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.

5 Creative Ideas for Boosting Results and Adding Fun in Your Online Language Lessons

Language tutors are a favourite resource in any successful learner’s arsenal. But it’s not always easy to stay excited about your language lessons, and to turn up regularly…If there’s no creativity in online lessons, no one gets to have the results or the fun that they should have. 

No problem! Check out the following 5 ideas for lessons in any language, and you’ll be on to a winner!

Read More

7 of the Best Language Learning Rules Ever

best language rules

Today I want to go a little bit deeper into the content of all our Language Book Club interviews from 30 January. As you saw last week, the event was truly epic and delivered some wisdom from no fewer than 11 multilingual people (polyglots! yes they are!).

Between me and Chris Broholm from Actual Fluency, we had the chance to interview a great bunch of people about writing, language learning and challenges on the day, so here are the most important things that Language Book Club taught us:

1) Forget Fluency

Fluency is not a word that most polyglots or language teachers love. Yes, we all call our blogs after it, but fluency is truly a concept that you need to define in more detail. It certainly doesn't help when you are working on your goals. Instead of aiming to define fluency, try setting short-term goals such as reading a certain book in the next month. I admit that I’m pretty pleased with myself for my own definition, which goes a bit like “if you can avoid communication breakdown and keep a conversation flowing, you’re pretty fluent."

2) Learn Vocabulary in Context

Flashcards and vocab are hot property, but there are lots of different ways of doing them. From detailed Anki interaction to paper-based systems like my simple Write-Look-Cover-Repeat system, the biggest key is in creating a rich context for whatever you are learning. In fact, you can develop this all the way to creating language memory palaces. Anthony Metivier believes that the memory palace is great for simple grammar principles and vocabulary, and emphasises that it is the most fundamental way of developing your memory (read here for my own mini palace attempt).

3) Don't get hung up on Accents

No matter where you go and speak a native language kinda badly, you'll still be welcome and accepted. this message was reinforced by Jared Romey and the girls from Russian Step by Step. Jared talked about how easy it can be to become disoriented even within the same language as he recounted his experiences of embarrassing Puerto Rican shopgirls. You might be feeling self-conscious or embarrassed when you step off the plane and have to open your mouth and “talk foreign” for the first time. But Jared says: “The most important thing is that you learn Spanish. Afterwards, you can adjust it, but don’t let dialects stop you."

4) Appreciate how big the World is

Language learning is not just about remembering words and grammar structures. It's about a whole different world view. Becky Morales shared the story of American high schoolers who met their first Mexican in their teenage years and enquired whether she had ever seen an orange. When you learn a language, she said, you become a world citizen and that's what really enriches your life.

5) Look Beyond the Idea of Hacking

There is no language hack and no single method of making language learning easier for all. From Benny Lewis and the emphasis on speaking and communication, to Gabriel Wyner's intense pronunciation focus, no polyglot can promise you the answer to getting things entirely right. Many share what works for them, and all of us hope that it will work for you too. In that sense keep trying, because you're not getting things wrong any time soon. Looking for a shortcut to better language skills is fine, but every one of our experts on the day has been a language learner for many years. The tips that you get are honed through years of experience, discipline and habit-building. What is the key to good language learning? Enjoy the journey!

6) See and Believe the Impossible

It's all right to be a fan boy! In Teatime with Chris, my Co-host Chris Broholm talked about his own journey of self-development and finding a purpose. It’s a pretty inspiring story and really does stand out as proof of how language learning as a personal challenge can help with even the biggest challenges. Chris started his own podcast as a means of learning from the people he admired. He says “It’s been such a big motivation for me when I see people doing things that didn’t even seem possible to me, and once you see what you think is impossible then it becomes possible."

7) Chill out at least some of the Time

When you feel overwhelmed, it's fine to slow down. Instead of trying every method of language learning all at once, just chill out and reconnect with your own preferences. Language learning is about what you do best. It has to be in sync with your own learning style. Not only did I discuss this as part of my own hour of Language Book Club Live, but I actually built this principle into the entire concept of The Vocab Cookbook. It's a cookbook: a collection of recipes to inspire and inform. Like with every other collection and every other blog, I want you to try out the ones that sound nice. You'll still get your time's worth.

Join Language Book Club

You can join Language Book Club on Facebook to stay up to date with news and discussions around language learning and books, and of course the updates on our next event when we make it happen later in 2015!

Get 50% Off the Fluent Box Set

If you haven't yet got a copy of The Vocab Cookbook on the day, don't forget that you can get the set of my 2 language learning guides, Fluency Made Achievable and The Vocab Cookbook together now.

These books are quick reads with a big impact, helping you boost your language learning skills instantly.

For you as a book club fan, I have created the special coupon code BOOKCLUB to give you my box set worth $20 for just $10. Get the huge discount right here - 100% Money Back Guaranteed of course. I just know you will love these.