italki Review: Find Your Online Language Teacher

italki review

Finding a good language teacher isn’t necessarily an easy task. For those who don’t have a lot of local tutoring options or for those learning a less popular language, it can sometimes feel impossible.

Maybe you’ve had no luck finding teachers or language exchange partners in the past and you’re wondering if online teaching sites are a good idea. Maybe you’ve thought about trying one before, but didn’t know which option to choose.

In this review, let’s take a look at what italki is all about, what it has to offer, and how to make the most of its features to help you connect with others.

What is italki?

In short, italki is an online platform that connects language learners with both professional teachers and community tutors.

Currently, there are over a hundred languages for learners to choose from, including German, Chinese, Catalan, Armenian, and Esperanto. Since all lessons are done online, there’s also greater chance you’ll be able to find someone who teaches a language you’d like to learn.

How Do You Use It?

Like lots of language learning resources, it sounds great, but how easy is it to use?

Setting up an account only takes a few minutes and it’s free. After that, you can simply select a language from search bar to start looking for a teacher.

Finding a Teacher on italki

One thing I liked about this process was the fact that I could review all the available teachers before commiting to a decision. Each teacher on italki has a profile with a video introduction, a short description, a list of their teaching strengths, a list of the type of lessons they offer, and different costs. Professional teachers will also have a list of education and experience.

Once you find a teacher you’d like to schedule a lesson with, you’ll have to purchase italki credits, which can be done at any time from one of the options in the top menu. It doesn’t take long and there are a few different payment options, but keep in mind that each option has a different processing fee. After you’ve added enough credits, you can schedule a lesson.

Booking a Language Lesson

The booking process is simple and straightforward. Clicking ‘Schedule Lesson’ opens a window that lets you pick the language, lesson time, and lesson duration. New italki accounts have the option to select a 30 minute trial lesson, which is meant to help you get used to scheduling lessons and using the platform. It’s also great if you’re feeling nervous about your first lesson. You can use the shorter time period to test your connection, see how things work, and ask the teacher any questions you might have.

Once you pick a date and time for your lesson based on the teacher’s availability, you can also select an alternate way to connect for your session, like via Skype. I’d recommend entering in this information since the italki classroom is currently still in beta and can experience glitches.

After your lesson is completed, italki will ask you to verify that the lesson took place. If you did experience any issues, you’ll want to let them know. Then, you can leave a review for your teacher to share your thoughts on how the lesson went.

How Can I Get the Most out of Italki?

italki teacher: A sample profile

italki teacher: A sample profile

Since italki is focused on connecting language learners and teachers, it’s important to remember that your experience will depend on how you use it to interact with others. If you want to make the most of it, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Think about Your Own Language Learning Goals

Do you want to learn a language in order to travel? Are you trying to pass a test?

There are a lot of teachers on italki and they all charge a different rate. I found that knowing my own language goals was one of the best factors in finding a good teacher, not price.

For instance, one of my reasons for learning Spanish is to have conversations with my Spanish-speaking, Latin American side of the family. So, when searching for a Spanish teacher on italki, I’m a bit more particular about finding someone who speaks Latin American Spanish and seems like someone I could easily talk to.

However, someone who wants to learn Spanish to travel to Spain or needs to pass the DELE Spanish Exam will have a better learning experience with a different teacher.

Once you’re a bit more clear on your own goals, you can use that information to help you pick a teacher. Pay special attention to:

  • Introduction videos

  • Teacher specialties

  • Lesson types

  • Reviews

To learn more about what you get for your money, read How Much Will You Pay For a Language Tutor?.

To Get The Best Italki Results: Be Patient and Prepared

Even if you think you’ve found a good teacher, you never know what a lesson might be like. You could find it hard to talk to each other or you might not care for their style of teaching.

Just remember that you won’t connect well with everyone. Don’t take it as a sign to give up. There’s nothing wrong with trying several teachers.

Starting a Brand New Language on italki

One thing that helped me was to be prepared ahead of time. My most recent italki lesson was for Arabic, a language I knew almost nothing about. Before the lesson started, I wrote down a few initial questions and made sure I had a notebook and pen nearby. I think even this small preparation helped me focus a bit more during the lesson, even though I didn’t feel confident.

Be conscious of any practical steps to need to take ahead of time as well, including finding a quiet room and making sure you have a fast, stable internet connection. It can go a long way in making sure your session goes smoothly.

Don’t Ignore the Other Italki Features

One-on-one lessons aren’t the only thing italki has to offer, but a lot of people either forget about or don’t bother with some of the other cool resources.

Improve Your Writing Skills With Feedback

An example of the italki notebook feature

Unter the Community tab of the main menu, you’ll find articles, a notebook to write things down in a language you’re learning, a place for questions and discussions, and a way to find conversation exchange partners.

If you’re interested in improving your writing skills, you’ll definitely want to try the notebook feature. You’ll be able to post an entry in your target language and native speakers have the option to give you feedback and corrections.

Similarly, you can check the Answers or Discussions pages if you have small questions or simply want to start a conversation. Any of these options is also a great opportunity to connect with others on the platform and find language exchange partners.

So, Should You Give Italki a Go?

Hopefully, this review has given you a bit more insight into how italki works and how you can make the most of its features to help you learn a language.

My honest advice is to start by making an account and simply searching for teachers. Take a look at the costs and click the small heart symbol to bookmark any teachers that you think might be a good fit. I’ll admit that I nervously did that for a bit before I finally took the chance and scheduled my first lesson.

The nice thing about italki is that you can just add a few italki credits and try it out. It’s not a big commitment, but it has a lot of potential to be extremely helpful.

italki: Better Than Your Local Class

Overall, I found the site incredibly easy to work with and much better than trying to find a class or a private tutor to connect with locally. So, if you think it might be a good resource for you, try at least one lesson. I think you’ll like your experience.

This review is part of a sponsorship from italki. It was written by Cassie Wright. To learn more about italki and get $10 of free lesson credit, go to www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/italki.

My New Year Language Challenge: Totalmente Italiano

Now that the new year has begun, I bet you're feeling fired up to take more language lessons, spend more time studying and set all kinds of new goals. And as a language tutor, you know where I stand on the issue: You should at try working with a 1-to-1 tutor. Good language teachers are the ultimate key to unlocking language learning.

While italki is certainly not the only place for you to find a good tutor, they are definitely one of the most encouraging. For 2015, italki is relaunching the Language Challenge. Sadly I'm too busy to get involved this time, but I've found a fearless roving reporter in my friend Tanja. Tanja is taking the Challenge and reporting on her Italian learning progress here on Fluent, and hopefully you'll feel encouraged and get involved in the Challenge too. You can read more below and sign up until Jan 31st.

italianlearning

Something New - Learning to be Fluent

My name is Tanja, and I have loved languages ever since my very first English lesson, aged 10, but sadly never turned into a “polyglot”. At school, I also took French and Latin while trying, at the same time, to teach myself Spanish at home, with tapes and a book (yes, tapes). At uni, I finally did an intensive Spanish course, followed up by a fairly advanced course in Girona. Ever since, I have been trying to boost my French and Spanish skills, to no great avail. My main achievement is that I own a lot of books in the languages. Some of the French ones I have even read. I also started courses in Swedish, Dutch and Ancient Greek, but never got past greetings.

Fluency

Fluency, for me, has a lot to do with speaking. I have come to realise that I am simply not fluent in more languages because I am too worried to make mistakes. Of course that’s wrong - after all, I moved to England aged 18 and therefore personally experienced that immersion works. I am a certified TEFL-teacher, I have been teaching classes for decades, not a single lesson passes in which I don’t tell my students that it’s okay to make mistakes. One of my students was “healed” from not speaking when I told her to pay attention to how many times a day, she can’t think of a word in German, doesn’t finish a sentence etc., in her mother tongue. I know the tricks of the trade, I understand how learning progresses, and I am aware that knowing a language isn’t just about being able to read books in it. My retirement vision of living in a house in France (with a big library) has long been marred by the realisation that I won’t be able to negotiate the contract and that my wine-fuelled discussions with my imaginary lovely neighbours will likely never happen if I don’t say more than “Bonjour, madame!”

So why Italian?

In the late summer of 2014, I decided to learn Italian from scratch. Though I still wanted to become fluent in French and possibly Spanish eventually, I made a choice. This time, I would go about it differently. I wouldn’t repeat and revise what I had already studied several times over the course of twenty years, but would start over. I wanted to apply all that I knew about language learning, and I wanted to give the communicative approach - basically, the belief that it is essential to speak and hence, communicate, from the very beginning - another try. Having had a very grammar-focused language education, this was bound to be hard for me, but it would be okay, especially because the other approaches clearly hadn’t worked.

I can’t say I have always wanted to learn Italian. In fact, I never wanted to learn Italian. I thought it was too similar to French and especially Spanish and it would confuse me more than help. I refused to holiday in Italy because it seemed more useful to go to places where “my” languages were spoken - but when in Spain or France, I very rarely used them. Nonetheless, I was fascinated by Italy: the history, the culture, the writers, recently even the politics were of great interest to me. After all, with the Front National being so successful in France, I might have to move my retirement home to Tuscany. Bonus: Italian food is glorious. So in August, I vowed to a friend that I’d learn Italian, and become fluent - fast.

What I Tried

Once the idea had hatched, I checked out the language very theoretically. I also booked a trip to Rome for New Year. By then, I wanted to be able to speak well enough. I tried to find a tandem partner via Couchsurfing and sort of did, but we never managed to meet up. It was a busy September, so I didn’t do much except practise on Duolingo. My plan was to fit a course into my full-time job schedule, and I had my eyes set on one that would be Fridays from 2-6pm, starting mid-October. This was meant to get me to B1-level in a semester. Shortly before the course was to commence, I bought the set course books. Then it was cancelled. This was the point at which I’d normally move on to another hobby - but not this time. I had made a promise to myself and further decided it would be good for my own teaching to feel like a newbie for a change. I searched online and found an offline teacher. The first time I sat in front of R., I was able to say absolutely nothing, Duolingo notwithstanding. I got homework though, and three days later, I had already improved. By the next week, I could write sentences in two tenses. I was hooked, but felt like I was doing most of the studying by myself. I then, having first registered in October, decided to actually use italki. In November I had my first trial sessions - both were very good, and in addition to being super-supportive, my second teacher somehow got me to talk.

How I Learn

So far, since late November, I have had one offline lesson a week (90 minutes) and one to two italki-sessions. I will be participating in the italki language challenge from January 15th, so that’ll mean three hours a week on average. In addition, I study some of the grammar we talk about in the classes on various websites (e.g. scudit.net, http://parliamoitaliano.altervista.org). I also use my prematurely purchased course book, especially for the offline course. My teacher on italki prepares Anki cards for me after every lesson. I downloaded free Italian Kindle books (though I haven’t read them yet) as well as some learning guides. Since I already know a decent amount of French and Latin words, I have assembled lists of cognates - there are several online for English speakers. I hope these will be more helpful when my grammar has improved a little. Apart from human interaction, my favourite exercise so far is writing just a few sentences a day into my new Italian calendar. In the next few blog posts, I will reflect on how well I am getting on with the different tools.

So far, so good

I think it’s going well - I am determined to succeed in the challenge, if only because Kerstin so kindly gave me the opportunity to share this adventure with you out there. After only four weeks of learning, I am able to understand a lot of Italian - and I always got the pizza I wanted in Rome. A presto!

Quick italki Language Challenge Overview

  • For this Challenge, Tanja is committing to taking 20 hours of language lessons between Jan 15th and Feb 28th - that's just 6 weeks!

  • All lessons count, even free community ones, so you can try out as many tutors as you like. This is about building a habit.

  • Learn ANY language at all - maybe even get to level C2 this time!

  • There's also a reward, as italki is giving away 400 ITC to successful takers at the end.

Sign up to the italki Language Challenge or simply learn more here.