TalktalkBnb | Talk and travel for free

Approx read: 2 mins

There’s a new free platform that connects travellers with host families to practise language. TalkTalkBnb allows travellers a glimpse of real local culture whilst hosts get to work on a foreign language, all around the dinner table.

If you’re reading this, you don’t ever have to pay for a hotel again. And you’ll get to practise that language you learned- and forgot every summer- over your educational lifetime.

Have you ever tried to start up a conversation in the local language in a foreign country?

Parisian waiters turn on their heels at the audacity of deeply violating their right to privacy by asking about their day. ‘Comment allez-vous?’ will get you No Comment in the City of Light.

Shopkeepers, even in friendly Malta, start to slowly back away when one keeps going on about the weather. My Malti is very limited, but I try. Anybody got a Maltese three-year-old I can talk to?

Having a conversation as a solo female traveller can be a challenge. People can misinterpret one’s desire to speak for another kind of desire entirely.

Rally around a communal cause, Jesus, futbol, waiting for the bus, and one can hope that the topic stays generic enough to remain in play, linguistically. But these topics incite passion, and the conversation can quickly turn superfast, angry, idiomatic, or all three.

How does one get into the head of the inscrutable local?

Enter TalkTalkBnB. It works like this: Host families invite vetted guests to crash for free in their homes. Guests act as foreign language partners, allowing the host families to practise the alien tongue. Visitors get to see real live foreigners in their natural habitat, and milk them for travel resources. In short: free rent for a few language lessons.

Security-wise, it works very much like Couchsurfing, with heavy reliance on reviews, and encourages lots of communication between host and traveller beforehand. Women can choose a Women Only platform. There’s also an internal messaging service, which records every exchange.

The system works both ways. Need to brush up on your Spanish before a holiday? Host some travellers before your trip.

Magst du die Erdbeeren?’ (‘Do you like the strawberries?’) I once asked a very busy server in Germany. In the dead of winter. At dinner.

So instead of creeping out hotel staff with heavily-accented non sequiturs, one now has a way to have meaningful conversations with locals in their own homes.

This is just what founder Hubert Laurent hopes to accomplish: ‘We’re hoping to create a large international language-learning community, based on practice and sharing. Our ambition is to connect thousands of people from all countries, for cultural exchanges and travel.’

Sarah is a blogger, writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.