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Italki is arguably the most popular language-learning resource online used by learners of all languages under the sun, so an italki review only seems reasonable! Like Verbling, italki provides its users the opportunity to practice speaking the language they’re learning with real live native speakers.
So let’s dive in with what the italki experience is like, so you can go into your first italki class with reasonable expectations.
Finding your italki teacher
Italki boasts hosting native speakers of any and all languages you could be learning. Because there are so many italki teachers available to you, the site helps you narrow down your search so you’re not sifting through all kinds of italki teachers that you don’t actually have any interest or need in setting up a conversation with.
That being said, your italki teacher search can be incredibly specific, and should be incredibly specific if you can make those decisions for yourself. This will really narrow down the number of choices you have to make
So, for example, when I’m searching for an italki teacher to practice Spanish with, I’ll always choose Spain in this first category. Most of my experience communicating in Spanish is from living in Spain, so I have a hard time understanding accents from any other countries.
I always feel more comfortable meeting with women, but unfortunately you’re not able to differentiate between different genders of italki teachers. That’s not to say you don’t have options, though!
See what I mean by knowing exactly what it is you want? There are professional tutors, community tutors, tutors that specialize in business jargon, test preparation…everything under the sun. This means italki is great for those of us who intend to take specific exams in our target languages.
Hopefully you’ll notice that one of those categories is “price”. Your italki price depends entirely upon the teacher that you choose! If, for example, you’re searching around for italki Spanish lessons and you choose an italki tutor that’s from Spain (like I do), your italki cost is going to be just a bit pricier than if you’re learning from someone based in a Latin American country.
This is also the difference between an italki community tutor and professional teachers. In the screenshot above you can see the difference between the two; can you guess which type of italki tutor costs more per hour?
Fortunately, if you’re just testing the water, you do have 3 free trials to spend. Free trials are 30-minute lessons with an italki teacher offered at a lower price, so you can get your feet wet (yup, another water metaphor!) before jumping right in (and a third!). But you do only get 3 of them, so use them wisely.
Choosing your italki teacher
After you’ve narrowed down all of these options, you still have some choices to make! Each italki teacher has lots and lots of information for you, including an intro video, About Me, calendar, statistics, reviews, any packages they offer (like specific test prep, for example), and more. Suffice to say, all the information any reasonable language learner would need to make a confident decision.
And hey, if even that isn’t enough for you, you can always just send your teacher an email, no pressure. I tell ya, they are really detailed over at italki, which is great for the nervous language learner (ie. anybody with limited experience actually communicating in their target language).
The italki language exchange experience
Once you’ve gone through all these options and decided who you want to try out, you’ll go through a few steps. The italki platform does this all pretty well and very smoothly, in my opinion. Everything is very clear and to the point.
As you can see above, you’re already given a preview of your italki teacher’s availability on their page. And yes, this availability is presented in your time zone, so you don’t have to do any gymnastics to find a teacher that matches up with your schedule.
Once you’ve made an actual decision regarding who you want to learn from, you’ll get access to their calendar and be able to make a selection based on their open slots. If you’ve opted for a trial lesson, you’ll be able to select a 30-minute slot, and if you’re making a request within 24 hours, you won’t be able to cancel or reschedule your lesson after your teacher accepts it.
Then, once you choose a time, you’ll be able to choose your communication tool. Italki has their own platform that they use, or you can just opt to use Skype. For the purpose of this italki review, it only seemed fit that I use italki’s own virtual classroom.
If the idea of trying to figure out a new platform while you’re also getting over the nerves of having this conversation (but still want to brave the platform), no worries! Once your teacher accepts your lesson, you’re granted access to the platform, which also includes a tutorial.
If you’re of the computer generation, all this will be really simple for you, and you probably don’t even need this tutorial. However, older folks have this tutorial available that will walk them through this platform without the pressure of knowing your teacher is waiting for you.
According to my italki teacher, this platform is less than stable, and she recommended just sticking to Skype. I still chose to go through the native platform and didn’t have too too many issues, but apparently it’s better to avoid it altogether.
When I entered the portal to my classroom, there was a timer counting down until the official start of the lesson. To the right-hand side, I could also see the conversation that we had had beforehand over italki message, so that was really nice for the sake of consistency and building our relationship.
Once my teacher logged on, we talked away! The chatbox to the right is very helpful if your teacher is helping you with a translation, new word, or a better way to say something. Speaking over webcam is great, but it might not pick up all the sounds, which is definitely important when you’re working in a language you might not be too familiar with.
As the lesson went on, she continued writing down those words and phrases that would be helpful, and it was! When I said “un día” instead of “algún día”, she corrected me and wrote it down in the chat, so every time I wanted to say the same thing, I glanced at the note she made and I never made that mistake again!
After our 30 minutes together we left the classroom, and this review box popped up asking for feedback. I like how this means that the reviews you see for all the italki teachers are up-to-date, not just random “please review me to get a discount on lessons!” or something.
So, at the end of the day, the italki experience is a really good one. I feel happy about my money going into the hands of the person I’m spending my time with, and the website itself was very smooth and helpful.
If you choose to go through Skype, Skype does also have a chatbox, so you don’t need to feel like you’re missing out on anything.
italki language partner & other perks
Besides being able to pay to talk to native speakers of the language you’re learning, italki has also expanded to offer a few other perks. If you head to the Community tab on the upper right-hand side, you’ll see your options.
The first few options are all great opportunities to practice your reading and writing, which means italki has the potential to offer you all 4 of your language skills.
Articles are written by italki tutors, and you can specify which language you want to be reading in. Notebooks, on the other hand, are written by your fellow language learners, and you have the opportunity to both review others’ content, as well as post your own Notebook and potentially have it reviewed by someone else. Unfortunately, this section doesn’t seem incredibly active, but I’d say it’s worth a shot!
Answers and Discussions are, well, what you’d think they are. If you’re looking for an active forum, Discussions is where it’s at. You have the option to choose what language the OP is learning, as well as which language the discussion itself is written in.
If this italki review just proves that you’re looking for something else, there are also a few italki alternatives you might also consider. There aren’t many other major sites like italki, especially considering the sheer number of languages available.
For websites like italki that also host a variety of languages, you might consider Verbling, which is very closely related. HelloTalk is a free option if finding a professional teacher isn’t important to you.
And if you’re looking for one language in particular, that may help narrow down your search. BaseLang, for example, is a potential option for Spanish language learners.
italki review: in conclusion
Suffice to say, italki has a lot to offer any language learner. There’s a reason it’s the go-to for most of us in the language learning community. Conversations with natives are easy to find with just an internet connection; it doesn’t get much simpler than that!
So if you’re ready to start looking for a teacher, click here to get started!