Anyone who has ever tried to learn a new language knows that having the help of a good teacher can make a huge difference! Although studying independently is useful and very important, receiving some tutoring can really help you step up your language learning game.
Finding a good tutor can be challenging, not to mention very pricey, but with italki, these challenges vanish.
italki is an online platform that connects you with professional teachers and community tutors who will help you learn quickly and efficiently. Best of all, the lessons can be quite affordable and you can schedule them according to your needs.
This is a huge learning community that offers a lot of great benefits to language learners. In this article, I’m going to give you an in-depth look at how this program works and how it can help you improve your language skills. We’ll also talk about how you can use this platform to help other language learners.
Before we get too far along, let’s take a quick look at some of my likes and dislikes:
Is italki Any Good?
Unlike most online language programs, italki isn’t a program, but a learning platform. There aren’t any set lessons or flashcards. Instead, it's a platform where you can connect with language teachers from all over the world who are willing to help you learn the language of your choice.
italki hires both professional teachers and community tutors. We’ll discuss the difference in the teacher section, but what we’ll say here is that the wide variety of teachers means that you are sure to find a tutor who is right for you.
The one-on-one lessons from native speakers is definitely the best feature of this platform, but there are other great elements too, including plenty of ways to connect with other learners for free. The lessons themselves are reasonably priced as well.
Languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin and Italian
How Much Does italki Cost?
This is another area in which this platform differs significantly from other language programs. There isn’t a set price. The amount you pay is based on the teacher you choose and the number of lessons you want to take.
The main page says that prices range from $4 to $80 an hour, but I did not find any teachers charging anything even close to $80 an hour. Most of the Spanish teachers are charging between $6 and $25 an hour.
Many teachers also offer lower prices, usually $1 to $8, for a 30-minute trial lesson which is very beneficial when you’re trying to find a new teacher and do not want to commit to a full lesson.
Paying for classes as you take them instead of having to pay a large monthly or upfront fee is pretty great. This ensures that you aren’t wasting money paying for a subscription during months when you may not have much time for classes.
Unfortunately, the payment section is also one minor drawback. Instead of simply setting up an account and paying the cost of each lesson as you sign up for it, you have to buy credits first, then use those credits to pay for classes.
I assume that they do this to help avoid any confusion over the cost of classes. One has to keep in mind that there are students and teachers from all over the world, so perhaps italki was just trying to remove any confusion over exchange rates.
This isn’t too big of a drawback, it’s really more of an inconvenience because it adds a slightly cumbersome extra step to the process.
You can purchase credits with all the normal payment methods such as debit cards, credit cards, and PayPal. They also accept some local payment methods, depending on your country of origin. It should be noted that some payment services charge processing fees for purchasing credits, but italki does not charge a processing fee for this.
There is a minimum purchase amount of $10, but above that, you can purchase as many credits as you like. The credits go into your italki wallet where you can easily view both your full balance and your available balance if you have any payments that are still in process.
The credits are not refundable, so don’t go too overboard unless you know you are going to use them. One credit is equal to $1 USD, so it is pretty simple to determine how many credits you will need based on the teachers you want to try or how many lessons you want to schedule with a particular teacher.
The credits can be used for lessons, scheduling tests, and Language Challenges. Your credits will not expire as long as you log in to your account at least once every 12 months.
Getting Started With italki
Okay, now that we have gone over the payment details, let’s move on to the fun part!
Signing up for this program is unbelievably easy, it literally takes less than a minute. You can sign up using a pre-existing online account such as Facebook or Google or you can create an independent italki account.
Once you sign in, you only have to answer a few simple questions, such as what language you would like to learn, what languages you speak, your level of fluency, your country of residence, and your timezone.
There are nearly 300 languages to choose from, so if you are interested in learning multiple languages, this is the perfect platform for you. Pretty much any language you can think of, you’ll find a teacher. Seriously, every language from Afrikaans to Zulu, including multiple versions of Sign Language.
For Spanish learners, they have teachers from every Spanish speaking country, so you can focus on the version of Spanish you want to learn.
Know What You’re Looking For
This may seem a little obvious, but given the sheer volume of teachers available on italki, it is important to start with a basic idea of what you’re looking for in your ideal language class.
A few things to consider before your get started would include:
This may seem like a lot of details to go over from the get-go, but knowing the answers to these questions will help you in the next step of the process.
Types of Teachers On italki
There are two types of teachers, professional teachers and community tutors.
Professional Teachers are teachers who have provided italki with proof of their education and teaching experience. These teachers will have either a teaching degree or certificate and have experience teaching their chosen language.
Community Tutors are teachers who may not have degrees but are native or highly fluent speakers who just like to teach.
Neither type of teacher is better than the other, although if you’re looking for a more structured learning environment, you may want to try a professional teacher. If you are looking for more conversational lessons, you may want to try a community tutor.
You may find that some of the professional teachers have higher prices, but that isn’t always the case. Some of the pros are less expensive than the tutors, it just depends on the teacher.
Searching For A Teacher
After you have signed up, you will be taken directly to the page where you choose a teacher. There are thousands to choose from, so this may take a little time, but do not be intimidated. There are some handy search criteria that you can use to narrow the field and make your decision easier.
The main search criteria include: From, Also Speaks, Price, Availability, Teacher Types, Category, and Native Speaker.
From: allows you to search for teachers from a certain country. Even if you are new to learning Spanish, you probably know that Spanish is spoken in many different countries throughout the world and each country has its own variation of the language.
Being able to choose a teacher from a specific country will help to ensure that you’re learning the version of Spanish that will be the most helpful to you, especially if you’re planning to visit a specific country in the near future.
Also Speaks: allows you to search for teachers who speak your native language or another language you speak. This is very helpful if you are a beginner and need a teacher who speaks your primary language, or if you would like to practice two languages at once.
Price: helps to narrow the search to teachers who are within your price range helps to narrow the search to teachers who are within your price range.
Availability: allows you to put in the days of the week and time ranges that you would work best for you so that you can find a teacher available during those times.
Teacher Types: allows you to limit your search to just professional teachers or just community tutors.
Category: let’s you search for teachers who focus on the type of learning you’re looking for. Some of the categories include general learning, business, conversation practice, grammar, writing, or even lessons for kids.
Native Speaker: will narrow your search to show only native speakers.
There is also a traditional search bar where you can search using keywords or the teacher’s name if you are looking for someone specific.
My initial search brought up nearly 2000 italki Spanish teachers. After filling in the criteria under each category, I still had 120 teachers to choose from, so do not hesitate to customize your search.
italki Teacher Profiles
Once you have narrowed your list, you can start looking at teacher profiles. You can spend hours doing this, believe me, so be careful! You may find yourself spending all your time watching profile videos instead of scheduling classes. There are so many great teachers, it is easy to get caught up and lose track of time.
Your initial search will bring up a list of teachers with a miniature bio for each one. The mini bio shows a basic description of the teacher including their name, country of origin, the languages they teach, and the languages they speak. You will also see what they charge for trial and full lessons as well as their teacher rating and the number of lessons they’ve taught.
There will also be an introduction video, a small written introduction, and the teacher's availability calendar. The videos are by far the most helpful element of the bios because this will give you a chance to hear the teacher speak and learn a little bit about their teaching style.
If you find a teacher that seems like they would be a good fit for you, you can click on their mini bio to open their full profile. This gives you a bit more detail about them and their teaching experience.
Each teacher’s profile includes a comment section where students can rate the teachers and leave comments about their experience. Most of the comments that I read were very positive and kind, but also helpful because they gave me a little more insight into that tutor’s teaching style.
Finding Your Teacher
I wish I could give you a magical tip that would direct you to the perfect teacher on your first try, but that would be impossible, there are just too many good teachers to choose from!
The best thing to do is simply schedule a few trial lessons with the teachers who seem the most compatible with your style. You may not hit it off with the first few you try, but do not be discouraged, there is a teacher for you.
In your search, you may find that you’ve tried so many different teachers that you forget which ones you like best. No problem! There is a simple little heart on each teacher’s profile, just click that heart and that teacher will be added to your profile under the “My Teachers” section.
You may find that you like multiple teachers and that is fine too. You can favorite as many as you want so that you can easily find them when you're ready to schedule more lessons.
Speaking of your profile, I would like to take a little time to discuss this section of italki. I found this element to be very helpful because it is so well organized.
Under My Profile you will find the basic things you would expect, such as access to your public profile information, your settings, and a support section. You will also find:
You can also access a section that allows you to refer friends. If you refer your friends and they begin using italki, you will be rewarded with credits.
I appreciate how simple it is to find what I’m looking for in my profile with very little effort. 'My Lessons' and 'My Calendar' make it easy to know exactly what I have coming up so that I never miss a lesson. The 'My Teachers' section allows me to find my favorite teachers and schedule classes in a matter of moments.
Scheduling Your First italki Lesson
Scheduling lessons is a fairly straightforward process. Once you have found a teacher that seems right for you, simply click Book on his or her profile. This will direct you to the types of lessons they offer.
If you choose to book a trial lesson, you will be directed to a calendar, allowing you to choose the time you would like to schedule your lesson. You have to schedule classes at least 12 hours prior to the class time you desire.
If you would like to schedule regular lessons, you simply choose the type of lesson you are looking for from the teacher's available lesson options. Next, you will choose how many lessons you would like to purchase at that time. Some teachers will offer lesson packages, giving you a discount depending on the number of classes you pay for in advance.
If you choose to buy a lesson package, just keep in mind that the lessons have to be scheduled within six months of the purchase date. One nice element is that all the available time slots are listed in your local time, so you do not have to worry about converting between time zones.
After choosing your lesson type and time, you choose your communication platform. There are only a few options including italki’s new italki Classroom, Skype, and Hangouts. The communication options may differ depending on the teacher.
Next, you can write a message to the teacher if you would like. You can use this opportunity to tell the teacher a little more about what you’re looking for in the lesson or just leave a friendly greeting.
The time has come for your first lesson! I can’t give you too much advice about this except to just enjoy the learning opportunity.
Every lesson will be different because every teacher is different! You will find some that make the lessons fun and exciting while others may be more structured and informative. The great thing about this program is that every lesson will involve you speaking your new language, at least a little bit, so whether it was the best lesson ever or a slightly boring one, you will still have the chance to learn.
Most of the initial lessons will involve you telling the teacher a little about yourself and what you want to learn. Most will want you to speak your new language as much as possible but don't be nervous, they are there to help you.
You will find that some teachers will correct every error you make while others may not be as particular. Some teachers will take notes about your mistakes and then explain them toward the end of the lesson, it really depends on their teaching style.
Some teachers want to focus solely on conversation skills which is great for those who want to improve their communication abilities. Other teachers may provide homework in the way of PDF files, articles, or media recommendations so that you can practice even when you’re not on italki.
Many of the teachers are very open to creating individual lesson plans designed to best benefit you and your learning style. If you need help in a particular area, mention it to your teacher and they will help you. Some even offer lessons that focus on particular situations such as Business Conversations and test prep.
Everyone is different and has different learning needs, so it is very important that you try a few different teachers until you find the one that is right for you. Do not allow a dull or frustrating lesson to discourage you from learning. You can do this! And the Spanish tutors are there to help.
This is another area where I feel this platform really excels and that is in the free extras. There may be times when some of us don’t have a lot of extra money for language lessons, but we can still keep learning.
In italki’s community section, you will find all kinds of free resources to help you learn as well as connect with other language learners from around the world. There are eight sections in the community, including:
Each of these sections gives you the chance to interact with other language learners, both learning from them and helping them to learn as well. You may not think of yourself as a teacher, but everyone has something they can share to encourage and teach others.
Teaching With italki
Are you already bilingual and interested in teaching the languages you love? Why not sign up to teach on italki?
As a teacher, you set your own hours and hourly rates and get to choose which students you teach. You will be able to teach students from all over the world and learn about other cultures while you teach, so it is a win-win for all language learners.
If you do want to apply to be a teacher, the application process takes about two weeks. Teachers with formal degrees and certifications take priority in the application process, so you will want to include that information in your application, even if you just want to teach on the side for fun.
Once you are accepted as a teacher, it may take a little while before you are making much money because you will need to build a student base. If you have reasonable prices and a welcoming intro video, you should start to gain students. Keep in mind that this program does take a 15% commission, so be sure to factor that in when you’re setting your hourly rates.
After that, simply be as helpful and encouraging as you can with your new students. As language learners ourselves, we all know how hard it can be, especially when you’re just beginning your language journey. Taking the extra time to truly work with and encourage your students will encourage them to give you good ratings which will result in more students.
Just like with their helpful resources for learners, this platform also has a lot of helpful resources for teachers. The application process is very straightforward and there is plenty of easy access to information and tips about how to be a good teacher and how to promote your teaching in order to gain more students.
It's a pretty unique language platform, so there aren’t any alternatives that are exactly the same, but a few similar options would include Verbling and Baselang.
Verbling is similar in that it works on a class to class basis like italki. You can pay for individual classes using a normal payment method, not having to bother with the credits like you would on italki. The only downsides to Verbling are that they do not have as many teachers and the lessons seem to be a bit more expensive on average.
Baselang offers one-on-one tutoring, just like Verbling and italki, but instead of paying by class, you pay a monthly fee of $149. Baselang is a great option for those who are fully committed and ready to take multiple classes per week.
italki Review: Final Thoughts
italki is an extremely helpful learning platform for every type of language learner. Whether you need help with your pronunciation and conversational skills or want to gain an in-depth understanding of grammar, italki has a teacher who can help you.
You can take lessons whenever it is most convenient for you, eliminating any excuses you may have for not studying and learning every day. Speaking of learning every day, you can use italki’s community section to learn and teach others, even on days when you don’t have a lesson scheduled.
Although every learning platform has its downsides, the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of the unusual payment methods. Paying for credits in advance just takes a little getting used to.
Last, but not least, if you are a language enthusiast, you can put those language skills to work and become an italki teacher. Even if you do not have any formal teaching experience, you can still apply to be a community tutor and help others find the joy of language learning. Plus, you will get the chance to meet and learn from people from around the world at the same time.
I hope this article has encouraged you to try italki. We all know the importance of speaking and listening practice when it comes to learning a new language. What better way to do that than to have one-on-one lessons with a pro? The teachers at italki are ready to help you along the way to becoming fluent in your new language, so why not get started today? Happy learning!