By Jesse / July 20, 2015
Italki logo

Summary

Review of: Italki

Use: One on One Online Langauge Lessons

Effectives

The quality of your lessons will vary between teachers.

Price

Depending on the language you're learning lessons can be some of the cheapest on the web.

Time Commitment

Lessons can range from 30-90 minutes sessions

Ease of Use

Digital currency conversion is annoying.

Structure

Varies between teachers

I Like

  • Having 100's of teachers to choose from
  • Different price points for lessons
  • Trail lessons available
  • Active language learning community and useful free features

I Don't Like

  • Quality between teachers can differ. I recommend you try more than one
  • The virtual currency of Italki credits

Summary: For me Italki is the most flexible online lesson platform on the web. It's also the largest. Their huge selection of teachers allows many choices between languages, price, schedule, and teaching style. There are certified professional teachers on Italki, but it's important to remember that the teachers under the informal category need no certification to teach on the site. 

All things considered I personally love Italki. It's very easy to use, and on top of that it offers a wide selection of languages and teachers, has an active community of language learners, and offers some useful free features. I've had a couple teachers that weren't right for me on the site, but even so those experiences weren't bad ones. 

*After purchase​ of $10 or more

Lessons from $4-$20+/hour (Some $1 trial lessons)

Italki is a language learning website that connects students with language teachers from around the world and with native speaking learning partners. The site allows you to search for teachers based on your target language and book a session with them. The site functions much like a social network. After signing up you make a profile and can search for language teachers or learning partners from around the world. Though the bulk of the site is for paid lessons Italki also has some great free resources that aid in language learning.

Where to start when you want to learn Spanish?

Around October 2014 I decided that I was going to spend the rest of that year learning Spanish. The problem was that I had never learned a foreign foreign language before. I took a class in high school once, barely passed it, and pretty much forgot anything I had learned. I was reading a lot of language learning blogs and felt so inspired and excited to start on my journey.  

At that time the internet was filling up with self taught polyglots who made language learning seem so easy. So I finished a couple levels in Duolingo, bought a Spanish phrase book and....that was it.  When January 2015 came around I redoubled my efforts and again decided that this year I was going to become conversational in Spanish no matter what.

 I had no idea where to start. I read a lot of great learning hacks and things from bloggers but it all seemed so much harder to apply in my own life. Then I decided to check out Italki.  The site looked great and seemed easy to use, so with pretty much near to no Spanish under my belt I set aside $20 and scheduled my first two lessons.

Are Italki's lessons right for you?

Italki's lessons are for anyone who wants to learn or practice a foreign language by practicing one on one with a language teacher or tutor. They provide teachers and tutors for 40+ languages, so chances are they have a teacher for you no matter which language you are learning. The lessons are usually held via Skype and center around speaking.

Video Review of Italki

My Experience with Italki

Paid Lessons

I have had lessons with 5 different Spanish teachers on Italki, some formal some informal. They were from countries as diverse as Chile, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. I've had well over 20 lessons and haven't had a single bad experience.  I will say that teaching styles can differ greatly, so I recommend trying out as many teachers as you can until you find one that meets your learning needs.

Good teacher, bad fit

One I had teacher focused a lot on grammar and I opted out of continuing with them because i wanted to focus more on speaking. They taught grammar in an interesting and engaging way, which isn’t always easy to do, but at the time I wanted to focus more on speaking right away rather than speak completely accurately. I should also point out that you will get what you pay for.

Have realistic expectations

Don't except much more than conversation practice if you're only paying $5 an hour. If you want a full on Spanish teacher you should be willing to pay for it. I highly suggest that you shop around and try out both informal and formal teachers. You really don't know what's out there until you start practicing with someone one on one.

Surprisingly my favorite teacher was an informal teacher who provided their own curriculum and really leads the sessions, which is not usually expected. 

Free Features Video Review

I have found Italki's free features to be easy​ to use and very helpful. My favorite feature is the ability to find language partners. I have had a good mount of free language exchanges with Spanish speakers from around the world through Italki's language exchange community. I am also a fan of the blog articles posted by teachers, I just wish there were more! 

You can check out a more detailed review of Italki's free features here.

Tips for using Italki

1) Try out as many teachers as you can

When you create a profile on Italki you get 3 trails sessions. These let you take a 30 minute trail session with a teacher for a discounted rate.  Use all three of them! They're cheap and they will help you get a feel for the kind of teacher you need and if Italki is right for you.

2) Use informal as well as professional teachers

If online lessons are something you want to pursue I recommend  you try using informal tutors as well as professional teachers. The two are different. While professional teachers are usually better at teaching you the language, informal tutors are typically better for practicing it (because they're cheaper).  

3) Use the free features

As I said before Italki has some great free features.  They can be quite effective for learning Spanish. Make the most out of them. 

What others are saying about Italki:

The reason I heard about Italki was because a lot of language bloggers mentioned they were using it. Still, for some reason there aren't many detailed reviews of the site out there, which is why I made this one. Benny Lewis thoroughly endorses taking Italki lessons.  You can find his recommendation on their homepage:

Benny Lewis the Irish polyglot endorses Italki

Alternatives for Online Langauge Lessons

Italki is probably the biggest and most popular online language lesson site. I hear about it more than any other. Even so, there are some other options. While these site aren't as big, they are still known to provide quality one-on-one lessons with professional teachers. 

Though it doesn't have anywhere near the selection of teachers and languages that Italki has, Verbling does have a couple strong points. All their teachers are vetted so they only provide professional teachers. They also have an interesting online group class option for a monthly subscription. 

A site dedicated to only online Spanish lessons. 123 SpanishTutor handpicks their tutors. While they only have 6, all of them follow a specific method that centers around task based communication that you'd use is real life situations. This site chooses quality approach for providing teachers over Italki's quantity.

Conclusion

Italki's paid online Spanish lessons are a valuable learning resource. They have a wide selection of Spanish teachers from Spain and Latin America and it's easy to get make an account and book a session. Because they give you so many choices when picking a teacher it is a good idea to try out several and find one you like. Even if you aren't looking for paid Spanish lessons Italki has many useful free features that it is definitely worth checking out! 

*After purchase​ of $10 or more

About the author

Jesse

Spanish learning aficionado and cofounder of Spanish Hackers.

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