It’s simple: if you want to get better at speaking English, the best way to do it is to practice. But simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Maybe you live in a country where it is hard or even impossible to find people you can practice speaking English with. Maybe there are plenty of English speakers you can practice with, but only in real situations where you are afraid of making mistakes.
Don’t let any of this stop you. You can practice speaking English online for free! All you need to do is sign up for a conversation exchange. There are thousands of people just waiting to practice English with you — all you have to do is find them. Read on for my best recommendations…
What you need to get started
- an internet connection,
- a computer with a working speakers and mic (a headset is best), and most importantly
- the courage to try
You should install Skype too because that is the program that most people use for their conversation exchanges. (Skype is also free.)
I have personally signed up and tried many “learn English online” sites myself. The ones below are the best I have found. They are the easiest to sign up for, and the simplest to learn to use.
The best online English speaking practice sites I’ve found
italki is the first place I would start. It is where I go myself for my own language learning lessons (you can read about my very first lesson here.) I find the paid teachers and tutors most helpful, but you can find a free speaking partner there as well.
Italki is free to sign up; all you do is register for an account with your email address. There are many native speakers of English there just waiting to help you with free English conversation practice! The way you “pay” them is to let them practice your own language with you. It’s great system where everybody wins!
The italki site interface makes it easy to schedule conversation practice with people all over the world because it shows you the time differences automatically.
The italki website is available in many languages, so you don’t have to worry about understanding how to use the site. It is explained in your own language.
There are professional native-speaker teachers on italki too, who can give you English speaking lessons at extremely reasonable prices. Many of do them offer free (or very inexpensive) trial lessons. If you are serious about getting lots of correction and feedback, it is well worth the money to schedule speaking lessons with a professional teacher. It can save you a lot of time and help you improve your spoken English much faster. (See my article about the pros and cons of free vs. paid English lessons for more about this).
Below is a video that explains how to use italki to find language partners. It is in English, and the woman speaks very fast. But it might be useful to watch after you have created an account and had a look around the site.
ConversationExchange.com is a free site for finding speaking partners to practice with. It looks like it is supported by ads and donations, but the ads are not intrusive. The site is clean and simple, and very fast to load. The interface is available in English, French, Spanish and Italian.
You can search for interesting speaking partners before you even create an account. When you do create your account you can enter quite detailed profile information, including your interests and a short description of yourself. You can search for people to practice speaking with, to meet with in person, or to start a pen-pal arrangement. If you find someone interesting, you can send them a message to arrange a chat. I think it is definitely worth a try — it looks like there are a LOT of users there. I signed up with a test account and wrote that I wanted to practice Dutch. Within one hour I got a message from a friendly Dutch speaker about arranging a Skype chat. In short, my impression of this site is that it’s a great free opportunity to practice your English, and maybe even help someone else practice a in which you are already fluent.
This site has premium features that you have to pay for, but you can use it for free to find English conversation partners. It is simple to create an account, sign up and get started. Then you can search for other Busuu users who are also there to practice English, or who already speak English and will let you practice with them if you help them practice your own language.
Speak Talk Chat
SpeakTalkChat.com looks like a relatively new site, but it looks promising. You can use Skype with SpeakTalkChat or their own audio interface. It is free to sign up, you just have to register for an account with your email address. You can set the language of the website to many different languages (for example, Japanese, German, Spanish, Hindi plus many more).
Once you sign up and create your profile, you can list your interests, what languages you speak, the times that you are available to chat. Other users can then find you to arrange a chat, or you can search the user list to find people to reach out to. The interface is easy to navigate and clean, and you aren’t being bombarded with sales messages.
The video below gives you an overview of SpeakTalkChat.com (in English). You have nothing to lose by taking the time to sign up and have a look.
You can find translations of this video on the SpeakTalkChat Youtube channel as well.
Language exchange sites that I did not like
They supposedly have free options available, but it is too confusing to sign up and explore the site. They keep wanting you to sign up for a “free 7-day trial.” There was no way for me to really look at the site without committing to their 7-day free trial, so I gave up. Maybe you will have better luck. I will say that the site looked clean and well organized, so if you are looking for a paid English tutor or teacher it might be right for you.
Livemocha also supposedly has free options available, but I found the interface of this site totally confusing. I could not figure out how to connect with people for free just to chat. All I could find was the “help others” section where you can record yourself saying a sentence and wait for someone to listen to it and give you feedback. That seems like a lot of work for just one sentence, and it looked like there were a LOT of people who were waiting for feedback. They do offer lessons and other learning materials as well, which might appeal to you. But for finding a speaking partner without spending any money, you’re better off starting with my recommendations above.
Did I miss something?
If you know of a great place to find free conversation partners for practicing your English online, shoot me an email and let me know. If I test it and like it myself, I will add it to the list.