Are you looking for a more efficient and interesting way to learn a foreign language than just listening to podcasts and studying grammar charts? Read on for my full review of italki!
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Ever since high school, I’ve been enamored with the French language – it’s a beautiful language, and on a more personal level, it’s also been really fun because I have a lot of French heritage.
My great-great-great (etc) grandparents on my dad’s side emigrated from France to Quebec in the 1600’s, and then later generations came into the United States. My maiden name, Thibaudeau, is also such a classic French name. So learning the language has been really rewarding for me!
Plus, being able to visit a country and speak the local language is such a useful and, honestly, exhilarating skill.
What I’ve Done to Learn French
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of things to learn French. I’ve taken classes in high school and college. I did a 3 month study abroad in Paris in college (one of the best experiences of my life!) and traveled to France many other times.
In college, I even lived in the foreign language student housing for a year, where you live with other speakers (both people learning the language and native speakers) and are supposed to speak your target language when in the apartment.
I never got to the stage of being “fluent” but I got pretty good!
So it is beyond frustrating to realize that, even after working so hard on learning a language, it is so easy to lose the vocab and get rusty if you aren’t using and practicing it!
My Methods As an Adult
A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to make it a priority to keep my French up – at least so I felt like I could speak fairly naturally, remember basic vocab, and not stumble over words.
I’ve used several methods of language practice, including reading in French, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, and using certain websites or apps (I’m going to put together another post on everything I’ve done or used to practice French), but one in particular has been the absolute best!
It’s also a lesser known service – Duolingo or podcasts are pretty popular, but have you heard of italki? (FYI – it’s pronounced eye-talk-ee)
My Review of italki
italki is an online website and platform where language learners can practice talking with native speakers over video call.
Spoiler alert, this is going to be a glowing review of italki – I really love it! It’s a great service because it gives you the practice that you need the most when learning a language- yet is also the hardest to come by: one-on-one practice speaking out loud with another real person, as well as the practice of listening and understanding a native speaker.
It has a really robust platform! There are dozens and dozens of languages to learn – from popular options like German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, etc, to much less common languages like Zulu or Kurdish.
It’s also extremely affordable, especially compared to in-person tutors or classes. There are a lot of factors, but I would say most teachers are between $10-15 per half hour. Plus, if you sign-up through my link, you’ll get $10 of italki credits after your first lesson!
Of course, I can’t write a review of italki without mentioning one of the best parts: the vast number of teachers available to choose from. With so many options, you have great odds of finding someone that you click with.
Now, the number of teachers for a language depends heavily on how common or popular the language is. To give you some context, there are over 1300 French teachers, over 2400 Chinese teachers, over 400 Arabic teachers, 133 Ukrainian teachers, 73 Czech teachers, 44 Afrikkaans teachers… you get the picture.
One thing I like about italki is that each teacher writes a bio, makes a quick 1 minute welcome video, and has their rates and schedule available to see, so you have a lot of information about that teacher and their schedule before you ever schedule a lesson with them.
Within a language, you can sort teachers by several different options, such as by price (teachers set their own prices), nationality, or category (general, business, test prep, kids, conversation practice).
You can also sort by teacher type: professional teachers or community tutors. Professional teachers are “certified professionals that are highly-skilled in the art of foreign language acquisition,” whereas community tutors are “native speakers or advanced speakers who can help through informal tutoring or speaking practice.”
Lessons take place either on Skype, Google Hangouts, or the italki video chat platform (you choose).
Using the Service
Depending on what your goal is, you may choose a different teacher or strategy. If I was a beginner, I would lean towards a professional teacher who is more lesson-focused. However, as an intermediate or advanced student, conversation practice is often the best option!
I’ve always done the conversation lessons and this has worked out really well for me!
I usually do a ½ hour conversation lesson every 7-10 days. Most often, we just chat! Sometimes we’ll discuss what’s going on in life, holidays coming up, or current events. Sometimes the teacher will suggest a short article or video to read or watch ahead of time that we will discuss. I really like doing this because it gives a specific topic to talk about, and the chance to practice a variety of vocabulary terms and expressions.
I’ve been using italki for the past year, and it’s been so, so helpful. I really feel like my vocabulary has expanded, my use of idioms and turns-of-phrase is more natural, my pronunciation is clearer, and words come to mind more readily and roll off my tongue more smoothly.
Plus, getting correction in real-time is so helpful! That is actually one of the best parts – the real time guidance and feedback.
Final Thoughts from my italki Review
Honestly, I love italki so much. The website has always worked really well for me, the two teachers I’ve worked with are so nice, and the value of practicing speaking out loud, with a native speaker, is unmatched. It’s also very affordable (I think the average I’ve paid is $10 per ½ hour lesson).
If you’ve spent time learning a language, you know there really is no substitute for practicing speaking out loud. And if you’re not living in a foreign country, conversation practice can be extremely hard to do!
I think this service can be useful for anyone interested in another language – whether you are just beginning and want to make a lot of progress, or if you have a lot of skills and just want to keep them polished.
Want to try for yourself? When you sign up with my link, you’ll get a $10 italki credit after your first lesson!
Want to book cheap flights and hotels? Read my 3 part strategy for finding and booking cheap and free vacations here.
Considering a trip to southern France? Check out my articles about the most beautiful places in Provence and the French Riviera here.