Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have You Tried These Free Language-Exchanges?

Language exchange is a method of language learning based on mutual language practicing by learning partners who are speakers of different languages. So you exchange your native language (or a language you know well) with someone and in return they help you with your target language (which is a language they know very well). That way both of you are learning something and helping someone else!

There are countless language-exchanges online but I've decided to only highlight a couple--all of which are free. I've listed what I believe are the pros and cons of each one but in the end it's up to you. These sites are free so you can try them all out and simply stick with the one or two that you like most!

(All of these in this list are sites you can access from a computer. Many of them you can also access as an app.)

1. Coffeestrap "A Better Language Exchange. Learn how to speak fluently by talking with people like you."
Pros: Very simple design, easy to get started, connects you to people without much work; easy to start talking to people.
Cons: Must wait for someone in your target language to get online; there's only one page (besides updating your account) and thus can be frustrating; once you accept someone's request, they'll remain in your conversation list, regardless of whether you want to keep talking to them or not.

2. Gospeaky "Find and meet native speakers from all around the world."
Pros: You can select the times you're available to practice; live chats allow you to audio or video call someone, and add them as a "language buddy", there's a "translator bar" to help you; live chats only show you who is currently online; visually aesthetic and easy site to explore; you can schedule meetings with your buddies.
Cons: In live chats you must wait for a potential language-exchange partner to answer an instant message before you can call them; other than that, doesn't seem to have many cons.
Note: Will only show you live chats that are in your target language, if you want to find a live chat in a language other than the one you're learning, you'll have to add it to your target language list.

3. "Learn and practice foreign languages with native speakers from all over the world - for free."
Pros: After you chat with someone, you can recommend them again (so others can see how recommended they are); site shows if someone is online; you can use the search bar to find a chat with someone in your target language; can have multiple chats open at once (tabs at bottom let you easily switch between).
Cons: Search bar isn't that great--only shows you a couple of people that speak the language you type in, and doesn't say whether or not they're online, you're better bet is to just scroll down the 1:1 chats until you find what you're looking for; group chat seems messy.

4. Couchsurfing "Couchsurfers share their homes, cities and lives in profound in meaningful ways, making travel anywhere in the world a truly social experience."
Pros: Lots of groups (easy to find language-exchanges); people from all over the world (likely to find exchange in your target language).
Cons: Activeness in groups is hit or miss; site is not made for language-exchange (simply a byproduct).

5. Coeffee "The friendly language exchange community."
Pros: There are language games (like the old "password" game) that pairs you up with a random partner against two others (you and your partner have to try and guess a word before the other team by the clues you or your partner are giving--i.e. if you're trying to guess "star", you might say "bright thing in night sky"); the search for language-exchange partners shows who is online at the top, if you hover over them it'll tell you what languages they know / are learning, there's also a search bar at the top that can specify your search; can block people if necessary; glossary (dictionary) available during language-exchange chat.
Cons: Site seems focused on this language game rather than on language-exchange.
Note: You can also help other language learners by reviewing phrases for the "password" game.

If you google "language-exchange sites reviews" you'll find many longer (and potentially better) reviews. Figure out which site works best for you and stick with it! Finding a language-exchange partner can help boost self-confidence and make you more relaxed when speaking. ^^

Monday, April 13, 2015

Endangered Languages: "Flogging a Dead Horse?"

UNESCO estimates that the end of this century could see the demise of more than half of the 6000 languages that exist in the world today. Most languages that are in danger of going extinct are those spoken in relatively remote regions, by indigenous populations. The importance of languages and diverse tongues cannot be emphasised enough. 

A Manner of Thinking
Language is arguably the most unique feature of the human species. Although there is no doubt that other species communicate with one another, spoken, signed and written language are unique to humans. As such, it plays a fundamental role in shaping our daily experience. In fact, psycholinguists have found that we perceive things a certain way based on the language we speak and think in. Research on colour perception shows that we can see the colours that we have names for, in our native languages. In English, there are eleven basic hues, from which the spectrum of perceivable colour is named. However, the Himba tribe in Namibia only has five basic hues. While English-speakers distinguish between red, orange and pink, the Himba people have an encompassing name for these hues, serandu. Experiments comparing children from the Himba tribe and England show that people perceive colours based on their culture and language. As this research demonstrates, if a language is lost, a truly unique perception of the world dies with it. 

Perception of the world is one aspect that is lost with a language, but what happens to culture? 

Cultural Coefficient
Globalisation today is a contributing factor to the loss of languages. In our attempts to shrink the world and move towards homogeneity, we lose cultural subtleties that exist in part, due to language. Let's look at example of what is at risk, by travelling to the hills in South India. 

The Toda language is of Dravidian descent, and is related to Tamil and Malayalam. In the last century, the population of the Todas has been in the range of 700-1000 people. However, the exact number is difficult to estimate. The Indian Government identifies the Todas as a Primitive Tribe. The Todas live only in the Nilgiri district in Tamil Nadu, and have a unique lifestyle with many traditions. They are a pastoral community, and live in barrel-shaped houses. Often, their houses are beside "dairy temples," as they trade dairy products, and their religion revolves around the buffalo. 
A Toda woman wearing traditional embroidered clothing (left); Todas live in barrel-shaped houses called dogles (right).

Globalisation and the push for modernisation in India have caused a change in the Todas. Although traditionally vegetarian, many Todas now eat meat. Several of them have abandoned their traditional houses for the more common concrete houses. This move away from tradition in combination with the small population of Todas left in the world has resulted in their language becoming critically endangered. This means that the youngest speakers of the language are currently grandparents or older, and they only speak their language infrequently. The Todas stand out in the Nilgiris because of the way they dress and live. If they adopt modern customs, they risk losing their traditions for good. 

Why Save Them?
It is vital to save languages that are at risk of extinction, because speakers have a unique perception of the world, and cultural traditions that few other people share. Since the human experience is subjective, it is crucial to preserve the very means that make us individuals. Losing languages would also mean that we lose idioms that are not easily transferred between languages. For example, a phrase that communicates a lack of understanding in German is "Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof", which literally translates to "I understand only train stations''. It is analogous to "This is Greek and Latin to me" in English. Imagine losing idiosyncrasies like that!

Intrigued? Take a look at the list of the 25 most endangered languages today. 

  1. Moseley, Christopher (ed.). 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 3rd edn. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. Online version.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Linguistic Sexism: Can we make gendered languages more inclusive?
Author: Kelsey Briggs

To speakers of many romance languages, “gendering” nouns is an unconscious exercise that is ingrained in daily communication. In Spanish, all nouns and pronouns are ascribed either a feminine “la” or masculine “el”, similarly in French, Italian, and Portuguese. Assigning a gender to words like “la fresa” (strawberry in Spanish) or “le lion” (lion in French) is so second nature that it becomes easy to forget to question why every object, and more importantly, every person described in that language must be classified as either male or female. A rising debate in the linguistic world is how to address queerness and gender neutrality in languages characterized by gender binaries.

Some Spanish speakers choose to use the ‘’@’’ symbol in writing to be more gender inclusive (e.g.: tod@s instead of todos or todas), but there still remains confusion about how to verbally pronounce gender neutral or queer pronouns. Others propose to create an entirely new third gender pronoun, similar to “zie”, “xe”, or “they” in English. Incorporating gender neutrality into languages founded upon a system of gender binaries would be a challenge, but is certainly not impossible. 

In Germany, for example, gendered pronouns are transforming to be more arbitrary and inclusive.  Many propose getting rid of gendered articles entirely, and now in Low German both men and women are referred to as “de” instead of the previous “der” and “die”. The state justice ministry is pushing for citizens to adhere to “’gender-neutral’ formulations in their paperwork” as well.[i] While many linguists argue that it is difficult and cumbersome to change the grammatical structures of a language through human will, we see modifications in languages occur all the time. This is especially so with the introduction of new words and concepts that are adopted across languages due to the technology boom and globalization. Convincing an entire population to actively change the way they speak and in turn conceptualize gender, however, could be a more lengthy and arduous process.

A study in 2012 led by psychologist Jennifer Prewitt-Freilino compared languages with global gender inequality, showing that “those who read in gendered languages responded with higher levels of sexism to a questionnaire they took after the study.” Gendered languages showed the highest rates of gender inequality. Interestingly enough, however, languages with no gender ascribed to nouns or pronouns didn’t rank as well on the gender equality scale as predicted. Prewitt-Freilino said speakers of gender neutral languages, like Persian, are actually likely to assume male characters when the gender is up to the speaker’s discretion. Natural gender languages, such as English (in which gender is assigned to pronouns but not nouns), fell somewhere in the middle.[ii] The study thus showed significant variability among languages and gender equality. Based on these results, incorporating gender neutral pronouns into gendered or natural gender languages may not contribute to actively reducing sexist tendencies. However, recognition of non-binary identities remains a crucial issue in many societies, particularly in the interest of individual identities.

[i] Oltermann, Philip. “Germans try to get their tongues around gender-neutral language”. The Guardian. Mar. 24 2014.
[ii] Pappas, Stephanie. “Gendered Grammar Linked to Global Sexism”. Live Science. Feb. 21, 2012.

Monday, April 6, 2015

On Being a Third Culture Person

Third culture: When the answer to the question "where do you come from?" takes about 10 minutes to answer.
Coined by Dr. Ruth Useem, "third culture"isa phenomenon of globalization, the term was originally intended to refer to children who accompany their parents into another society and not necessarily people who have grown up and identify with more than one society. A common behavioral occurrence in third culture kids is in picking and choosing the parts of the culture that we identify with. However, although there are definitely privileges that come with the ability to travel so extensively, including bilingualism and the open-mindedness and more analytical way of thinking from being able to compare knowledge from different cultures, sometimes, it is a lonely life as a Third Culture person. So, what are these problems, and how can we approach them?
1) "Nobody understands me."
Being a Third culture person, a common occurrence is not being able to share experiences with other people who may not have the same desire to travel and explore the world, or have a  very narrow-minded outlook. However, third culture people are more common than you think, so head to any backpacker spots that you may know. Often times, it is these spots that draw other third culture people. Or, talk to the internationals in your building; perhaps you''ll find a fellow third culture person out there as well.
2) "I don't belong anywhere."
The contradiction of being a third culture kid is that you understand many different cultures, but don't feel like you belong in any of them. There is no pressure to completely belong in one culture; simply know the societal expectations and culture, and from there, you can at least pretend to belong even if you do not. However, often times, the problem in this saying is more personally. This leads to the next problem...
3) "I don't know who I am."
Born in Thailand, studied abroad, living in the US. Culture and nationality is a core part of a

person's identity. For third culture people, however, this is not a possibility, which leads to 

identity crisis. However, can it not be that to have more have one nationality tied to your 

identity, can itself be an identity? The question of identity is one that only you, the third 

culture person, can slowly cultivate. However, one thing is for sure, knowing you belong to 

one culture does not in any way mean that you know more about who you are. This is a 

problem everyone faces, not just third culture people.

So, are you a third culture person? If so, have you ever heard these questions in your head? Comment below!


Friday, March 27, 2015

Language Dorms at Moho: What’s the vibe?

By: Hannah Rickard

As many of you may already know, there has been talk of creating designated language floors in some of the Moho dorms. Did you know that Amherst, Smith, UMASS (Amherst), and Hampshire each have language dorms? Here’s a little bit about them:

  1. Amherst College

Language floors at Amherst are part of Amherst’s student suggested “theme” houses. These language floors include a French House, a Spanish House, a Russian House, and a German House. Amherst also has cultural houses: The Charles Drew Black Cultural House, The Asian Culture House, and La Casa--the Latino Cultural House.

Here’s a snippet taken from Amherst’s website, showcasing the positive effects of language floors!:
"The French House is one of the best kept educational secrets on campus. The residents are so busy enjoying themselves, they don't always realize that they're perfecting their French." -- Paul Rockwell, Professor of French 

     2. Smith College

Smith has a French House on campus called Dawes, which was initially started in

Here’s what the Smith residential life staff has to say about Dawes:
“In Dawes, students are encouraged to speak French and all house meetings are conducted in French.The house subscribes to a variety of French magazines and newspapers. Even house flyers and signs are translated into French in keeping with the theme.”
     3. UMASS Amherst

UMASS offers six languages, one per floor, in a dorm called the Thatcher House. The six languages include Chinese, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Spanish!

Here’s what UMASS-Amherst has to say about the Thatcher House: 
“Each of the language programs...occupies a floor which includes its own classroom/lounge. Students meet there to socialize in the language, and regularly during the week for a specially-designed two credit conversation/culture course. An experienced graduate student from the Language Department teaches the course and organizes social and cultural activities.”  

     4. Hampshire 

While Hampshire doesn’t have specifically designated language dorms, it does have some great sociocultural and religious dorms, which it calls Identity-Based Housing and Intentional Housing Communities.

Here’s some information on these living spaces:
Identity-based housing includes various group living situations with a common identity  such as race, culture, or sexual orientation. Current identity-based spaces include: International Students, Kosher, Latino/a, Queer, Students of Color, and Women of Color.”

“Intentional housing communities are living spaces in which the residents have chosen to come together around a particular area of interest that will contribute to and cultivate the campus' culture of learning. They work together with a faculty or staff advisor to educate themselves and the larger community about their area of interest. Students who elect to reside in these spaces can expect to gain meaningful relationships with one another, lasting connections with staff and faculty, access to greater campus resources, and sense of pride in their community.”

Here are some of the current Intentional Housing Communities at Hampshire right now:
“Kosher Mod, Prescott 82: A Kosher living space. All students welcome to apply, regardless of religious affiliation.

“Spiritual Womyn's Mod, Greenwich 36: A place for self-identified Womyn that promotes and heightens spirituality. A collective space to support and guide spiritual paths and encourage the mindful growth of the Hampshire community. Female and/or female self-identified continuing students welcome to apply.”

Women's Empowerment Mod Enfield 66: A safe and supportive space actively to engage with and challenge the normative expectations placed on women. Female and/or female self-identified continuing students welcome to apply.”

Would you like to see language designated floors at Mount Holyoke? We want to know your thoughts concerning this proposal! Did any of the housing options from the other five colleges strike your interest? Please take this short survey to help us to understand what you think of this proposal: Survey: Language Dorms at MHC.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Popular Language Software Review

1.) Mango Languages:
Mango Languages is an online language learning system teaching practical conversation skills for real communication. The list of languages we provide at Mount Holyoke College are below:
Mango Languages is especially good if you want to focus on conversational phrases for everyday life. It also focuses on the basics of grammar and conjugation (including tones). 


Who can use Mango Languages?

Anyone in the MHC community (that has a MHC e-mail) can use ML. That includes students, faculty, and staff. Alumni can use ML as long as they are on campus--you just have to use your old MHC e-mail.

Using Mango Languages (ML):

To access ML, you must click through the link on the LRC website (you cannot bookmark the site directly). If you're on campus, it will take you right to ML. If you're off-campus, it will go through an EZ Proxy page, where you'll need to sign in with your MHC username and password. 
Once you're on the ML page, you have the option to set up an a ML account, to keep track of your studies, or just start studying without making a ML account.


ML allows you to listen to the native speaker, then record your own voice, then compare the two. You can keep doing this until you like how similar you sound. ML also has a new program available--learning languages via movies, which is an easy way to get used to a language.
The movie program currently has movies in Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish (Latin America), but if you check back regularly, you'll find it's slowly adding more. Here's a great intro video about it:


ML feels the need to read everything out to you, so if you are a visual learner and just want to read through the flashcards and only listen to the native speaker speaking, it can be rather annoying. ML also has a "language placement" program but it doesn't seem very accurate at placing you where you belong, so I think it's best to judge for yourself.

2.) Rosetta Stone:

Rosetta Stone pioneered the use of interactive software to accelerate language learning. The list of languages we provide at Mount Holyoke College are below:
Rosetta Stone is a really varied software that will help you with speaking and recognizing words.


Who can use Rosetta Stone?

Anyone in the MHC community can use RS. That includes students, faculty, and staff. All you need is your MHC e-mail. You can access it anywhere on the internet. As of Fall 2015, we only offer the beginning level of the languages we provide.

Using Rosetta Stone (RS):

As of Fall 2015, you can create an account with RS via this link:

After using your MHC e-mail to make an account, pick the language you want to learn. You go to this page every time you want to use RS and just put in the information you put in the last time (your e-mail and the password you chose). You can change your target language this way, too, by choosing a different one than previously. 


RS is helpful if you're trying to get good at pronounciation as it forces you to speak loudly and correctly in order to let you move on. It also lets you hear native speakers and you can slow the native speaker down if you prefer. It is also a good refresher if you take a lower level of a language on RS that you've already learned higher levels of elsewhere. 


However, RS doesn't seem to explain when you don't understand something or if you're confused, it just moves on, focusing you to keep repeating yourself. It also lacks giving you vocab and meaning, so if that's what you're expecting, you won't be happy. Technically, I think RS's way of doing things is actually more helpful because instead of just giving you vocab vocab vocab, it gives you sentences that you need to know and you learn what the vocab is because of the pictures. But if you're not a visual learner, it may be hard for you. 

3.) Skritter

Skritter is an online learning system for Chinese and Japanese characters. 
It incorporates two key features for effective study: spaced repetition, so that you keep practicing characters regularly and practice those you get wrong more frequently, and physical rehearsal, so that you practice by actually writing, not just reviewing them. Skritter offers lists of characters from most major Chinese/Japanese textbooks, so you can start learning what you need to know immediately. You can also create your own custom lists.


Who can use Skritter?

Anyone in the MHC community (that has a MHC e-mail) can use Skritter. That includes students, faculty, and staff.

Using Skritter:

Anybody with e-mails ending in "" can register by clicking the login and then "Create an Account". Then you click "Alternative Payment Methods" and then "validate your school e-mail". You then will get a code that you'll have to submit on the same sign-up page on Skritter. For easy access/memory, I recommend you use your e-mail (i.e. wilki22l) for both your username and password. 
Skritter is web-based, so you can use it on any computer with an Internet connection, on or off-campus. 


If you're taking a Chinese or Japanese class, you're likely going to find your textbook already in the Skritter system. You can also access Skritter on mobile devices as there are apps available for iOS and Android (so you can practice Skritter while waiting for your class to start). 


If you do not like to be timed, you will not like this program. It also repeats itself over and over, to make sure you 100% know the characters. However, if you are a quick learner, it may become annoying. 

4.) Pimsleur

The Pimsleur Approach (audiobooks) will allow you to speak a new language so quickly that you may find yourself not only amazed and delighted at your newfound abilities, but also extremely motivated to delve more deeply into the language you've chosen to learn.
The languages Mount Holyoke College offers are: Italian, French, and German.


Who can use Pimsleur?

Anyone who can check out books from the LRC can check out the Pimsleur courses. 

Using Pimsleur:

If you want to check out one of the Pimsleur courses, you need to talk to the LRC consultant at the main desk. We have levels I, II, and III for each language, so please specify to the consultant which one you're interested in. Once you open the packet, you should find the CDs and a guide. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the consultant. 


Pimsleur is an audio-based course that presents phrases in the target language first, and then in your mother tongue for you to translate into that language. It is similar to Rosetta Stone in the way that it focuses on you listening and responding to what you hear. If you are an auditory-learner that has the primary goal to speak your target language, this may be a great option for you!


The system is almost entirely audio-based. Although there may be some reading material, it is only to be read while listening to the audio that gives instructions on how to proceed. The vast majority of what is said to you will never be written down in any form as it is trying to force you to speak the language and not read it at any time. For non-auditory-learners, this may be very difficult since you will not see the vocab you are learning.


Here are some other reviews you can read up on:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ways to Enhance your Study Abroad

1)) Keep a scrapbook or journal. Although you may not realize during those few months, the precious times abroad, however vivid, will fade over time. Take some time out of your bsuy schedule to reflect on your day and jot down all the quriky details, whether it be the new word you learned or an observation you have! 

2) Toss out that grammar book in the back of your book, and talk to people!
Sometimes, we all get shy about talking to native speakers. However, what better opportunity to learn about a new language and culture? Not only does practicing the language give you a different perspective (as you’ll gain a level of respect),

3) Check out these apps designed especially for Study Abroad!
We live connected in this modern world, and now, you can enhance your experience using technology as well!

Need to find the nearest grocery store, mall, or bar? Where to Go? provides a very simple interface to find the resources nearest you.

Trip Journal
With this app, you’ll be able to save photos, online journal entries, and little snippets of your day onto a Google-map integrated platform, where your family and friends can visually see on Google Maps your route as well as the daily snippets you share of your travels!

Dragon Dictation
Siri, but for the dedicated traveler. Dragon Dictation allows you to speak into the the app and see your words translated into another language as well as post social media updates uor send reminders to yourself, all with your voice!  

Wi-Fi Finder
Ever wonder where the nearest wifi port is near you (both paid and free)? There is an app for that.
With these apps by your side, you'll be more preapred for your study abroad! So to end on a slightly more philosophical note, as Steve Jobs says, "You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma,“ Sometimes, during study abroad, it’s best to go with your intuition and leave the planner and maps behind. Getting to know a culture is like getting to know a person; there’s no one roadmap to how you get there. So explore, and have fun!

Finding Language in Unconventional Places

Conceptual art is a term used to describe artwork that holds the idea (or concept) in greater esteem than the media used to create the work, or its aesthetic appearance. Installations and site-specific work are conceptual, as they do not conform to traditional notions of art. Rather than the idea being represented in the art (as in the case of a painting of a pipe for instance), the idea is the art.

Joseph Beuys, Felt Suit 1970

Felt suit and wood hanger

displayed: 1660 x 660 x 260 mm

ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 DACS, 2009

The Conceptual Art Movement rose to prominence during the 1960s, and was championed by artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt and Lawrence Weiner. Among non-traditional materials used, like bicycle wheels and chairs, was language.

Out of the Conceptual Art Movement was born the Art & Language Movement, in 1968. Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin and Harold Hurrell were the founding members of the group in England. For the most part, the movement was contained within the UK and the USA in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. This group of artists gave language and text a centralised role in their artwork. 

Incorporating language into art pushes the boundaries of what it means to create art. There is less of an emphasis on artistic skill than on the realisation of an idea, sometimes using found objects and cheap material. Evidently, to fully grasp the intention of the art, comprehension of the language used is necessary. This brings to light the question of accessibility of the art among non-English speakers and those without a formalised education. Although undoubtedly conceptual art today might employ languages other than English, in its initial stages, artists in the Art & and Language Movement primarily used English in their work. Indeed, consumers who cannot comprehend the meaning of the words can appreciate the visual or aural nature of the words for their own sakes. Visual art is not the only mode of presentation of art that incorporates language. Spoken and recorded text was and is used as another effective way to convey an idea. Language is a powerful tool, which can be found and used in the most unlikely places.

John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art 1971
Lithograph, composition: 22 3/8 x 29 9/16" (56.8 x 75.1 cm); sheet: 22 7/16 x 30 1/16" (57 x 76.4 cm)


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cheaper Ways You CAN Travel the Globe!

Do you want to travel but feel like money is the main or only obstacle that is standing in your way?
There are several ways to travel abroad cheap--the most common are work-exchanges, hopitality-exchanges, home-exchanges, and volunteer programs. 

I'm going to show you that you can travel abroad, no matter what your budget.

Work-exchanges involve volunteer work in exchange for free accommodation and food (bed and board). Oftentimes, this can mean a homestay (staying, living, and eating with the host family) but depending on where you work/go, it could be an apartment, cabin, or elsewhere. These are usually the cheapest options since your help is greatly needed and appreciated so generally your hosts really want you there. These can last from as little as a week to a whole year, depending on what you and your host decide. Volunteers are usually expected to contribute around 20-25 hrs of work per week. It does mean spending part of your vacation working, but if you're interested in cultural travel and language exchange, traveling doesn't get much more local than literally living with a local family and sharing in their daily activities! Here are some popular options for work-exchange:


HelpX-- "Online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels, and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-exchange for food and accommodation." 
HelpX is probably the most commonly-known work-exchange site. You can make an account for free, but in order to contact hosts or be contacted, you have to upgrade to the premium membership which is 20 euros for 2 years. HelpX operates mainly in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but is also available in several places internationally. You are encouraged to travel with friend/s and can create your account as a "couple account" if you wish. (The more help the merrier!)
I haven't explored the HelpX site so I can't give a personal recommendation about it, but I have read many good reviews about it.

Workaway-- "A site set up to promote fair exchange between budget travelers, language learners or culture seekers and families, individuals or organizations who are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities."
Workawayers can search for hosts in exchange for providing the following types of work: gardening, building, babysitting/childcare, elderly care, cooking/shopping, general maintenance, farming, help with eco project, help in the house, animal care, helping with tourists, charity work, language-exchange, art project, help with computers/internet, teaching, etc. Like HelpX, you can make an account for free, but in order to contact hosts or be contacted, you have to register which costs 23 euros for 2 years. A couple account is also possible on this site.
Although it's a bit more expensive than HelpX, I personally prefer Workaway. The site is more visually pleasing, clear, and easy to navigate. There also are many more international hosts available and you're likely to find a host in the country you want that wants the kind of work you can and want to offer. You can also see photos of the place you're interested in and review feedback left by hosts and travelers.

WWOOF-- "World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a loose network of national organizations that facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms."
They very well may have invented the work-exchange concept, since their organization began in the '70s. WWOOF, however, is focused on organic farming and is country-specific. So if you know you want to organic farm in Ireland, WWOOF is probably a great option for you. However, if you want to travel around and try many things, I wouldn't recommend this site. Country-specific means that each country has its own WWOOF organization, and you need to pay a membership fee for each one.
I have never used WWOOF but my sister and her fiance have used it on many occasions, since their primary interest is organic farming in the States. In their case, it is a very good option and works well for them.

*For these types of sites, beyond paying the registration fee for the site (which ensures that everyone on the site is serious and therefore ensures better hosts/workers), the only other fees you need to pay are any plane tickets or visas you need. In some cases, your host might reimburse you (depending on how long you intend to stay with them) or you may not need a visa. Generally, all other costs will be covered by your host though some spending money would be good to bring with you.

Here are some reviews comparing the above sites:


A hospitality exchange or home stay network is an organization that connects travelers with local residents in the cities they're visiting. They are similar to work-exchanges except that you're more of a guest than an employee/volunteer. They are accepting you more out of the good of their heart and out of the desire to learn your culture/language than because they need your presence. The pros of this is that you get a more home-y place to stay for very cheap (or potentially free, depending) and you don't have to endure hard-work to earn your stay. The cons of this is the lack of privacy and the reminder that you are a guest so you should probably present yourself a certain way. Hospitality-exchanges rely a lot on trust and an open heart. Here are some options for hospitality-exchange:


Couchsurfing-- "The website provides a platform for members to 'surf'on couches by staying as a guest at a host's home, host travelers, or join an event."
Couchsurfing is definitely the most commonly-known hospitality-exchange. It's completely free to make an account, to message people, respond to people, and join groups. It does cost $25 to verify your account but verifying your account is not necessary. However, potential hosts are more likely to take you seriously since verifying shows that you are serious about your journeys. References will also show that you are a good guest and someone that would be worth hosting.
Couchsurfing is ideal if you are traveling around and need somewhere to sleep (like a couch) and want an alternative to hostels. Couchsurfing is usually expected to be short-term. Although hosts are not allowed to charge a fee on the Couchsurfing site, they do expect their guests to help out in some way--maybe cook, clean, or offer language-exchange. Since you're not working for your room and board, you might as well help out somehow.
Personally, I love the Couchsurfing site. You can be both a host and traveler in the same account, the site is visually appealing and easy to navigate, and if you're not up for traveling yet you can still use the site for language-exchange through messaging/Skype. Couchsurfing is a huge organization and you can certainly find many good/bad reviews of it on Google.

HospitalityClub-- "The club is supported by volunteers who believe in one idea: by bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit, and by giving 'locals' a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet."
Hospitality Club's aim is to bring people together. Members around the world help each other when they are traveling-- be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. Joining is free, takes just a minute, and everyone is welcome. Members can look at each other's profiles, send messages, and post comments about their experience on the website.
Although it's one of the most popular results that comes up when you search "hospitality-exchange" and I've seen many good reviews on it, I personally don't use Hospitality Club. I have an account but I find the site hard to navigate and not as organized so I prefer options like Couchsurfing and Workaway. 

BeWelcome-- "Step inside and invite travelers to your home, find hosts all over the world, and become part of our multicultural hospitality community. We are not-for-profit, open source, and exclusively run by members in a transparent and democratic way."
BeWelcome is a lot like HospitalityClub, it's a popular result on Google search and I've seen many reviews of it, but I personally don't use it. Apparently all membership and features are completely free and users can make comments on their experiences to warn others of good and bad experiences with hosts/guests. 

TrustRoots-- "Hospitality exchange community for hitchhikers and other travelers. We want a world that encourages trust, adventure, and intercultural connections."
TrustRoots is a very new organization/site but seems very down-to-earth and user-friendly. It is completely free to make an account and to contact others, after you confirm your e-mail/activate your account. Just like Couchsurfing, you can be both a host and traveler in the same account. TrustRoots seems to be geared mostly towards hitchhikers but is in no way limited to them--on the site they say they are working on expanding their community and want you (the users) to add your input/ideas/opinions/comments to help them grow. 

WarmShowers-- "A free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink."
This is a very common result on Google searches but is obviously centered on traveling cyclists. You have to pick a membership level each year. You can choose the free trial membership which costs nothing, but donations are highly encouraged since it's a non-profit. Since I'm not a cyclist, I am not registered on this site nor have I explored it. There do seem to be plenty good reviews of it on Google though, so if you have a fondness for cycling, this site might be a wonderful option to look into!

*As with anything, please use your intuition and judgment when using these sites. Be safe and take precautions to make sure you are picking a good host. Look for hosts with good references/feedback and hosts that you can Skype-call beforehand to get to know and make sure you are making the right decision. These sites rely a lot on trust and the good nature of people, so be aware of that. 


I've seen many names for these, but the primary idea is either you watch someone's home (and possibly pets) while they are on vacation, or the two of you switch homes for vacation. House-sitting is great because you get to travel to the location you want, but instead of living in a hostel or on someone's couch, you're living in a potentially beautiful house. Many home-owners will let you use their pool or anything else they have available (i.e. tennis courts, or possibly their car). Some home-owners will leave their pets at home while on vacation, and you will be expected to take care of them too. Home-swapping is an option I only recently came across. Instead of you just leaving your house to watch some other person's house, the two of you "swap" houses for your vacation. That way you both get to travel and explore the location of your choice, while your house is being taken care of/watched over. Obviously, a lot of trust and respect is involved in these options. Here are some options for this type of exchange:


HomeExchange-- "Travel anywhere, like a local, stay for free. Our members use their homes to save thousands when they travel. Join today and browse 5500+ home exchange and house swap listings in 150+ countries."
Apparently the world's #1 international home-exchange site. It's $150/year, but there is a 14-day free trial period that allows you to everything a paid membership would allow you to do. They include this guarantee, "If you don't do an exchange in your first year, you get a second year free!" So despite the large fee, it does seem to be a well-trusted site that is easy to navigate (and find help). There is a 24/7 live chat available and the site includes homes that are pet-friendly, so instead of leaving your pets at home, you can go on vacation with them.
This site has an "exchange agreement" that they recommend both families sign (like a contract) to ensure clear communications and avoidance of any misunderstandings. This is a home-exchange site, so you are expected to open your house to the family of the house you want to vacation to. Therefore, along with messaging homes/families you're interested in, you are to advertise your own home too, and there is a lot of information on the site on how to do that successfully.

HomeForExchange-- "Home for exchange is a marketplace for non-commercial home exchange. You stay in their home while they stay in yours."
There is a 10-day free trial, after that your membership will continue on an annual basis and you will be charged $65 for the first year. (For two years it's $100, and for three years it's $130). It's probably one of the cheapest options and has many good reviews. You can browse listings before making an account.

HomeLink-- "As the world's original home exchange organization, we offer a huge variety of home swap homes in over 80 countries around the world and the USA. Our organization has pioneered the global experience of home exchange vacations."
There are three membership options: 1-year (115 euros), 2-year (195 euros), and 3-year (265 euros). Like HomeExchange, they have guarantee that if you don't find an exchange in the first year, they will give you a second year free. You can browse homes before becoming a member.

Stay4Free-- "Home exchange is when two families agree to exchange homes for a period of time for vacation. There is no time limit: it could be for a weekend or 12 months. There is no place limit either: the exchange can be within a country or between different countries. A key characteristic is that nobody pays anything; your stay will be free."
There is a 14-day free trial then you can choose a standard membership ($12/month), plus membership ($14/month) or pro membership ($35/month), the bigger the membership, the better the rewards. However, the plus membership looks the best to me and seems to be the most popular. The pro/plus memberships also provide the guarantee (that if you don't find an exchange the first year they'll renew your membership for a whole year, free of charge). As a non-member you can search for listings.

MindMyHouse-- "We've provided all the tools for home owners and house sitters to find each other from around the globe (or around the corner). And it works!"
Home owners join for free. House sitter memberships are the cheapest on the web at only $20/year. This site also provides a house-sitting agreement that both parties should sign and review. This site seems to be mostly centered towards home owners, as you can search for house sitters before making an account (but not for home owners). Although the listings seem to be limited, apparently many housesitters start with this site (probably because it's the cheapest) and have good reviews of it. (Note: this is not a home-exchange; this is someone traveling and you staying in their house while they are gone. So this is actually a really great option if you don't exactly have a home to exchange but need somewhere to live anyway).

TrustedHousesitters-- "We connect home and pet owners who need a sitter with trustworthy people who want to house sit; reliable pet lovers and experienced home minders who are willing to live in your home and look after it and your pets while you're away (usually for free)."
This site is very well-known and therefore has many good reviews. Depending on whether you're a homeowner or housesitter, you choose a different membership. Both versions have the annual plan available. Annual plan is $96/year. Or you can choose the combined plan (which allows both a homeowner and homesitter membership) which is the same price as the annual plan and is therefore the best value. On this site, before membership, you can search both housesitters and homes to sit. It's a very pet-friendly site, assuming that most of its members have pets or are good with pets.

*Although most of these sites seem to require a pricey membership, in the long run it is definitely cheaper than most experiences vacationing abroad. After the membership fee, you just have to pay for flights, food, and spending money, but you don't have to rent/buy the house you live in. So you basically get the opportunity to live somewhere gorgeous in the country of your choosing without buying or renting it. Definitely a unique opportunity if you decide to do it.

Here are some useful sites:


Volunteer programs are a nice way to vacation to your dream destination while also doing something to help the world around you. Most volunteer programs cost at least a couple hundred dollars, but considering everything that's included in the package, it's a pretty sweet deal and can be a great option if you want a meaningful vacation. The International Volunter Programs Association (IVPA) answers the common question of "Why pay to volunteer?": Most of the programs that offer international volunteer opportunities charge volunteers a fee in order to cover their year-round coordinating and operational costs. Many also need to raise funds to contribue materials and other resources to the overseas project. By volunteering abroad, you are making a commitment to fundraising. (There are some free volunteer programs but they are few and far between).


Idealist-- "We connect idealists with opportunities for action."
Idealist is a site that has jobs, internships, and volunteer programs around the world listed. It's basically like a Google for great travel opportunities.

GoEco-- "Created by experienced volunteers for people who are eager to travel and contribute to the community, wildlife, and environement they visit. Based on years of practice and in-depth field reports, GoEco presents you with a careful selection of excellent yet affordable volunteer and ecological minded vacations."
Basically, if you like animals and/or conservation, I'd really recommend you take a look at this site. There are also several non-animal-related opportunities on this site (like teaching, childcare, and community work). Most of the programs cost from $450-$2000 but they are all-inclusive, covering your board/room, food, training, wifi, and sightseeing opportunities. The price depends on how long you intend to stay.

It's exactly what it sounds like: a site that lists free volunteer programs/opportunities around the globe. You can search by location. Each one lists the stay duration expected, how many hours you are expected to devote, what they pay for, and what you need to pay for (usually you are expected to cover your own flight, internal transport, travel health insurance, pocket money, visa, etc). They also include requirements. Most require you to be at least 18 and some might require a bachelor's degree.

OneWorld365-- "Ignite your wanderlust by searching our unique trips and volunteer opportunities in over 100 worldwide destinations."
Similar to GoEco except there are many non-animal projects. They list volunteer programs, jobs, and other interesting opportunities.

Cultural Homestay International-- "CHI is a non-profit educational organization that promotes international understanding and goodwill through people-to-people exchanges."
Although this site also has some USA internships and an international Au Pair program, I've included it on this list because of their ECVA program. The ECVA (English Conversation Volunteers Abroad) program lets you live with a host family, with full room and board, for 1-3 months. In exchange for that, you just have to share your native language with your hosts for 15 hours/week. (They also ensure plenty of free time so that you can explore the country you're staying in). No prior teaching experience is necessary! These casual English conversation lessons usually run 5 days/week, 3 hours/day. CHI provides you with tutoring materials, but most of our hosts that are learning English as a second language (ESL) simply want to practice speaking English with a native speaker. It's that fun and easy!
The program cost depends on where you choose to go and how long you intend to stay (staying longer is actually cheaper in this case). For example, Japan is $23/day whereas Vietnam is $10/day. You can earn college credit. The only requirements are you have to be at least 18 years old, be a native speaker of English (or completely fluent), and be a high school graduate (though some college is preferred). The ECVA program runs year long so you choose your departure date.

Here are some useful sites:


There are several more options and opportunities all across the internet, and more are cropping up every day. I'm sure if you are determined, you'll find the perfect opportunity for you to travel in a economical way. 

You can always, of course, look into scholarships and grants to help pay for your travels (if you can prove that they're destinations/programs that will help you and others). Or you can try to get yourself funded with Indiegogo or Kickstarter (if you're good at fundraising). 

The sky is the limit! Just remember--if you want to travel you can!


More Helpful Articles-

Helpful sites-