It’s simple: if you want to practice speaking English, the best way to do it is to practice with a real person. 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 that you could practice with, but only in real situations where you are afraid of making mistakes. So you avoid doing it.
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 or phone with working speakers and mic (a headset is best), and most importantly
- the courage to try
You should install Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, or Facebook Messenger too because these are the programs that most people use for their conversation exchanges. (All of these apps are free.)
I have personally signed up and tried many “practice 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 also apps for Android and iOS.
There are professional native-speaker teachers on italki too, who can give you English speaking lessons at extremely reasonable prices. Many of them do offer free (or very inexpensive) trial lessons. If you are serious about getting lots of correction and feedback on your speaking, it is well worth the money to schedule lessons with a professional teacher. It will 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 teachers for more about this).
You can find out more about italki here. The website is available in many different languages.
Free4talk.com is the fastest way to find someone to practice your English with, if you don’t need to practice with a native speaker. Free4talk is relatively new, but it’s a fantastic place to connect with other learners who want to practice English conversation. It is free to join; all you do is log in with your Google account. At the time of writing this there are no dedicated apps, but you can access the sites on your phone via Safari on iOS, and Chrome on Android. Chrome is also the recommended browser for your desktop.
Free4talk.com shows you tiles with chat rooms that you can join to speak English. You can text, use audio and video, and it’s possible to share links and draw on a virtual whiteboard. It is a very lively community where you can easily find a group of people to practice your English with. You won’t be getting help from native speakers or teachers, but there is incredible benefit from just meeting up with other learners and practicing.
When I was researching the site for inclusion on this page, I saw chat rooms for serious study, idiom quizzes, discussing current events, talking about movies, and of course, just general chit chat. So if you want a lot of correction and feedback from a native speaker or teacher, Free4Talk.com isn’t the best place. But if you just want to practice speaking with other learners, it looks like the best option available online currently, and will give you the fastest results. You can literally sign up and find someon
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 ConversationExchange.com 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 language 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. In addition to the website, there are also apps for Android and iOS.
Language exchange sites that I did not like
Verbling.com no longer offers any free options for English speaking practice. However, many teachers do offer a free trial lesson, and their regular prices seem quite reasonable.
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.