The chief aim of learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate in that language with people who speak it. However, for many German learners the most difficult part actually is mastering oral conversation with native German speakers. It is common for German learners to better understand other German learners or non-native German speakers than native speakers. Also, not all Germans or Austrians, let alone Swiss, speak the same language as your professionally-trained German teacher. This is where chatting and, especially, talking with untrained native speakers comes in useful.
If you do not live in a German-speaking country, the best opportunity to talk to native German speakers is to find language exchange partners for free conversation on Skype. If your native language is English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian or any other major language this should not be a big problem. You will help your conversation partner learn your mother tongue and they, in return, will help you learn German. This is also a great opportunity to make friends in Germany and to learn something about their culture and way of life.
For best results, try to find somebody who is about the same age as you and shares some of your interests. Always have a certain topic in mind before starting a new conversation. If you do not understand some word or phrase your partner used, do not be shy to ask them for explanation and write it down to expand your vocabulary. And, do not forget to have fun, always return the favour and be helpful to your exchange partner. The most popular conversation exchanges for finding German native speakers as exchange partners for free chat are listed below.
Finding German Language Exchange Partners for Online Conversation
- MyLanguageExchange has three million members from all over the world seeking language partners. It should not be too difficult to find a conversation partner on this platform whose native language is German and who wants to learn your mother tongue. You can use emails, text chat or voice chat to help each other practice languages you are learning. Thus you can train your writing and oral conversation skills. This platform promotes the Cormier method of language exchange for teaching foreign languages. A great advantage is that you can also pick up some slang, get used to regional accents and make friends in faraway countries, all that from the convenience of your home.
- Speaky is a relatively young but already well-established online community of language learners who wish to improve their oral and written communication skills in the language of their choice. You can find language exchange partners who speak German as their first language or, alternatively, you can learn together with another German learner who is at the same level as you, encouraging and helping each other. The website provides an excellent interface for free chat and talk (no need to use Skype) and offers tips and support to keep you highly engaged and motivated. You can also download the Speaky’s free language exchange app for mobile devices to practice your target language on the go.
- Scrabbin is connecting language enthusiasts from all over the world and, therefore, a large majority of its members are non-German native speakers. Still, you should be able to find there native German speakers who would like to learn your mother tongue and in return help you improve your German language skills. Once you find an exchange partner, you can practice German for free using voice chat or, if they live nearby, you can meet for informal conversation. Those who wish to improve their German writing skills can also find penpals on this platform and thus practice their written German communication skills.
- EasyLanguageExchange is, as the name suggests, a meeting hub for all those who wish to practice a foreign language with native speakers in exchange for helping their partners to practice the language they try to learn. At the moment there are more than 70,000 members and membership is free. Moreover, you can make use of the website’s free lessons and tests. Germans are a nation of passionate globetrotters so there is a good chance that you will be able to meet your online exchange partner in person when they are visiting your town as many of them are looking for language exchange partners in places they are planning to travel to.
- PolyglotClub is yet another popular platform connecting language enthusiasts from around the world who seek partners that help them learn a foreign language while helping others learn theirs. You can use their chat room to communicate with your German language exchange partner online and correct their texts while they correct yours, attend language exchange and cultural events organised by the polyglot club or watch free language-learning videos shared by the polyglot club community.
- Mixxer is a free language exchange for all those looking for one-on-one conversation via Skype with like-minded language learners. Be ready to help others learn your native tongue while you are learning theirs. This platform is designed to connect people, so do not be shy to contact more than just one person.
- Language.Exchange is a language learning platform and a penpal finder. You can practice your German or any other foreign language you wish to learn with native speakers from all over the world for free using email, text messaging, audio or video, or their combination. Find partners (these can be a language exchange partner or a penpal) who you share common interests with and start practicing German and making friends.
- Reddit as a network of communities also has a community of language enthusiasts helping each other learn their target language for free or for a fee. Like any other language exchange, this platform is also a great place for making international friends. If you like the idea of finding a long-term language exchange partner, but don’t like traditional language exchange websites, Reddit might be a good place where to start your search. Once you found someone, you can use video chat functionality of any platform you prefer. Moreover, since users tend to discuss all sorts of different things on Reddit, you can find out what your tandem partner’s interests are well before you decide to set up a voice chat or video call with them.
- InterPals is a social network for all those who want to find international penfriends or need help from a native speaker when learning a foreign language. It is also popular with people looking for travel buddies or friends who will show them around when visiting a foreign city.
- Lang-8 is a type of language exchange where people help each other correct their written posts. A German native speaker will correct your German text and you are supposed to return the favour to the community and correct somebody else’s text in your native tongue. Lang-8 has recently developed a language exchange application for portable devices (androids and iPhones) called HiNative that is described below.
Finding German Speaking Partners for Face-to-Face Conversation
- ConversationExchange is a language exchange platform that brings together people living in the same area who want to learn each other’s native languages. Those who cannot find a conversation partner living in their area can use text chat or video chat (e.g., Skype). Generally, for longer-term relationship it is ideal to find somebody who has similar interests to yours, especially if you are planning to meet regularly for face-to-face conversations.
- TandemPartners.org connects people living in Germany, Austria and Switzerland who are learning a second language and are willing to exchange favours and teach their “tandem” partner their own mother tongue. You can choose to meet your German conversation partner in person or talk to them on Skype. This platform has over 100,000 members.
- TandemPartner.net is a German platform with 40,000 active members that enables you to search for people living in your area who want to learn your native language while you, in exchange, learn theirs (German) for free. In addition, you can find there private German teachers or tutors. Prices start from 10 euros for 45 minute lesson.
- OpenLanguageExchange is yet another “tandem” style conversation exchange that connects people living in the same area so that they can meet face-to-face and learn each other’s native languages. Of course, it is not absolutely necessary to meet in person. Partners can also have a conversation on Skype/WhatsApp or they can exchange emails, text messages, make phone calls or chat.
- ErsteNachhilfe is a webspace where people living in Germany can find private teachers or tutors in their neighbourhood to help them with almost any subject including languages. However, there is also a possibility to find partners for learning a language for free in “tandem”. Just follow the link above if you are interested in this free service.
- SprachTandem is a free language exchange developed by the Hamburger Volkshochschule. It connects foreigners living in Germany with German native speakers who are learning foreign languages so that they can meet face-to-face and help each other improve their communication skills in the language they are trying to learn.
- MeetUp is, as its name suggests, a platform that helps people meet like-minded individuals in their area. This also includes meetings of the language exchange groups near you. But unlike tandem websites, MeetUp promotes gatherings of groups of people rather than two individuals. If you live near a major town and you are a sociable person, you should definitely make use of this opportunity to meet other German-learners, share your experiences and make new friends.
Apps for Mobile Chatting
- Tandem.net is a global community with three million members helping each other learn foreign languages on the go. What is so special about this language exchange is that your conversation partners are always available for you on their mobile phone or other portable device. The application can be downloaded for free from iTunes or the Google Play store. In addition, you can also find there professionally trained German teachers for private tutoring.
- HelloTalk is a mobile application that connects people from around the world who wish to learn a foreign language. If you have problems understanding voice messages you can always rely on the voice-to-text capability of this app to convert voice into text message. The application also enables you to make and receive free phone calls to your smartphone from your conversation partners no matter how far they live. There are more than one million registered users but recent updates seem to have discouraged some members who do not like paying for features that used to be free.
- HiNative from Lang-8 (see above) enables its users to connect with native speakers around the world, ask them questions about their language and culture and have their writings in a language they are trying to learn checked for free by native speakers from the community.
- Speaky Language Exchange – see Speaky above under “Finding German Language Exchange Partners for Online Conversation”.
Popular German Chat Rooms
Advanced learners of German language may also consider joining some of the popular German chats to contact natives and make friends or even find a German girlfriend/boyfriend. Although these platforms are not designed for learning languages, you can try to use them to test your German communication skills in conversation with “real Germans”. Some examples of the popular chats in Germany include:
*Please note that German learners’ chats that are dedicated to discussing German as a foreign language were not included in this chapter. You can find them at German learners’ forums.
Sometimes it may be difficult to find German-speaking conversation partners on free language exchanges who could help you learn specific vocabulary (e.g., business German) or explain complex grammatical rules. In that case you may need to find a paid tutor who is a professional German language teacher and ask them for tailor-made lessons that would address your specific needs.