By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor
Let’s face the facts, Duolingo is probably not going to properly prepare you to learn a new language, and neither is the paid-for program Rosetta Stone. This is because to truly learn a language one has to actually speak it, and preferably with a native of the language. Sample sentences and flashcards will not help you in an actual conversation. Only real world practice can yield actual results in language learning.
Yet understandably not everyone is up to chatting with a random stranger when they have no friends who speak the language they’d like to learn. In this case I suggest starting off with penpals. Learning to speak and write in a language is obviously different, but writing first will build the confidence for speaking while still beginning the process of learning to communicate naturally from a native.
The penpal resource to use depends on the language you are learning, but in my experience these are the best free sites to use for most languages.
Penpal World is my first suggestion because the site has the strongest measures in place to block out inappropriate users. One of these precautions is that profile pictures must be approved before posting. Matches are found through filtered searches where users select the country, age, and gender of potential penpals. Penpal World ensures a comfortable experience for beginners.
My Language Exchange offers a more comprehensive experience, as well as advantages for Latin-based languages. The site offers lessons, chatrooms, and even voice chats if the user feels ready. Useful translations are available within the site and a foriegn accent insert for Latin-based languages where pronunciation can change the meaning of certain words.
My Language Exchange is suited best for users seeking the most extensive learning experience or if the user is learning a Latin-based language.
The most popular site for penpals is InterPals. Unique features of the site is the specific communication and kind of relationship selection. This allows users to set a strictly educational relationship or friendship if prefered, and communicate via the preferred method of email or snail mail.
The site shares similar search features to the other sites on this list, including live feeds so you can connect with a potential penpal now! InterPals will guarantee users quick correspondence as the most populated and modern of these websites.
Finding a penpal is not just an opportunity to pick up a language, but is a doorway to visit the country of your interest, and make true connections with the people there. Penpals are a substantial way to introduce yourself to cultures, because it is authentically taught by people who are mutually interested in other cultures.
Featured image by Andrea Mau via Canva.