with, "Are you a student? Do you go to school? Are you a high school or college student? What subjects are you taking in school?" The idea here is to start with a general question, then ask questions that narrow things down to a specific topic of interest to both people, a topic that can be discussed.

There are a couple of spots worth emphasizing. One is at 0:00 when she 'goes for it" and puts herself 'out there' and makes herself available for a one-on-one audio chat (and feeling anxiety that maybe no one will log on to talk to her!) Then, at 0:09, someone agrees to have a chat with her and she gets very nervous, then the chat begins.

 
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Buntaro

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How to create an account on Tandem. (I would recommend that you do NOT use your real name, unlike the fellow in the video.)

 

Buntaro

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Unfortunately, we must be careful when doing online language exchanges, and Tandem is good at incorporating safety features into its app. Watch from 6:00 as the man talks about the steps to be accomplished before being allowed to do an audio chat.

 

Buntaro

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It's safe to say HelloTalk is the most popular language exchange app and Tandem is the second most popular. Several people have posted videos on YouTube comparing the two. Here is one such video.

 

Buntaro

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I am going to post a link to one more YouTube video which discusses the differences between HelloTalk and Tandem. (There are more such videos on YouTube, in case anyone is interested.)

 

Buntaro

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It's been a while since I lived in Japan. When I was in Japan, it was a bit of a joke how a large number of high school English teachers could not speak English! There was also a lot of trouble between older high school teachers who could not speak English and younger teachers who could. (The older teachers were threatened by all of this and took it out on the younger teachers.)

What is the situation in present-day high schools in Japan? Are most English teachers now able to speak English, or is it still just as bad as when I was in Japan?

I should also point out how, in Japan, a lot of teaching English meant reading a story in English and then discussing it in Japanese (with no speaking or listening to English). Is it still like this?
 
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