Italki Review: Practice speaking a language from anywhere.

Italki

Italki: Find language teachers online.

What is italki?

Italki is an online language learning service which allows you to browse, meet and hire teachers from around the world. It also has a journal section so you can practice writing and get corrections from native speakers for free.

Before I ramble on about all the deals, here’s the bottom line:

The Good

  • It’s on the internet! – Technology is great!
  • Access to native speakers no matter where you are.
  • It’s easy to “speed-date” through teachers and this has multiple benefits.

The Less Good

  • It’s on the internet! – Not everyone has fast internet. Maybe you! Stuff will go wrong. The internet is slow in Thailand when it rains….
  • Access to native speakers. – Just because someone is a native speaker doesn’t mean they have any idea what they are doing in regards to teaching. Love ‘em and leave ‘em until you find a good one.
  • Talking on technology like Skype isn’t quite the same as meeting someone in person, but it’s a step or 2 up from talking to yourself.

How much time have I logged in italki?

In total, I’ve done 75 sessions over the past 2 years. Last year, there was a while where I was trying to be more active in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Alas, I have discovered that running a business does not necessarily mean you get to stop working and practice languages all day by the pool.

I did 28 sessions in August for Russian. Almost all of those were 45 minutes long.

How much does it cost?

The teacher sets the rate per time unit so the price can vary quite a bit depending on the language chosen.

The teacher chooses:

  • What lesson time lengths they are willing do: 30/45/60/90 minutes
  • The price per each lesson block (e.g. 50 ITC)
  • Whether or not they want offer a bulk discount. E.g. A block of 5 lessons for 10-20% off.

Italki uses their own “currency” which they call ITC or iTalki credits. 10 ITC = $1 USD so just move over one decimal place to convert ITC to USD.

For Russian, I have been paying on average, $8 (80 ITC) per 45 minute session.

Total Cost for August 2015: $225 USD for 28 sessions.

How do I choose the right tutors?

This is the tricky part. What follows is my own personal opinion and feel free to place value on or disregard anything I say. I’ve spent 13 years learning languages and

Italki has 2 categories tutors: Professional and Informal

I don’t know what the criteria is for someone to be a “professional” teacher on italki. I also don’t care. I only choose informal lessons. I generally find people who don’t have years of experience teaching in schools more malleable to my own particular methodology. Oh yea, and informal lessons are cheaper. If anybody finds an awesome “professional” tutor of Russian, please let me know and I’ll be happy to try them out for a couple lessons.

Free language exchanges are also an option with italki. If you are short on cash and are willing to trade your time, then this may be a good option for you.

And there’s a review system….

Do reviews even matter anymore? Did they ever? I may skim reviews when looking for new teachers to try out, but I’m always looking for a few specific things:

  • How many total sessions have they done?
  • I’d always pick a 3-4 star rating with 400 sessions over somebody with a 5 star rating with 30 sessions. *Note: It seems like everyone has a score of 4.9-5.0 anyways so this number shouldn’t really affect your decision.

  • Is the description good? Do they have an awesome or funny vid?
  • Not hugely important, but if somebody’s video or description makes me laugh, I’m more likely to give them a try. I want to feel comfortable in a lesson and it shows, they have put forth some effort.

How long should I do a session for?

This will depend on a few factors, so if you don’t know what an ideal session length is, I’d recommend 45 minutes and I would never go over 90. My brain is a usually a wreck after 45 minutes and I need a rest to process any of the new information otherwise I’m just going to be wasting time, money and stressing myself out. Overworking yourself is a good way to fall off the wagon and give up.

How often should I study?

This will be influenced by your budget and free time, but I’d recommend doing at least 3 sessions a week or more. Time spent trying to talk to people is far more important than studying grammar or doing flashcards.

How much progress can I expect to make?

See previous question. That’s up to you. Nobody likes to hear it, but it ultimately comes down to you. It doesn’t matter how many years you studied a language. The only 2 things that matter in regards to actual studying, are how much time you put in every single day and how you spend that time. Can you stay motivated long enough to succeed? Of course you can, just stop looking at the end goal and look a few steps ahead. Know that you will probably want to give up sometimes and that sometimes it will be hard. Take a break, do something else and get back on the language learning bus.

Additional Italki Tips:

  • Avoid buying blocks until you’ve done 2-3 lessons with a teacher. There have been a number of times where the first session went exactly how I wanted and in the next session they started dumping complex grammar explanations on me or they froze up and started saying “Ok, what should we do now?”
  • Use multiple teachers:
    Find at least 2-3 teachers and use them all regularly.
    You should make an effort to practice things with multiple people.
    Learn a sentence pattern with one teacher, then go try and use it on another who doesn’t know you’ve learned it. Impressing your teachers brings compliments which makes us feel good, which makes us push past the tough times. Oh yea, and any sentence you say to 3 different speakers over 2-3 days will be probably stay in your head forever.*
    *Google has forced me to add disclaimers anywhere I make strong statements like “probably forever” even in cases such as this where I am reviewing a site and recommending a particular style of study. I obviously can’t guarantee that you will remember anything forever no matter what you do, but this is exactly what happens when I learn a language. I don’t make any of this stuff up and I strongly believe that this method will work for anyone.

    Try to steer the lessons towards practice of sentence pattern that you studied on your own beforehand, or learned with another teacher.
    Why don’t you just give it a try and see for yourself? It’ll take a bit to find the right teacher(s), but it’s worth it if you don’t have any other access to native speakers.

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