I used Tinder for two years, before I met my boyfriend. As a shiftworker, I worked odd hours and thought the app would be a good way to meet people – in my hometown of Sydney, Australia and as an expat in both Doha, Qatar and London, England.
I mostly viewed it simply as a fun game I could play, when I was bored or lonely, living as an expat in a brand new country. It was never anything serious – just a way to get out of the house and meet new people.
Yet, one day, I “matched” with someone who introduced me to a whole new world of Tinder. Turns out, the app is actually pretty handy for anyone learning a language.
You read right. Tinder isn’t just for dating. With a bit of fine-tuning, you can add this app to your arsenal of online resources for language learning.
Plus – you might make a few new friends along the way!
My Experience With Using Tinder for Language Learning
I discovered that Tinder can be used to learn languages by accident.
I was swiping away in London, when I “matched” with a spunky (that’s Australian for handsome) boy from Prague. He was fluent in three languages – Czech, German and English. He lived in Austria, was learning Russian, and looking to improve his English.
We were having quite a good time chatting, when he proposed moving onto Skype. I was concerned at first, imagining a situation similar to the harrowing I had experiences with Chatroulette as a teenager (anyone who stumbled onto this webpage last decade will know exactly what I’m talking about).
He assured me he just wanted to talk. He called me up and we had a chat as he walked home from work. His English was far more advanced than my German, but it was quite fun. Here was an opportunity to make a new friend from a country and cultural entirely different from my own.
The door was opened and Tinder immediately become a much more interesting app to use.
How to Start Using Tinder as a Language Learning Tool
Here’s what you need to do to make Tinder work for you as a language learner.
Step 1: Download the App
If you haven’t used the app before, the process is pretty simply. You download it through the App Store or Google Play. When you first launched Tinder, you’ll be asked to create an account. The only way to do this is to login through Facebook.
Don’t have Facebook? It’s easy enough to create an account for your purpose, as all you’ll need is your first name and a few pretty pictures.
Once your account is setup, select your photos and type up a bio. This is important – people are more likely to “swipe right” on you if you take the time to pen a little bit of information about yourself.
I would write something along the lines of:
Australian living in London. Bookworm. German language-learner. Loves dogs.
You can write more, or less. It’s up to you. I always feel less is more!
Step 2: Sign Up For Tinder Plus
This step costs money, but it’s a must if you plan to use Tinder for language learning.
By signing up for Tinder Plus you can change the location of where you search for Tinder matches.
I live in London in the UK and I’m learning German. Chances are, there are plenty of German speakers in London. But there are many more non-German speakers.
I could spend hours flicking through Tinder, hoping by chance that I’ll encounter a German speaker who has then also matched with me.
With Tinder Plus, I could eliminate London entirely, opting to search for people in Berlin, seriously increasing my chances of finding someone I can practise speaking German with.
It’s entirely up to you, whether you want to invest the money in the paid version of Tinder. I only suggest it, as I think it saves time and your time is a far more valuable asset than money!
Step 3: Choose Your Tinder Location
If you do decide to go with the paid version of Tinder, the next thing you need to do is decide on where you want to start swiping.
This is particularly helpful if you’re living in a country where only a few people speak your target language. For example, are you living in America, wanting to learning Icelandic?
You may also be looking to practise your speaking skills on a region with a particular dialect. If I really wanted to test my German skills, I could focus on a city in Switzerland or Austria and see if I could actually understand what was being said.
It doesn’t matter which location you pick, as you can always change it later.
Step 4: Get Swiping!
Let the game begin! Start swiping. Swipe left for people you don’t like, right for people you do.
Take the time to read the bios before making your decision. You can get a lot of useful information by taking a couple of minutes to do this.. I find if people do play an instrument, make films for a living, or speak multiple languages they’ll let you know up front. This will make deciding on who you end up “liking” a much easier process.
I’ve also found that people who take the time to write a bio tend to be the most fun to talk to online.They’re also the most willing to talk. These are the types of people that you’re going to want to be looking for – people who are up for anything (I don’t mean in a sexual sense!).
Step 5: Get Down and Dirty Straight Away
Once you do have a few matches, I think it’s important not to beat around the bush. People are on Tinder for all sorts of reasons – boredom, looking to make friends, quick hook ups, or with the hope of starting a relationship.
You’re here to learn a language, not break hearts.
So, be upfront. Tell the person that you don’t currently live in their area – but you are looking for someone to chat with. Explain your language learning quest to them. Be prepared for rejection. Some may un-match you without another word. Don’t take it personally. There will be people out there who are up for having a chat, happy to participate in your experiment.
Consider this – you’ve got something valuable to offer, simply with your native language. You’re looking to strengthen your language skills and guaranteed there are other people on the Internet who are in the same boat as you.
My German may be sketchy, but I’m 100% fluent in English. There would be people in Germany just as interested in looking to strengthen their English writing, reading and speaking skills as I am in German. Everyone wins!
Step 6: Move From Tinder to Skype
This last step is entirely up to you. I approached it with the same sort of trepidation as I would in giving a stranger my mobile number. I would only give someone my Skype handle if I’d had a few conversations with that person and felt completely comfortable with my decision. Common sense applies, as with most decisions you make in the online dating world.
You may not be interested in speaking to your new online friends, merely content with texting. It’s up to you. And if the conversation moves into territory that you don’t feel comfortable with – get out of there and be merciless with the block button.
The Benefits of Using Tinder as a Language Learning Tool
I strongly believe in the adage “practice makes perfect”, particularly with language learning. If you are truly serious about becoming fluent in a language, you should be using a whole range of methods to increase your knowledge. While adding to your vocab list or practising pronunciation, you should also be studying movies or singing your heart out in the shower.
Learning a language should never be a chore, especially when there are so many opportunities to approach it from a creative angle and make the process enjoyable.
The beauty of Tinder is that it opens up the possibility of speaking with ordinary people. It provides you with an opportunity that learning in a classroom or from textbooks alone never could. Rather than studying a language in its standardised form, Tinder will allow you to learn slang, experience different dialects and talk about cultural trends.
Best of all, you’ll be communicating in your language, with those who speak it fluently. That’s why you wanted to learn after all, wasn’t it?
Plus – you never know. You could even meet the love of your life along the way!
Would You Use Tinder For Language Learning?
That’s my experience with using Tinder for language learning. Now I want to know – would you do the same?
Feel free to share your thoughts with the community. See you in the comments!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.