This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Results from the HelloTalk survey…
Back in August (my how time flies) I posted a survey How English Speakers are Learning Thai with HelloTalk and let it run. Below are the results.
To round out the information and advice, I’ve also copied James McGregor’s answers.
Note: Not all entries have been included.
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1) Why did you choose HelloTalk?
James: I initially choose HelloTalk because it was set up as a smart phone application. At the time I discovered HelloTalk I only knew about web-based language exchange services. Compared to HelloTalk, they were outdated and not as simple and easy to use.
- To study.
- It’s useful.
- Easy access to native Thai speakers.
- For a trip.
- To meet Thai friends.
- To practice reading and writing.
- I want to learn Thai.
- Because my mom is Thai.
- It’s a good way to learn languages.
- It’s easy and fun to use.
- It’s easy to find Thai speakers.
- Because it’s more convenient.
- To teach English in Thailand.
- My friend suggested me to use it.
- I like the Thai language and would like to be fluent in Thai.
- Multiple options such as phonetic spelling before translation and the way of showing people their mistakes.
- Because it provides the facility to communicate with native people.
- Previously very successful learning Korean with the app.
- Because it’s the easiest, and fastest way to communicate with others whom speak the language. Hence, helping me learn and expand my word choice!
- It’s the only language chat app I know of.
- Hello Talk is the best app to learn new languages and get new friends.
- I already have private Thai tutoring – so I choose HelloTalk to practice what I am learning with native speakers.
- It’s such a great, easy, and inexpensive way to learn languages.
- It’s free and many Thai people there to make friends with and ask everything for fun and knowledge, culture understanding.
2) Please list other language exchange websites and apps you’ve used, if any.
1) My Language Exchange: Before stumbling upon HelloTalk I was initially using mylanguageexchange.com to find Thai language partners. But as I mentioned before, it was an extremely outdated website and I didn’t really like the design and layout of the site. I haven’t revisited MLE since finding HelloTalk over a year ago and would not recommend it to anyone.
2) Thai Friendly: I have used and continue to use thaifriendly.com to practice my Thai with Thai people. I have had nothing but very positive experiences using this website for language exchange.
But, I must warn people that TF is mainly a dating website purely for Thai females/ladyboys to find foreign friends or boyfriends. So use it to practice Thai at your own discretion.
Some men who don’t have much experience living with Thai people in Thailand, and/or who aren’t yet speaking Thai above a beginners level, may run into problems when weeding out some of the undesirables who try to contact you.
- My Language Exchange
- Conversation Exchange
- CAGI: Conversation Exchange Program
3) At what stage of studying Thai did you start using HelloTalk?
James: I started using HelloTalk when I was at the upper beginner level (being able to go to restaurants and coffee shops or taking a taxi comfortably without having to use English) but I felt that this level is still too low to fully connect and have a real conversation with a Thai person about everyday life and interesting topics.
I could read Thai but there was a lot of vocabulary I didn’t know, so conversations ran out of steam, going absolutely nowhere after a very short while.
When feeling frustrated and realizing that it was me who was the problem (not Thai people), I stopped using HelloTalk. After about six-seven additional months of study and having improved dramatically in Thai (learning a lot more vocabulary), I decided to give it another try. I went back to HelloTalk and found that my experience was a lot better, hence more exciting.
4) What is your present Thai level?
James: I would say at least low intermediate, pushing into intermediate.
5) How do you choose your Thai language exchange partners?
James: I tend to check out the person’s profile and will contact them if they have an interesting audio introduction, written introduction, or if they’ve posted interesting photos or statuses on their wall.
I tend to ignore or not really pay much attention to people who just send an initial message of “Hi” but I will usually reply to those who have read my profile then sends a message that is longer and more eye-catching than just a one word.
- I am ok to friend anybody.
- Genuine enthusiasm.
- I talk to everyone who wants to improve.
- I chat with everybody who wants to chat!
- Accept all.
- Those who can speak in Korean.
- From profile pictures and normally I receive contact from Thais.
- How they wrote their profile.
- Locality and look fun.
- By knowing their interest in teaching Thai.
- Age, how they present themselves in initial message. Other mutual languages. Looks. As well as if they are free to teach me Thai language.
- I chose them no matter what~ 🙂
- They contact me. I get maybe three people everyday who are curious about why I’m learning Thai.
- Partner’s level for my mother tongue.
- I start to like their stories in the timeline and mostly check their profile.
- Complete profiles I.e intro and some shared moments… also people close to my age.
- I just search on search tool. It doesn’t matter if that Thai partner is not learning my language. Moreover, I choose Thai native speakers who learn English because we both speak in English.
- Can they teach kindly.
- Open and understand well the language to explain my questions.
- Free to be friends with anyone.
- Just chat first and then if I feel comfortable add them as language partners.
- Just choice and consider user’s timeline.
- Having an introduction was a big plus; otherwise, just looked who’s online or continued a previous conversation.
- Have to speak French.
6) What problems have you run into when chatting with Thai language partners?
James: To be completely honest I haven’t really run into any problems when chatting with Thai language partners. I guess the only problem I had with HelloTalk would be when I first started and was still a “beginner”. This made it hard for the conversations to go anywhere (in Thai) as my vocabulary was extremely limited at the time.
- No problem all is ok but sometimes they use words I don’t know. But I have the translator so I get to understand and learn too.
- They are Thai females not looking to learn English but have alternative agendas.
- The main problem is time differences. Our schedules do not fit.
- Getting the balance right between typing in English and Thai.
- Their English.
- Communication because of low level.
- A different language exactly… the English of Thai users isn’t too good.
- Time gap.
- Too much English, and some don’t like being corrected.
- I have faced not even a single problem.
- Lack of structure. They need to be really good teachers. Most convo in English.
- No problem.
- No problems, they are all really nice and helpful!
- Not many! Some people are looking for boyfriends it seems, but it’s easy to spot them.
- Many are not good at English or Korean.
- Misunderstanding each other.
- I find some users are not willing to educate as they get taught. It feels like I am teaching more than exchanging.
- Confused answers and some give different answers or they can’t explain all aspects of language situation.
- The truth that I can’t read any Thai language.
- Most people don’t really use the correction feature, or correct towards formal language use.
- Writing Thai with a non Thai keyboard.
7) How often do you chat on HelloTalk?
James: I have really cut down on using HelloTalk because after finding a few really decent Thai partners there I started to chat with them exclusively on Line. But when I was at my peak of using the app I was chatting every single day.
8) How has your Thai improved since you started using HelloTalk?
James: My Thai has improved a lot since I started (reading, writing, speaking and listening). But you really do need to put in the effort to see these improvements. You need to be able to hold the interest of the person you’re talking to, and that person also needs to be interesting enough for you to want to put in the time and effort to constantly exchange Thai/English with them as well.
The “correction” feature especially helped to improve my Thai. This feature enables Thai native speakers to correct your sentences in your messages and status. I have found that if you are able to form a close enough connection, Thai people will not hesitate to help out by correcting your mistakes. It’s a bit daunting at first when almost every single message you write is corrected, but eventually you’ll come to realise that it’s effective in helping to improve the grammar, sentence structure and even the words you choose.
- My Thai improved when I met Thai friend.
- I try to speak Thai more now, and it seems my accent is a lot better.
- Reading and writing skills have greatly improved.
- A little.
- Gradual learning.
- I have learned the alphabet, and how to say hello and other things!
- It has helped my vocabulary and grammar a lot. I thought people would use a lot of slang but most Thais use proper Thai with me, and I appreciate that.
- Just a little bit.
- It has been improving better than the first time I joined.
- Although I have a decent vocabulary I have found that my conversation skill has improved and I can form larger sentences.
- It has improved dramatically.
- A little bit.
- Improvements are probably unrelated to HelloTalk.
- Zero … hope my Thai friends improved their French!
9) What advice can you share about learning Thai via HelloTalk?
James: I don’t believe HelloTalk should be the only tool to use when trying to learn a language. I’ve found it effective when combined with watching Thai TV, listening to Thai music and reading Thai daily.
First get past the very beginner stages in learning Thai, and then you will find many Thais wanting to talk to you. From my experience they are appreciative and show much more interest if you have at least a little bit of genuine cultural knowledge of Thailand – if you show genuine interest in Thailand and all things Thai. Don’t be rude, and if someone stops talking to you, just move onto the next person. There are thousands of Thai people who are online everyday who would like to make friends with a foreigner.
I have come to realise after talking with hundreds of people through HelloTalk that Thai people are some of the most talkative and social group of people I’ve ever met (hint: they are the perfect group to help you learn your target language!)
- Educate them that this is not a dating site.
- Be patient. Everyone is really nice, and they have the same goals as you.
- Writing sentences in both language is slow but can be rewarding!
- Just do it. Practice practice practice. I could be a more systematic studier. 555
- Stick to typing Thai, don’t fall back on English, like me!
- Choose the partners who are really interested in teaching and can teach in proper way.
- Can’t be your only source. Supplement with books, lesson plans, in person native speakers. Hello talk partners are more of a resource for questions and testing your knowledge. You generally won’t “learn” too much without making your own effort.
- Make friends and be open to everyone!
- There are many Thais with very limited English skills. So knowing the fundamentals of Thai will be very useful since most of the time you can’t explain in English.
- Find the right partner.
- Patience… remember your partner is learning also so take your time! You get what you give.
- Fill in your profile and behave as you would want others to behave towards you.
- Master writing in Thai script.
My thanks to everyone who contributed to the survey. If you are wavering about using a language exchange program, there’s certainly enough advice here to nudge you on your way.