Taking classes online was still pretty new when I started learning Spanish. But these days its becoming much more popular. Before I was able to travel, taking classes online gave my Spanish abilities a huge boost.
I'm always quick to recommend online classes to anyone who is trying to learn Spanish. Even though nothing beats having real life conversation with a native speaker in the real world, learning online with a native speaker is the next best thing.
An example of an online class
Given the rise in popularity on online language classes there are a lot of websites offering them. This post covers what I believe are your three best options for learning Spanish online.
What are online Spanish classes?
Spanish classes via video chat
Taking a Spanish class over the internet is essentially the same as taking one in the real world. In an online lesson you are able to see and hear your teacher via video chat. The teacher is able to share course materials ranging from text, audio, to video. These classes are usually one on one between just you and the teacher.
Typically you book a classes in increments of 30 minutes. Depending on how much time you book with your teacher a single class can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes or more.
Saving time & money
Online language classes are becoming more popular because they allow you to save both time and money. Because the classes are on online you can learn a new language from the comfort of your own home. Also because there are an increasing amount of language teachers available it is also easier to find classes that fit your schedule. Online classes also tend to be significantly cheaper that real world tutoring sessions.
$4-$15+ per Hour
3 Trial lessons at a discounted rate
Varies (Low to High)
- Largest selection of teachers
- Best prices
- Great language learning community
- Class quality can vary between teachers
*Use this link to purchase a minimum of $10 (US) of Italki credits and receive an extra $10 free! (Bonus added after purchase)
You can check out a more detailed review of Italki here.
What makes Italki different?
Italki is an online marketplace that connects language learners with language teachers from around the world. It's also probably the most popular site for online Spanish classes and is recommended by most language learning blogs. Aside from being the most popular, there are two things that set Italki apart from other online language learning sites.
Huge selection of teachers
The first is its selection. Italki has a huge selection of teachers (over 2,000) who offer classes in over 70 languages. If you're learning Spanish, or most other languages for the matter, you're unlikely to ever have a shortage of teachers to take classes with.
Professional teachers vs Informal tutors
The second thing that distinguishes Italki from other sites is the option of choosing informal tutors. Italki separates its teachers into one of two categories: professional teachers and informal tutors. Professional teachers have a degree or certification as well as experience. When taking a class with a professional teacher you can expect to follow a structured method or curriculum.
Informal tutors usually don't have any formal certification aside from knowing the language they speak. Typically tutors don't use a structured approach and you will be expected provide direction for the class.
Cari is an example of an Italki tutor who goes above and beyond to provide structured professional lessons (she was my first teacher). Not all Italki tutors do this, but it's awesome when it happens.
There are exceptions, but generally professional teachers are better at helping you learn a language and informal tutors are better at helping you practice a language. Informal tutors are an excellent option to have, especially if you are learning Spanish on your own. Just remember that teachers, because of their credentials and experience, usually cost more than tutors.
Italki gives you the most options when choosing a teacher for an online class. With literally thousands of teachers it's the largest site offering online language classes. Currently there are over 400 Spanish teachers and tutors from Latin America and Europe, way more than any other site out there.
Italki allows its teachers to set their own prices. Because there are so many language teachers vying for the same students their price per class tends to be lower than other sites. If a teacher's price is too high their students are likely to go to someone else.
Also because Italki has teachers from around the world, some teachers will be able to offer a lower price based on the cost of living in their country. Because of this teachers from Latin America are sometimes cheaper than teachers from other parts of the world.
However, even with the price competition between teachers a professional teacher will still probably be somewhere around $15 per hour and up.
Italki has a large an active language community. You can search for other language learners and set up a language exchange. You can also post questions or discussions to a public board to get help from native speakers. There is also a blog that is largely written by teachers. All the community features are free to use.
Because anyone can be a teacher on Italki the quality of teachers varies. Italki separates its teachers into two searchable categories: Professional teachers and informal tutors. Professional teachers usually have a degree related to language or teaching and have also have experience teaching. Informal tutors don't need credentials or experience.
In general you get what you pay for. If you want a structured class lead by a good teacher then you will want to stick with the professional teachers. If you already have a grasp on Spanish and just want to practice then informal tutors are great.
You may have to try out a few teachers before you find one that's right for you.
Italki doesn't offer a free trial. After you register an account on Italki you are given 3 trial lessons. These allow you to take 3 thirty minute classes at a discounted rate. Italki lets their teachers decide whether or not they want to offer trail lessons and, if the teacher chooses to offer them, how much the discount is.
It's not uncommon for a teacher to offer a trial lesson at 50% off their normal rate. Just remember not all teachers on Italki offer trial lessons.
*Use this link to purchase a minimum of $10 (US) of Italki credits and receive an extra $10 free! (Bonus added after purchase)
$9-$20 per Hour
1 Free 30 Minute Class
- Offers individual & group classes
- Offers class packages
- Professional teachers
- Higher quality means higher price
- Less selection than Italki
You can check out a more detailed review of Verbling here.
What makes Verbling different?
Verbling follows a similar format to Italki with its key difference being that it offers group classes and class packages in addition to individual classes. Verbling has a smaller selection than Italki but this is because Verbling's teachers have to meet certain criteria before than they can teach. Verbling tries to use only professional teachers and follows a quality over quantity approach.
Unlike Italki, not everyone who applies to teach on Verbling is accepted. Verbling prefers teachers with experience and a formal teaching certificate. Experience and a certificate aren't required for all Verbling teachers but they are highly encouraged.
This means that overall Verbling has a higher quality of teachers. Odds are that if you select a teacher on Verbling you will be taught by a capable and experienced teacher, which you can't always say for some of Italki's tutors.
Don't get me wrong there are a lot of great professional teachers on Italki too. In fact some teachers teach on both Italki and Verbling (and sometimes their prices are lower on Italki because it is more competitive than Verbling). I wouldn't say Verbling has a monopoly on quality online classes, but they do make an effort to make it easier for you to find professional teachers.
One thing that sets Verbling apart is their group classes (which they call tandem lessons). In a group class you have the option of taking a live online class with other learners via Google Hangouts. It's a cool dynamic and can be a pretty interesting way to learn Spanish.
With a tandem lesson you do lack the one on one attention that you'd get if you took an individual session; and because group classes are now only slightly cheaper than individual ones (sometimes the price is equal or more), I'm less inclined to recommend them from a price standpoint, but they are worth checking out.
Verbling's packages offers a unique way to purchases Spanish classes online
Verbling also offers another interesting option for classes called packages. You can buy a group of individual sessions centered around a specific topic such as culture, business, or grammar. The individual sessions essentially make up a short course that you take with a specific teacher.
When you purchase a package you receive a discounted price per session , because you are purchasing multiple classes at once. It's like buying Spanish classes in bulk at a lower price per class.
Because the teachers on Verbling tend to be more professional and experienced they also cost more. You're not going to find someone to practice Spanish with for $5 an hour on Verbling like you would on Italki. Most teachers on Verbling are at least $10 per hour.
If you compare the prices with the professional teachers on Italki (not the informal tutors) the prices are generally the same; but as I said before sometimes you can get lucky and find a teacher teaching on both sites with are lower prices on Italki.
Verbling's selection of Spanish teachers is lower Italki's (<100). This is mainly because they are stricter with who they allow to teach. Still, if you're trying to find a quality teacher to help you on your Spanish journey, the odds are pretty good that you'll find one on Verbling.
Verbling's free lesson offer
After you sign up for a free account Verbling offers you one free individual 30 minute class with one of their teachers.
$99 per Month
$1 for One Week of Unlimited Spanish Classes
- Best value for serious Spanish learners
- Professional Teachers
- Teachers only from one Country
- Not the best value for casual learners
What makes Baselang different?
Baselang offers online classes just like Italki and Verbling, but with one key difference: you pay per month and not per lesson. For $99 Baselang gives you unlimited Spanish lessons for one month. Unlimited does mean unlimited, if you wanted to take 10 hours of Spanish lessons everyday you could.
Baleang's teachers are hired and paid directly by Baselang. The student pays $99 per month and can then book as many sessions with as many different teachers as he or she wants. At the time of this article there are currently 23 teachers on Baselang. Classes are offered in the morning, afternoon, and evening ( usually up to 12:00AM).
I'll admit the first time I heard about Baselang it sounded too good to be true, but I've tried it for a month now and have had no problems.
If you're serious about your Spanish learning and you plan taking a lot of online classes then Baselang is your best option hands down. If you take at least 5 hours of classes a week, that would be 20 hours a month. At $99 that's pretty much $5 per hour. Baselang's teachers are also highly vetted (even more so than Verbling), making the $99 price tag a steal if you book a lot of classes.
Baselang is able to do this because they hire teachers exclusively from Venezuela which has a lower cost of living, thus its easier for the company to pay their teachers a decent wage.
They also follow the membership business model. Baselang counts on the fact you probably won't take 10 hours of Spanish classes everyday (though you are encouraged to). It's the same model gyms use. Tons of people have gym memberships but not everyone works out all day all the time. I myself have only be able to take 5-7 hours of classes per week since I signed up, so the model seems to be working well for Baselang.
Baselang has the highest requirements for teachers out of all the other language learning sites on this list. Baselang teachers are required to have a degree in teaching both English and Spanish, as well as a high speed internet connection, neutral Spanish accent, friendly personality, and good writing skills (among other things).
A deeper look into Baselang's hiring process for their teachers.
If you only plan on taking Spanish classes a few hours a week then Baselang is not the best value for you. If you want to get the most out of their service you'll need to use Baselang a lot, otherwise you might be better off with Verbling or Italki.
As of the day I'm writing this article Baselang only has 23 teachers all of which are from Venezuela. 23 is plenty, even if you plan on taking a lot of lessons. So far in a month I've taken lessons with 5 different teachers, which has felt like plenty. Because their teachers are high quality you should be able to find some that work well with you.
However the main drawback is that, because all the teachers are from the same country, you will not be exposed to different dialects or other variants of Spanish. Again, not a huge problem, but if you were planning on learning Spanish from a specific country (mainly Spanish from Spain) then you might want to check out Verbling or Italki instead.
Baselang's $1 Trial Offer
Baselang offers a one week subscription of unlimited Spanish lessons for $1.
Italki, Verbling, and Baslang are all reuptable sites for Spanish classes, and 9 times out of 10 you're likely to have a good experience with any one of them. I recommend you check them out yourself (at least their trials) and decide what's best for you.
If you're on a very tight budget, you should probably check out Italki's informal tutors. If you plan on taking as many Spanish classes as possible you should definitely look into Baselang. Otherwise check out all three.
In the end it's not so much about the site but the teachers themselves. When you find a great teacher, one that's right for you, it won't matter as much which site they're on.