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.

Accelerate Your Speaking Skills with Speechling: In-Depth 100% Honest Review

Speaking in other languages is harder than it looks at first. You can read books and study flashcards, and still choke when you speak to a real person.

speechling review.png

It can be difficult to practice pronunciation and have conversations on a regular basis. Tutors are awesome, but your lesson time is limited. And many apps and bots make us feel detached.

Speechling claims to have cracked that problem. This new app offers speaking skill training, attractive design, and the most convenient access to a real person tutor that I have ever seen. No scheduling, no exchange of Skype names.

Sounds good, but does it work? In this review, let's take a deep dive and find out.

How does Speechling Work?

Speechling's courses use sentence repetition, a premise that you may know from fellow Fluent favourite Glossika. But there is a twist: Speechling includes feedback on everything you record, from an actual human.

After repeating the sentence you see and hear on the screen, you have the choice of listening back to your pronunciation, or to save it for coaching. After you save your recording, you will receive feedback and tips from a Speechling coach.

How I Tested The App

Speechling's six language options gave me the chance to test ot for at different levels:

  • Advanced (French),
  • Confident Beginner(Russian)
  • Absolute Beginner (Chinese).

The Advanced Learner Test: French

In French, my language level is around B2-C1 on the CEFR. I can navigate most conversations without hiccups, and I know for a fact that speaking French is what I need the most.

So for my level, saying a few sentences every day at my own convenience was perfect.

The live feedback here was eye-opening. I have an optimistic blind spot to my own weaknesses in pronunciation and word choice. I always learnt French in academic environments, so I produce great grammar. But in reality, my spoken French sounds textbook and a little uncomfortable. The coach feedback made me more aware of my little mistakes without discouraging me completely. I felt encouraged to try again, to fix what I was saying and carry on.

Describing a picture using Speechling's Freestyle mode

Describing a picture using Speechling's Freestyle mode

With the freestyle mode, I got to practice free speech instead of repeating pre-written sentences. In the dictation feature, I added listening comprehension at natural speeds.

The Confident Beginner Test: Russian

Russian is a language I studied about two years ago and I was able to have very basic exchanges (“what did you have for breakfast?” - “I had porridge”, that kind of stuff). I pronounce words correctly, and can read Cyrillic. So with this language, I wanted to see

audio card russian.png
  1. if Speechling can teach me something new and
  2. if my pronunciation is accurate.

The module I chose was “Beginner (A1)”, which was a great entry point after a few years off. With each repetition, I felt like I was learning. The examples were well pronounced, came at a speed that felt like a suitable challenge, and soon I was improving.

I also felt that pronouncing each new word immediately helped me remember it, especially when I added a recording. The accountability of recording and coaching (“someone will actually hear this”) helped me link the phrase with a strong emotion. For more about how emotions amplify memory, check out my interview with Gabriel Wyner from Fluent Forever.

With a language like Russian, you need regular exposure to stay comfortable with the alphabet and pronunciation. Speechling surprised me here because it felt like the perfect tool. There were so many sentences I had never said before, and so many opportunities for me to improve.

Best of all, I was speaking Russian right there and then without any hesitation.

Of course, exposure to lots of sentences won't teach me more than lots of sentences. If I wanted to get back into Russian and start making steady progress, I would definitely use Speechling and I would add a textbook, dictionary, grammar explanations, and lots of input resources.

The Absolute Beginner Test: Chinese

Chinese is the only language out of Speechling’s range that I have never studied, so I decided to go for the “simplified” version. Does that mean easy Chinese? No idea, but it's worth a try. The module I chose was “Beginner (A1)”, as there was no way of picking anything even easier.

My Speechling Audio Diary

My Speechling Audio Diary

With Chinese, Speechling shows the sentences in Hanzi (Chinese characters). There is also the option of viewing the sentence in pinyin. Good job - it was the only way I could even start to guess at repeating the sounds I was hearing.

For a complete beginner like me, the sentences were interesting. I had to repeat the audio input 4-5 times before I dared to repeat the sounds. Surely, any Chinese speaker would be impressed?

Speaking Chinese to a Chinese Native After 5 Minutes

Well, I do know a Chinese speaker so I was ready to shine. Having newly acquired the sentence 今天很温暖 (“it’s warm today”), I asked my co-working buddy to listen to my Chinese and tell me if it’s correct. And he did understand what I was saying, although “impressed” would be stretching the truth a bit.

I also sent my recorded sentence to the Chinese coach, who drew my attention to the specific parts I got wrong.

Learning mass sentences as a complete beginner isn’t ideal. It leaves you without a sense of what each word means (which one out of jin tian hen nuan huo is “warm”, which one is “today”....and what do any of those symbols mean?). Learners don't get to understand what any of the rules of speaking are. But that’s okay, as Speechling not designed for that. This tool is a great confidence builder and accent sharpener. I could imagine it as a fantastic basis for tutoring, sending students away with homework on a topic.

Multilingual Usage

language settings.png

If you have studied more than one of Speechling’s range of languages, you can view translations in any of the six languages. This means you get to practice two languages at once, and it’s one of easiest ways to train your polyglot muscles.

Downsides of Speechling

On several occasions, my recordings were too long to be saved for feedback. This is understandable, but it was frustrating particularly in the freestyle mode. It’s disappointing when you say a complex sentence to send to your coach, and then get a message saying “file too large - cannot save”. It would be great if Speechling could include a guide on how long I can record for.

For languages where I knew nothing at all, I’d also like to see a primer module so I understand what I'm doing. But this is a tiny point, especially since Speechling is not aimed at complete beginners.

In Conclusion: Speechling is Great

All in all, I found Speechling a great addition to my studies. It was challenging and helped me improve my pronunciation and speaking skills in three languages. I was most excited about what Speechling could do for my Russian language skills. I improved both my vocabulary and accent, and the process was efficient and fast.

Speechling is free from robot voices and works with male and female voices (native speakers, of course). Its interface looks great and it gets you into the action immediately.

I love the record-feedback cycle, because it prompts you to re-record a better version of what you said. You get feedback, and you improve pronunciation, confidence, and speed.

The coaches were great for all the languages I tried. They recorded speedy corrections. At the very early levels, feedback is not rich, because they are native speakers and they use their native languages. But even so, it was clear where exactly I was supposed to change something. The more you learn, the more you will get out of these coaches.

If you work with a tutor that you don’t see every day, definitely try adding Speechling to your language routine. You will be speaking your target language more, you'll build a better accent. And best of all, pronouncing all the new words will help you remember them faster.

How to Get Started (+ Speechling Discount)

Create a free account and start speaking at Speechling.com, or by download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Speechling is currently available in six languages: French, German, Spanish, English, Russian, and two types of Chinese.

It’s a freemium app, and you get 15-20 minutes of feedback for free every month. I would recommend checking out the paid plan (see below for 10% off) if you want to

  • get a speaking boost, especially when there’s a deadline
  • learn more than one language at once
  • keep track of your progress with the audio journal.

The unlimited plan is open to Fluent readers at a 10% Lifetime discount: Make sure you use the code FLUENT when you sign up.

Good to know: Speechling is a non-profit company and also has a classroom version called Speechling for Education. I have an existing relationship with Speechling as they are a sponsor of my podcast. This only influenced the amount of attention the product received, not the verdict. It is a cool app.

Have You Tried Speechling?

Are you a pronunciation master now? How did you like the coach feedback? Leave a comment below and share your story.

***hello from the future!!***

Since my original review of Speechling in February 2018, these folks have been hard at work and have just emailed me to share the following new developments.

1. A new module called "Speechling Foundations", which will teach newbies from the very beginning. This start from zero module covers teaches the most essential words in context.

2. New listening options: Speechling now offers listening comprehension, multiple choice, fill in the blank, and flashcards. It's all available for free without login. All of this works on mobile too.

3. More language! They've more than tripled our content collection.

4. Offline mode!! Premium users can download a huge chunk of Speechling’s sentence collection (~10k sentences) and even audio books and Anki decks .

I love it when an app listens to its users, this alone makes it worth checking out!

Click here to try Speechling for free, as long as you want.

Interlinear Books Review: a Powerful Language Learning Tool

Interlinear are bilingual books that include the original and an English translation below. The English is in a smaller font, so that it doesn’t distract too much from the original language. Each word or phrase is translated below the original one, and the books are classic literature from the language it is teaching. In Interlinear Books’ own words: it’s like subtitles for books.

But do these live up to their promise? Read on to find out if Interlinear can really help you learn a language through books

Read More

Glossika Review: Powerfully Effective Language Training

I've been looking forward to publishing today's review for a few months now - it's a favourite language course among polyglots.

Here's the short version of my verdict: If you've been frustrated because you can't find a way to speak your target language, this is perfect. Buy and use Glossika courses and you will be chatting in no time - the system works when you speak.

Click here to see the full list of Glossika courses

In my review, I was as neutral-bordering-on-skeptical about the Glossika courses as I am about any others. I don't write reviews about things I don't like. It's often the same marketing that we're bombarded with in this space: fluency, science, natural learning, immersion, blablabla.

But here's the thing: Sometimes something just works.

What Are Glossika Courses Like?

This isn't really a language explainer like my own German courses. The method is all GO, sentence-based and very heavy on the audio. You will hear a sentence and be prompted to repeat it - that's the 2 second version of it.

This simple task of repeating input will solve your #1 problem of having nothing to say. TA DAH fluency.

Glossika isn't for the very early language beginner - if you're looking for a starter, try something like Language Hacking books. This is a method I see as perfect for anyone who's sick of language learning theory and wants to start getting as much practice as quickly as possible.

Sound familiar? Yep. That's the biggest problem adult language learners face.

Does it Work?

My own experiences with the method started with a similar system called Say Something in Welsh, which I've been using for about a year. The method of prompting realistic and natural sample sentences with a native speaker is the Glossika principle, and if you're a Welsh learner you have GOT to get yourself a copy of this right now.

I mentioned the system to my long-term student Randy (who you can hear in podcast Episode 6), he decided to give it a try. Randy's situation might be very similar to yours: a busy person fitting in weekly language study and conversation practice around. He tested Glossika 123 German.

Randy says:

"This course is a bargain for the amount of material you receive. In my opinion, it provides more study material for your money than any other course I have tried (and I have tried just about every one available)." "Of all the self-learning courses I have used, this one is the best. It has the widest range of content and gives me the best opportunity to speak German when I am alone."

Speaking when you've got no one to speak to is an ENORMOUS trick in language learning, and Glossika has taken out the awkwardness.

And here's the thing I can see in Randy, my "test subject": The difference is striking! Within a week or two, I noticed a transformation in his confidence level. Randy found himself cutting out hesitation, he was no longer getting stuck in the middle of his sentences because of one or two missing words. He's made a HUGE jump by activating all of that passive knowledge in his mind.

Glossika is Gold for Intermediate Learners

Glossika's website has impressive claims listed, with accounts such as "400% progress". So can you become a fully rounded expert in a language in a short amount of time using this method?

I'd say yes - if you've been putting in the work. Glossika has this way of unlocking the knowledge you hold within yourself, and it will teach you a million new things.

The language learning process is one of learning lots of new links and having to put them together differently. It's a lot of input, but even more creativity. You can quickly use any method based on repeating audio prompts in order to boost and develop your speaking confidence.

So being fluent in another language also means being able to understand patterns and build your own sentences (in academic terms, you have do develop procedural knowledge). The better you are at pattern spotting and working out the rules, the easier it will be to fit that language jigsaw together.

In conclusion, this is one time when the hype could be real. When you hear accounts of learners who made significant leaps with Glossika within days, you can believe them. This is the experience I witnessed in my students and in myself.

But if you were only using Glossika and nothing else, you might find yourself a fluent parrot rather than a flexible conversationalist. My advice would be to pair this method with a conventional course, ensure you read the transcripts and follow up with grammar points that don't make sense.

If Duolingo is a cute owl, Glossika is one that means business!

If Duolingo is a cute owl, Glossika is one that means business!

Why I'm Convinced You Should Try This

Glossika builds your speaking confidence at a rapid pace, gets you used to a native voice, and challenges you throughout. The payoff for language learners who don't have time and access to regular meet-ups is remarkable, as I've seen with Randy and with myself.

I would recommend the Glossika method for all of you who have spent many hours reading, listening, maybe even writing your target language. If you find yourself hesitating in mid-sentence and you want to feel confident and fluent, this is absolutely perfect.

And for me as a tutor, it's been a godsend to recommend to experienced students.

Click here to see the full list of Glossika courses

Polyglots Will LOVE This

The range of languages on offer from Glossika are unrivalled. They don't just offer the classic set of English, French, German, Russian and Chinese. Instead, Glossika is currently available in over 30 languages. The range of languages on offer from Glossika are unrivalled. They don't just offer the classic set of English, French, German, Russian and Chinese. Instead, Glossika is currently available in over 30 languages. Randy, who's tried and bought dozens of materials, also said

This course is a bargain for the amount of material you receive. In my opinion, it provides more study material for your money than any other course I have tried.

Click here to see the full list of Glossika courses

That number up there isn't even complete yet, as Glossika currently has 46 (!) other language courses in development. I am incredibly impressed by this much commitment to languages from all over the globe, and to celebrating the world's diversity. No matter which language and which country you are interested in, the amazing Glossika range will give you a speaking boost from anywhere in the world.

Have You Tried Glossika Before?

I'd love to hear if you're a Glossika user too. Which language are you studying? How did you find it? Tell me over on Twitter or right here in the comments.

PS: There is no Welsh version yet, but Welsh learners who haven't tried Say Something in Welsh should get themselves over there RIGHT NOW. You're missing out, guys.

Benny Lewis Has a New Language Hacking Series: Here's My Review

In today's review, I'm excited to bring you guys my first impressions of Language Hacking German - A Conversation Course, the new book by Benny Lewis.

In this series, you can also get books for learning Spanish, French and Italian.

TL;DR: I'm impressed with the design, structure and method used by these books.

They're awesome, if you're anywhere between A1 and A2 pick up a copy and use it to practice. Also looks like a good potential Christmas present.

Benny.. Who Dat?

If you read language articles on the internet, you've probably come across Benny Lewis. He runs the website Fluent in 3 Months and has been blogging and learning languages for over 10 years. Benny has previously published a book with a real publisher, which is an inspiring thing for all of us language bloggers.

More importantly, he brings a more modern approach to language learning into book shops. I'm very much on board with that!

This particular series, "Language Hacking", is a collaboration with Teach Yourself, whose materials have always been language learner favourites. I've checked these courses out and used them, and they're definitely one of the best brands for self-teaching materials on anything.

"Language Hacking is a state of mind. It's about positivity and an approach that puts everything you're learning into practice immediately." - Benny Lewis

Advantages of The Language Hacking Book

My first impression was that this book is really good-looking! It's got a nice size to it, the design throughout is engaging and interesting, and it just feels very nice to hold in your hands. You can see straight away that they're trying to make #languagehacking into a thing, so the message is clear: This book is for 21st century learners.

The Structure

The structure of the book follows that of a traditional self-teaching language book, so it's not trying to overthrow everything good in the system. The design is lively and engaging, with vocab delivered in sentence structures, culture tips, conversation examples and exercises. It's a great "complete package".

What's different here is that this focuses very much on conversation as the goals and "learning outcomes". The book avoids mentioning grammar concepts in favour of setting the learner a mission with every unit. What I really liked is that each unit clearly sets out the mission as a use case, describing what kind of situation you would find yourself in when you will use what you are learning.

In each mission you learn some new stuff, and there are exercises so you can test that you learnt it correctly. The #languagehacking system adds in Benny's "Conversation Countdown" methods of building a script and sharing it immediately with a dedicated web area sponsored by italki.

The design is all about making language learning less intimidating. I hardly saw any grammar terms mentioned, with focus on descriptions like "slingshot words" instead of "subordinating conjunctions". In fact, this style combined with the mission and scripts system feels perfect for new learners, but also for experienced learners as they'll be able to breeze through this and create sentences quicker.

You're In Good Hands

£11.89

The brand "Benny Lewis" is present throughout the book, and that worked really well for me. As you work your way through it, you get to feel as if someone is on the journey with you and guiding you through this course. The quotes and images of Benny were a fun addition - I'm not a fan girl, but as a structure this worked very well for me.

Each mission mentions a small #Languagehacking tip in the introduction - a great concept. As you're learning your new language, I can imagine how much these little tips will help you build more confidence and feel ready to speak quickly.

Anything Else You Need To Know?

The book doesn't solve a key problem of language learning, which is the idea of being too busy. It's written with "conversations with natives" in mind, so if you're learning languages without immediate travel plans you may feel cut off from many of the examples. The scripts system is also nice, although I would prefer to make my own -- this is because I'm experienced and relatively "fearless" as a language learner, not because the idea itself is bad.

If you're a very long-standing Fluent reader, you'll have read my thoughts on the use of the word "hacking" in the context of language learning. I'm not a fan of the name of this series, but the "language hacking" brand is what Benny Lewis has used for years.

The tiny things are exactly what makes this so good for more inexperienced language learners. They were nitpicks, really - overall this is an impressive product.

Audio Access

At first I grumbled that there is no CD with this book, but I quickly remembered that we live in the 21st century and all the audio is downloadable. So it does come with audio, and the example sentences I heard were very good and match the book scripts excellently. You can get the audio from www.teachyourself.com/languagehacking.

Conclusion

Overall, this is one of the most impressive versions of a language course I've seen in a while. The way that it incorporates "hacking" ideas (I'll just call them shortcuts) into a traditional self-teaching book design was fantastic.

These Language Hacking courses are an incredible addition to the bookshelves of any language learner, but particularly for those that are new to the language.

Overall, a clear 5/5 - kudos to Benny Lewis and Teach Yourself. This is not a grade I give readily at all, so you can trust that this course is well worth your investment if you want to learn a new language. I hope they publish more versions soon.

How To Get This Book For Yourself

£12.28

The links below are affiliate links, so you'll be supporting Fluent at no extra cost to yourself. Go ahead and click to take a look!

On Amazon

Click here to go directly to Language Hacking on Amazon.com

And click here if you're buying in the UK

Having seen the printed copy of this book (but not the kindle version), my feeling is that you are best served by investing in the print. The prices are currently very similar, and you'll be able to take notes and write in your book, take it everywhere and share it easily.

Yes, I'm analogue girl. (You can write me a postcard to tell me what you think of that!)

The Book That Will Change How You See Language Learning (+ Clever Notes & Action Plan FREE)

One of the most common things I hear from language learners is

becoming fluent book

"what is the best way to do this?" You want to know how to learn a language, in as much detail as possible.

And it's hard to answer that question once and for all, for everyone. People are different, and no one's going to teach you good habits overnight. I know there are plenty of players out there telling you that their way of doing flash cards or listening to native content is the real answer.

But seriously, guys. What it really takes is that you learn to understand your own smart and capable self. That's where a book like Becoming Fluent comes in.

By the way, I've gone ahead and done a little bit of hard work for you guys. You can now click the button below and download my book notes for Becoming Fluent along with a fab little action plan template so you know what to do next.

What Is Becoming Fluent?

Becoming Fluent is an impressive book in the field of language acquisition. It's written with the scientific background expected from academics. But that doesn't mean that language learners cannot apply it to their lives: Throughout the book, the authors mix explanations and practical tips. The book is written for adult learners who want to conquer another language, and goes into the following topics:

  • What do you have to do to make sure you become a successful language learner?
  • How can you choose the right target language to study?
  • What are the best
  • How important is it to know the culture and norms of people who speak your target language every day?
  • How can you get better at memorising and remembering more?

Why It's Awesome

There are many language learning books out in the market that tell you all about how wonderful the author's methods are. Most successful polyglot-style books follow this system. The logic is that if following certain steps made the author fluent in another language, then you can do the same by copying the steps.

In Becoming Fluent, I detected none of this. The authors do work from their own experience in languages but never claim to know all the answers. Each chapter is based on a new aspect of language learning and gives a neutral summary of what the science says, followed by practical advice.

I've never used or endorsed the "copy a winner" approach, and I don't think it's quite how things work for language learners. Success in language learning is about more than just playing the game right. The more you learn and discover about yourself, your habits, your preferences and strengths in language learning, the more you will approach a real ability to learn any language quickly.

So for me, Becoming Fluent was an outstanding book about language learning because it doesn't tell you what exactly to do. This one is about empowering yourself to find your own perfect method.

What Wasn't So Great

Becoming Fluent is smart and thorough and scientific, which is a big rarity in language learning. It's great to read such a sensible voice in our field. The book comes at language learning from so many different angles that some great aspects get a little lost.

I would have liked the book's action-focused tips to be highlighted or separated from the main text, making it easier to find exactly how to put new insights into action. As it is, Becoming Fluent does require you to put in a few hours for reading, but this is time well spent.

My Favourite Parts

  • All of chapter 2, which addresses the many lies and misleading beliefs that we hold in our heads before we even start learning. If you can only listen to/read one part of the book, this chapter is going to make a massive difference. It's a small window into how your brain trips you up.
  • This sentence in Chapter 3:

"The REAL test of how well you speak a language is how easily you communicate when you are using that language, and the pleasure you derive from speaking it."

  • The ideas behind common ground and the zone of proximal development, which are all about how you think of how good you are, how good other people are in comparison, and how you can get better step-by-step.
  • The focus on learning and speaking a language like an adult, not a kid or teenager. This focus builds great insights, for example the understanding that it's more important to be yourself in another language than to sound "exactly like all the native speakers".
  • The image of tutors and helpers as a Sherpa, i.e. Someone who's climbing the mountain with you, showing you the way, teaching you about the process as you're doing it.
  • The concept of cognitive overload, which explains exactly why and how and when you get tired.

Overall, I am very happy that I read Becoming Fluent and recommend you check it out too. I ordered my copy from the local library and am very glad that it's in their catalogue now. You can get your own printed copy in the same way, or order it from Amazon (here's the US link and the UK link).

Don’t forget, you can grab my full book notes (9 pages!) by clicking the button below. They include your own action plan template and a checklist of books to check out, so next you can be prepared on your next visit to the library or to Amazon.

If you want to try a faster read gives instructions on what to do, try Fluency Made Achievable (which is written by me, so you will definitely enjoy it if you like this blog).

When Should You Consider an Offline Language Tutor? + The Tutor Pages Reviewed

When I started out as a language tutor, the lessons I taught were face to face, right here in little Lancaster. I would walk across town or host students at my house, puzzling together language over a friendly cup of tea. It was lovely, and still one of the most comfortable learning environments I've ever worked in.

So when I was approached by British website The Tutor Pages, who asked me to review their service for hiring and finding a tutor right in your town, I was excited to bring you this perspective on studying. As a language learner reading a language blog, your first thought might not be "hell yes, IRL tutors are for me!" - I mean, we've got the world of Skype lessons and Italki open to us.

But even in a world of online learning miracles, there are a few occasions when finding a kick-ass IRL tutor could be the best thing you've ever done.

An Offline Tutor? Like..really?

Most of us associate an IRL "tutor" with after-school support for kids or teenagers, but you can actually find and hire tutors at any point in your life.

I know people who teach the Latin language to pensioners who want to follow their passion for history, and hundreds of native speakers who bring dry school materials to life.

Meeting Real People In Real Places

Being online is super convenient, but every now and then there's a huge advantage to being in the same time zone and same place.

Not only is it easier to demonstrate pronunciation and draw diagrams in a real-life meeting, but you can even take advantage of cool meeting spaces like the library or a favourite café. There are huge advantages of establishing such a Third Place, where you can be study-focused and work in peace.

Local Study Knowledge

If you're in full-time education and preparing for a specific exam, you want to find someone who can help you prepare in person. From mock examinations in person, to breathing techniques, I've found that having a local expert in the room really has the edge here.

What is The Tutor Pages?

In a nutshell, The Tutor Pages is an online directory for professional tutors who want to offer more than just conversation practice. It's UK-focused, so the easiest way to see what's available is to type in a subject and/or post code on the right hand side and off you go. You don't have to sign up and you don't have to purchase any credits.

What I Liked About The Site

First of all, I think it's great to see that the site pushes tutors to submit articles so you can see more about them and their expertise. Any professional tutor worth their salt will be super passionate about what they teach and have a lot to say. The profiles are awesome and give lots of detail about qualifications, pictures and personality of your tutor - here's an example I liked.

The variety of subjects on offer in this directory was super cool to look through. It's inspiring to see the range of what people are learning out there. I loved the sense of this website as a space where people go to improve their life.

I also liked the "Tutor Wanted" section, which is where you can post a request for lessons. If whatever is listed in the directory doesn't feel right, here's a space for you to put it in your own words.

What Wasn't Great About The Tutor Pages

It's clear that this website works hard on attracting web traffic, which means the site is keyword-focused at times. This is great because it keeps the directory alive, but it means you end up with a cluttered interface and a lot of words that no one needs. I certainly think they could clean it up a little.

The tutor search could also do with some improvement. The option of finding an online tutor is available, but I would have loved for the system to allow me more than one location option. Like, what if I want to find a tutor who lives in my area and still offers online classes?

The downside of having a directory that focuses on a wider range of skills is that languages outside the mainstream aren't represented. There's no shortage of people to hire for help with German, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian. But I tried searching for some of the smaller languages we polyglots feel drawn to and drew a blank. You can check out their full directory here to save yourself some time.

How The Business Side Works

The Tutor Pages is only the directory, but not the middleman between you and your tutor. On the one hand, this means you won't have to pay any extra commission. On the other hand, it could be a downside if there was any dispute between you and the tutor.

The rates are certainly fair for the British market. As you know from my other posts about language tutor pricing, there are lots of factors that go into deciding what you invest in.

Who Is This For?

A language learner looking for conversation practice based on their own studies might not need the full 1:1 pro experience. But if you're too busy to set and monitor goals, or want to cut out the hassle of following grammar rabbit holes, a tutor is for you.

In short, The Tutor Pages is best for:

  • anyone in UK full-time education who wants help with what their curriculum asks
  • families or parents with kids, who want to introduce languages to their kids at an early age
  • anyone who isn't sure about Skype tuition yet or wants to get out of the house to enjoy language lessons.

What do you think about IRL tutoring?

Have you had good or bad experiences?

Let me know in the comments below, or say hi to me on Twitter.