Language Apps and Retaining Your Russian Over the Summer

Using HelloTalk for Russian

By Dorian McElrone ’25


One of the biggest challenges of learning a new language, most students can agree, is keeping up with it over the summer. The break is long, and life gets in the way of planned study and review sessions, making it difficult to jump back in at the start of a new semester. However, one app has made summer review more engaging, and possible anywhere, at any time!

Founded by Zackery Ngai in Hong Kong in 2012, HelloTalk’s mission is to “connect the world through language, culture, and community.” The app is designed differently from standard language apps like Duolingo and Memrise: rather than the lesson program interface that greets you on Duolingo, Hellotalk opens up to a messenger. This is all part of their language learning philosophy: “The best way to learn a language is to actually speak it! HelloTalk connects you with native speakers to chat with for free.”

Upon opening the app, new users are prompted to create a profile, putting everything from name, to target language, to hobbies and interests. All information offered up is completely voluntary, but acts as useful conversation starters with new people. Once the bio has been completed to your satisfaction, the app takes you to a screen of profiles of people who speak your target language and allows you to interact with their profiles and send them messages!

With a large Russian user base, this app is perfect for any Russian majors looking to sharpen or maintain grammar, pronunciation (with easy to use voice memo and call features), or vocabulary. Users are also able to send you messages, and are often looking for people to initiate a language exchange with–that is, practicing in both English and your target language for equal time. It allows users to correct each other’s messages, displaying the original message along with the corrected version. This is especially useful in learning and trying out unfamiliar grammar structures.

Another unique feature the app offers is the live broadcast, often “hosted by expert teachers and creators.” This contributes to the overall immersion effect, allowing you to test your comprehension skills by listening to creators chat in your target language.

Practicing a language over the summer doesn’t have to feel like a chore–with HelloTalk’s chat features, you can talk to real people about their lives, hobbies, interests, and real world events. It also provides a fantastic way to learn about slang and pop culture with people your own age. In an increasingly globalized society, why not use technology to help immerse yourself in your target language, from the comforts of your home (or from wherever you happen to be- in other words, travel is not needed)?

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