Overall Ranking: 98/100
Price: Free to join, some paid features
Owners: italki HK Limited (registered in Hong Kong)
Italki is an online exchange which connects language learners with native speaking conversation partners and/or teachers in any of 124 languages. The platform facilitates reading, writing, speaking, and listening in whatever language you choose, as well as prompt correction and/or reinforcement.
Each of the following Italki functions provides value and benefits the language learner. To begin, there is the Italki community tab. The community tab provides four functions by which you can read, write, speak, and listen in your language of choice completely free of charge:
- Language partners. I originally joined Italki to find language learning partners who want to learn English and are native speakers of the language I am learning. Italki helps make those connections.
You can easily filter prospective conversation partners worldwide by what language they speak, what language they are learning, and what country they are from. After reviewing profiles to see their pictures, words of introduction, and fluency level, you can send friend requests, exchange written messages, and/or continue your discussion via VOIP or Skype. I’ve enjoyed both written and Skype exchanges myself with several partners from Mexico and Columbia. Remember this is an exchange; plan to spend as much time helping them to learn your language as they invest helping you with their language.
- Notebook. By clicking notebook, you can write entries in your own notebook in your target language to be reviewed and corrected by native speakers. Or, you can review and correct entries in your own native language to help people learning it. So, for example, before my first actual conversation on Italki, I wrote out an introduction of myself in Spanish; within a few hours I received corrections from three native speakers.
- Question/Answer. Here you can ask questions about the language you are learning or answer people’s questions about your language.
- Discussions. These are threaded discussions which you can read and to which you can contribute.
The following three tabs are premium functions; you pay in Italki Credits (ITCs) which are pegged to the U.S. dollar (10 ITCs = $1.00).
- Informal Tutoring. Informal tutoring is primarily to practice conversing in your new language, though tutors may also help you with homework, review for a test, or learn about their culture.
To begin informal tutoring, you first choose the language you are learning, the day(s) and time you are available, whether the tutors speak your language, what country they are from, and what price range you are seeking. Italki applies all these filters and provides a list of potential tutors for you to consider. Now you can see which are community tutors or professional teachers, check out how much experience they have, read their introductions, and consider the prices they have set. (Note that many offer discounted prices for a trial session.)
Once you’ve chosen a tutor, it’s time to set your first appointment. Just follow these steps: Click view time schedule, click schedule session, choose length of session, select day and time from list of openings, then save, and confirm. A request is sent to the tutor/teacher immediately and, in my experience, they respond within a few hours. Then, just be ready for your Skype session to begin.
- Instant Tutoring. Instant tutoring is similar to the above, except that you are choosing from a smaller pool of teachers/tutors – those who are available right now.Except for beginning from the Instant Tutoring tab, the steps are the same.
- Professional Lessons. Professional lessons refers to a more formal process, taught by professional teacher (not community tutors), following structured lesson plans or materials prepared by the teacher.
This is more like taking a class, albeit a class of one.
Typically you would be signing up for a series of sessions, not just one. Otherwise, the process of filtering and selecting a teacher, then scheduling sessions is much the same
- I really haven’t encountered any negative factors. True, you may not share an immediate rapport with the first exchange partner, tutor, or teacher you try, but italki suggests you try out several.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Italki positions itself to help beginners through intermediate language learners (A1-B2) in any of the 124 languages currently supported.
QUALIFICATIONS AND ROLE OF TEACHERS/TUTORS
- Community Tutors are simply native or near-native speakers who are 18 years old or older and enjoy teaching informally.
- Professional Teachers have “been trained in foreign language acquisition, teach as a job at a school or language institute,” and have both “a university degree in education” and “a teaching certificate (i.e. TESOL).
- Tutors and teachers set their own hours and prices; Italki handles marketing, scheduling, management, currency exchanges, and payment.
Italki provides a very thorough knowledge base which has covered every question I have had about Italki. In addition, you can submit requests for support.
As mentioned above, tutors and teachers on Italki set their own prices (of which Italki receives 15%). Sessions are 30, 45, or 60 minutes in length. It’s quite easy to find 30 minute sessions for $5-$10, though I’ve seen teachers who charge rates from a low of $4/hr to a high of $79/hr. Remember, you can also do languages exchanges free – spending half the time learning their language and half coaching in your own.
I’ve checked out professional teachers, community tutors, and free language exchange partners and had good experiences with all of them. I heartily recommend Italki to anyone learning a new language. Italki is a powerful language learning tool! It brings you into close contact with native speakers and their culture without even leaving home. Even if you stick to the free community features, you can benefit enormously. If you choose professional lessons or informal tutoring, you’ll receive that much more. Why not check out Italki for yourself now?