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I’ve been hooked on Italki for about a month now. I’ve spent countless hours scrolling down the Italki app, choosing my teachers and having lessons via Skype. During this time, I’ve also learned a few tips and tricks to find the most value-for-money tutors on Italki.
In this Italki review, I’ll share everything you need to know about Italki – how Italki works, how much it costs, its pros and cons, whether it’s safe, and more.
Let’s get started on this Italki review.
What is Italki?
Italki is a platform that connects language learners and tutors. It boasts over 10,000 teachers and 5 million learners, and claims to offer basically “any language” – from English, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hindi, Italian and Russian, to Tagalog, Thai and Turkish.
On Italki, tutors and students meet for 1-on-1 lessons via video call, commonly Skype. Most Italki tutors are focused on helping you build conversational skills through talking. (After all, it’s called Italki). However, you can also find Italki teachers that can offer you customized lessons based on your needs.
Personally, I’ve been using Italki to learn French. Apart from improving my fluency in French, Italki has allowed me to connect with people from across the world. I often tell my Italki teachers that for me, Italki is a form of traveling the world without leaving the comforts of home. I will share more of my experience on Italki in a bit!
How does Italki work?
The first step to getting started is to sign up, of course. I highly recommend downloading the Italki app which is user-friendly and packed with features. Now, you are ready to find a language tutor and book your lessons. For this, make good use of the filters available.
You can narrow down your options based on:
- Where the Italki teacher is from
- What other languages he/she speaks
- Whether your teacher is a native speaker
- Availability (on which days and hours)
- Teacher types: Community tutors or professional teachers
- Category: General, business, test preparation, kids, conversation practice
- Instant booking
Beyond that, you will also look at the teacher’s introduction video, the types of lessons he/she offers, and the reviews that students have written.
Community tutors vs. professional teachers
One of the most important distinctions on Italki is between community tutors and professional teachers. As you can guess, professional teachers are people who are trained as educators and/or have extensive teaching experience. They go through a vetting process via Italki. They are generally more equipped to deliver structured Italki lessons with materials and resources.
However, they are also more expensive, charging at least $8/hr as compared to the minimum $4/hr charged by community tutors.
Personally, I find that professional teachers are not necessarily better than community tutors on Italki. You can find excellent community tutors who can give great quality lessons that are customized to your goals. In fact, I found a few that actually have teaching experience and materials, but simply aren’t listed as professional teachers.
Lessons & Scheduling
On the profile of your chosen Italki teacher, you’ll find the types of lessons offered. Above, you’ll see the screenshot I took of my tutor’s profile. She offers individual French tutoring as well as preparatory classes for the DELF exam.
You can find plenty of interesting lesson types on Italki. I’ve seen things such as:
- Conversation courses
- Lessons for beginners
- Classes focused on reading comprehension
- Job interview preparation
- CV/Resume review classes
- Survival kit for travel
- Text chatting (typing chat rather than a video call)
Lessons on Italki typically run for either 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes. Sometimes, you get discounts for booking a package. Before committing to a bundle of lessons, I advise you to review the tutor’s calendar and make sure that he/she has a schedule that matches yours and that he/she isn’t so popular that the calendar is already booked for weeks ahead.
How much does Italki cost?
Is Italki free? No, it’s not. Italki teachers set their own rates. There is a minimum price of $4 and a maximum price of $80. You can use filters to find a tutor that fits your budget, whether it’s $10/hr or $50/hr. Personally, I search for teachers on the lower end of the budget spectrum. I typically spend about $8/hr for a conversation class and $12/hr for lessons.
Take note that as a new Italki user, you’ll get three 30-minute trial lessons at special rates. I’ve had trials for as little as $2! Do take advantage of this.
To make your purchase, you can either pay every time you book a lesson, or buy Italki credits from which you can deduct the cost of each lesson. I prefer the latter for convenience.
Psst… If you’re in the search for Italki coupons and promo codes, I’ve been there and done that. I’m sorry to say that most of the Italki promo codes you’ll find online simply don’t work.
What are Italki lessons like?
It really depends.
I’ve had plenty of conversation classes where you begin with an introduction, and then the topics flow one into another. If the tutor puts me at ease, the hour just flies by. If you like this style of learning, that’s great. Personally, I like to inform the tutors that I want to be corrected when I make a mistake while speaking because not all tutors are comfortable to interrupt you.
There are also tutors who are more focused and structured. They will offer options on how the lesson will proceed and you can discuss your objectives with them. I have a tutor with whom I am having structured Italki lessons, supported by a grammar book. She runs through the grammar rules at the start of the chapter and then we do the exercises together. I do enjoy having a personal tutor like this!
Ultimately, you need to know what you want to achieve and your preferred style of learning. While you’re still new on Italki, make full use of the trial lessons and hop around from tutor to tutor. You’ll find a spectrum of teaching styles. Stick with those that you like.
Italki tips and tricks
Check the tutor’s ratio of students vs. lessons
I’ve made it a personal mission of mine to find the best Italki tutors without breaking my wallet. During the search, I’ve discovered how you can gauge the competency of potential tutors. Of course, reviews are the first thing you should check. However, it’s normal that many students are reluctant to give bad reviews (I’m one of them!), making it difficult for you to really tell.
Therefore, what you should really check is the ratio of the number of students that the tutor has vs. the number of lessons that the tutor has given. In the photo above, 1 student takes an average of 2 lessons from the tutor on the left, while 1 student takes an average of 9.5 lessons from the tutor on the right. Which is the better tutor? It’s easy to tell.
Don’t skip non-native speakers
While using the filters to narrow down your search for the perfect Italki teacher, you may tick “native speakers” without giving it a thought. At first, I did too. Then I changed my mind.
I realized that if I’m looking for somebody to teach me a language, a non-native speaker could be better than a native one. A non-native speaker has gone through your journey and sat for classes to learn the language from A to Z. He/she could be more adept at explaining the grammar rules and giving you courses based on a tried-and-tested structure, as compared to a native-speaker who simply absorbed the language without a firm grasp of the basics.
In fact, I’m taking regular classes with a non-native French Italki teacher – and I have nothing but praises.
Is Italki safe?
If you are wondering if Italki is safe, I’d answer yes. In fact, there are parents who sign up their children for Italki lessons. If you have your doubts, go with Italki tutors that have accumulated many good reviews.
There are some among us who feel uncomfortable chatting with a stranger via Skype video call. Personally, I think you’ll benefit from trying something outside of your comfort zone.
Not many things can go wrong (other than internet connection issues). If your tutor does something inappropriate, simply end the call and report the person on Italki.
Italki gift cards, referral and affiliate program
If you love Italki as I do, send them your referral link by tapping on “refer a friend”. When they purchase $20 or more Italki credits, you’ll both get $10 Italki credits free! If you know a friend who’s learning a language like yourself, you can also send them an Italki gift card worth between $20 to $500.
For publishers, Italki runs an affiliate program through its partner, ShareASale.
The Italki community
Apart from using Italki as a platform to look for a language tutor online, you can also join the community of language learners and grow with them. In the Community tab, you can find language exchange partners, try writing exercises and read blog articles. To be honest, I haven’t really used this feature of Italki, but I do see the value it can provide.
The downsides of Italki
I’m hard-pressed to find a downside of Italki. I really like the platform that much. But if I do squeeze my brains to think of some improvements, they would be:
I’d like to have Zoom as a communication tool. Currently, the communication tools available are Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Wechat and QQ. Zoom is not an official option (but teachers can agree with students to use this instead). In an era where I use Zoom more than Skype, I would prefer to have Zoom listed as a communication tool.
I’d like to find tutors available now and start lessons instantly. Currently, students can schedule lessons 12 hours in advance. But how great would it be if I could just switch on my laptop and start a lesson when I find some free time? Apparently, there used to be an Italki instant tutoring feature but they have removed it in 2019. Bring it back!
I’d like to have more filters and sorting options. It would be great for me to have the option to filter Italki tutors based on gender and sort them based on factors such as prices and reviews. I do understand why these options are not available, but I’d appreciate having them still the same.
My verdict: Should you be using Italki?
Definitely. Italki is a game changer for me.
To learn French, I’ve used apps (Duolingo) and podcasts (Coffee Break French). I even sat for 300 hours of French classes. However, it took me months before I gathered enough confidence to speak the language. My Italki tutors certainly helped to make conversations in French a norm for me.
On top of that, my life has certainly been more fun since I started using Italki. I’ve talked to people from places I’ve never been to and I learned about their lives and cultures. As mentioned, I feel like I’m travelling when I’m having an Italki conversation class. I love it.
So if you’re looking for a language tutor online and wondering if Italki is good, my answer is a resounding yes!
Preply: Like Italki, Preply is a platform for you to find a language tutor. I’ve done a trial session on Preply and I had a great experience. I find that Preply is more focused on lessons rather than just conversations. Italki vs. Preply? Try both! You might find a tutor you love on Preply. The only downside is that you have to purchase a package of hours with one tutor, as compared to paying per-lesson like Italki.
Verbling: A website to find professional teachers, Verbling is very similar to Italki. My first impression: there are fewer teachers available on Verbling and they generally charge higher prices compared to Italki. If you have a larger budget, it’s definitely worth trying.
Cambly: Cambly offers only English lessons. They have a wide variety of tutors from the U.S., Canada, UK, and Australia. The app is user-friendly and it’s very easy to get started with your first English lesson. It’s definitely worth trying out both Cambly and Italki if you’re learning English.
And there you have it – an honest Italki review written by a fellow language learner. I wish you all the best in finding a language tutor!