I am proud to say that this morning I managed to get out of bed at 6:15am for my 15th Italki/Skype Chinese lesson. My regular teacher Ally helped me wrestle with a particularly daunting unit in my book on shopping (with lots of numbers and vocabulary for clothing and department stores). I’ve been learning Chinese and Spanish with Italki for four months now and although there are already a good number of helpful reviews online explaining exactly how it works, (such as the one by Fluent in 3 Months you can find here), I would like to share some of the things I appreciate about it and some of the things I don’t.
If you’d like to make an account and check it out, you can use my referral link here.
Features I like:
- Language partners – Free conversation/writing practice
Although language partnering certainly isn’t a new idea, italki provides a forum where you in can get in contact with native speakers of the language you’re learning and either communicate with them by message or organise Skype meetups. This is great for conversation practice and putting anything you learnt in lessons to use. As you might have guessed, English speakers are in hot demand so I haven’t actually had to search for any language partners myself. Although this is quite helpful for me in Spanish, my Chinese isn’t anywhere near advanced enough to be able to take part in casual conversation. In my experience Chinese non-teachers tend to complicate things more than they need to and ‘language exchanges’ can become English conversation practice. If you want to go this route, make sure you agree on how much time you want to spend speaking each language and tell them whether or not it’s appropriate for them to Skype you anytime you’re online (some students are more enthusiastic than others).
- Informal tutoring
Informal tutoring is a more casual kind of language training which is useful for revising anything you’ve already looked at with a teacher. For Chinese, for example, I seem to need to repeat a lesson two or three times before I can get a good grasp on the vocabulary and remember the complete phrases. The main advantage of informal tutoring is that it’s less expensive than professional lessons and you’ll see that many of the trained teachers on the site also provide informal tutoring. This is definitely worth a try.
- Trial lessons – Try before you buy
One of the biggest advantages of Italki is that you can take up to 5 trial lessons with different teachers to see which one best suits your needs. I didn’t gel with the first couple of teachers I tried as I felt they moved too quickly and didn’t have me repeat enough (don’t we language teachers make difficult students?). Before settling on a regular teacher, I recommend you shop around.
- Teachers’ availability – You can find someone available most of the time
I love waking up early and having my Skype class with my tea and toast. Thanks to the time difference between here and China, I can have a class at 6:30 or 7am if I like.
- My notebook – Have your writing corrected
After my lessons, or in fact whenever I like, I can write something in my notebook in one of the languages I’m learning. Native speakers can check and correct this and give me feedback, (and I can do the same thing for their English).
- My referral link
If anyone signs up to italki using my referral link, and then tops up their account I get bonus credits I can put toward classes.
One improvement that could be made:
- Class time length – 1H plus
Although it’s possible to have 30-minute trial lessons, it doesn’t seem to be possible to organise regular 30-minute classes. This is a shame because I think two 30-minute classes a week would be much easier to fit into my schedule than a whole hour and it would also help with concentration and make homework more manageable.
So please check out the site and tell me what you think, I hope you’ll enjoy it and find it as useful as I do!
Italki’s marketing department has informed me that there are in fact teachers offering 30 minute lessons, so I’ll sign up for a few and let you know how it goes!