Is It Worth My Time // Our Comprehensive italki Review
One of the big names in the world of language learning these days is italki and for that reason alone we felt it was the right time to bring you the complete and comprehensive italki review!
If you haven’t heard of italki, first and foremost, where have you been?!
Italki is arguably one of the biggest names around, providing language teachers and tutors in almost as many languages as you can imagine.
It brings language enthusiasts together from around the world and is a great way to get speaking in your target language.
For all its excellence there are some drawbacks and things to be aware of, and it’s these things which we want to make you aware of in this italki review!
italki Review – When Did It All Begin?
italki Review – The Concept
italki Review – Selecting A Teacher or Tutor
italki Review – The Lessons
italki Review – Weaknesses
italki Review – Other Useful Things To Know
italki Review – Should I Use It?
italki Review – FAQ’s
italki Review // When Did It All Begin?
Despite it’s rapid growth in recent years italki actually goes all the way back to 2007.
italki was founded by Kevin Chen and Yongyue Jiang who foresaw italki as an online language exchange community.
“In 2009, the site launched its teacher marketplace, allowing teachers to earn money by providing online tutoring services. Teachers on italki set their own price and time schedule.”Source – Wikipedia
The italki headquarters are based in Shanghai and their growth in recent years has been astronomical.
This was indeed heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic which of course saw many winners and losers worldwide… italki came off a big winner with the fact it’s run entirely online.
italki Review // The Concept
The concept behind italki is simple.
You have two entities:
- Teachers / Tutors
The student selects their target language of choice and browses through the list of available teachers and tutors.
Students can then select the best match for them based on a number of factors which include the teachers profile, price and dialect.
Teachers and tutors have the chance to essentially sell themselves with a short introductory video and by offering trial classes for a cheaper price which last 30 minutes.
This gives both parties the chance to see if the fit is a good one.
Having used italki myself to learn Italian let’s see the steps I’d take after signing up.
Italki Review // Selecting A Teacher or Tutor
After selecting Italian as my target language I will see a long list of teachers something like this:
You can see there are 839 teachers and tutors to select in total which is of course a large pool.
You can filter this down also using the set filters at the top of the screen… using criteria like price, native language etc.
How do you go about picking the right one for you?
- Price – probably the most important factor for many
- Reviews – equally important for sure
- Experience – although generally the more experience the more costly
- Dialect – this should not be overlooked, in some countries accent and dialect can be a major factor. I discovered this in Italian! Be aware of the dialect or accent you want to follow before selecting.
- Intro video – of course it’s hard to gauge in just two minutes but pick someone you feel you’d work together well with. Maybe their teaching methods appeal, maybe they are simply more smiley. Whatever works for you.
Let’s say in this instance I want to look at Alessandro further given the fact he is slightly cheaper than Laura…
OK so we can see a number of things here.
Firstly we have the big intro video which we can watch. Maybe we want to see if he speaks much English, or the level of his English – if these are important to you.
We can also see his reviews – so far so good it seems, but he’s only taught 32 lessons which is quite small compared to Laura’s 1,000+.
Touching back on dialects again, let me give you my back story briefly.
I am studying Italian as my wife is Italian.
Unbeknownst to me before meeting my wife… Italian varies A LOT depending on the region.
Due to this I was very keen to study with someone who is from the province of Lombardia (Lombardy), as that’s where my wife is from.
Lombardia is in the north of Italy and it’s most famous city would be Milan.
Alessandro ticks this box although it does say he is from the south of Italy.
In this instance I’d probably want to check with my wife about his accent before committing but this gives you an idea of what you could and should be looking out for when selecting a match on italki.
The same would be true of many other languages and Mandarin is a great example. China is BIG, we all know that… and the accents can vary a lot in China!
On the screenshot you can also see the teachers calendar, this shows their availability over a seven day period.
Let’s delve more into the teacher profile anyway…
There’s a few nice graphs scattered in here to add some colour but also value!
Alessandro has top marks for attendance and response which is always great to see and for those of you who don’t read Italian, Ricardo, Basma and Jackson have very positive opinions of him also!
The advice here is to make sure you do your research, but also just dip your toes in. Don’t try and pick out too many flaws. You don’t truly know until you try a teacher out.
I tried a number of teachers before sticking with two and then even cutting it down to just my favourite (shoutout to Teacher Sara)!
Italki Review // The Lessons
The cool thing about italki is the lessons can be whatever you want them to be.
Whilst that does seem quite nice, I must admit I find this a negative and is something I have since discovered.
With italki teachers, they tend to ask you what you want to study and I would just say I want to improve my speaking.
I made a mistake here.
Indeed, I should be giving the teacher more to go by here but my idea was I just wanted to get my mouth moving in Italian.
Whilst I no doubt made progress in this time I found I never really got to grips with the grammar and I kept making the same mistakes.
My advice here would be to have a clear idea what you want to study and give your teacher as much detail as possible – I never did this and I think I hampered myself in doing so.
On the contrary, after having a little break from italki I moved to an online Italian school (Scuola Parola for anyone interested) and felt my progress significantly increased here.
Normally I’d much prefer individual classes over groups – the focus is on you and you can really push forward faster. However, in my case, I needed to nail down the basics – past tense, pronouns, infinitives and all that headache stuff!
This worked really well in a group and Scuola Parola provided it at a super cheap price.
My wife even confirmed this for me… “your Italian has improved so much more since joining that school”. Thanks Teacher Gaia!
Now of course this isn’t me saying pick a school over italki… it’s more just understanding where you are at in your language journey.
For me I’d probably sum it up by saying if you are a beginner, it’s best to get into a small group class and nail down the basics. When you get beyond this and to more intermediate and advanced levels, get yourself a private tutor like on italki.
Italki Review // Weaknesses
For me there are four key weaknesses to italki which are:
- Lack of group classes
- Lack of a genuine curriculum
- Unknown teacher quality
- Stupid processing fees
Interestingly enough, all these are quite easily solvable, or if you’re reading this italki… take note!
Lack of Group Classes
I mentioned why this was important to me above and how it impacted my progress with Italian.
That is nothing against my italki teacher Sara who was super… but I needed a curriculum and I needed to study with others.
I needed to see it wasn’t just me struggling, I needed to hear other foreigners speak, I needed guidance.
Group classes offer that. In an individual group I was too overwhelmed. I wanted to speak, but my level was so basic it was counter-productive.
GO FOR GROUPS at the start of learning a new language.
For Italian, as mentioned above, Scuola Parola gave me a great experience and I’ll be back with them soon to push further forward!
Flexi Classes do something else that italki does not… and that’s our next point.
Lack of Curriculum
I never quite realised how important this was before.
Guidance when you are a beginner is so key.
It’s all good and well me saying “I just want to speak” when languages have so many elements.
I think I was drawn in by my previous experience with Mandarin.
I didn’t do this with Italian and it showed.
You need a structure and you need a curriculum when studying a language.
You can of course set this up with an italki tutor but whereas some will have their own curriculums others will not. These curriculums can also vary in quality and style. You need something proven.
It can take a lot of time and money until you find the right path on italki… not the case using a platform like Flexi Classes.
Unknown Teacher Quality
Anyone can teach on italki… anyone from a fully qualified, expert teacher to, well, me!
That means italki can be somewhat of a lottery.
italki tries to differentiate between the likes of a teacher and me by referring to people as teachers or community tutors.
- Teacher = a genuine, professional teacher
- Community Tutor = essentially you and I, everyday people who are happy to be a language partner
Now of course with this teachers become more expensive, so if money isn’t a question for you… go higher and go for the best if you are serious about learning a language.
If you are more casual or just want general chit chat… go with a community tutor.
The fact with either though, is the quality is unknown. You have no idea except for those reviews.
Reviews of course help massively, but everyone is different and ultimately you don’t know until you try yourself.
It can take some time finding the right teacher… with Flexi Classes, every single teacher is a professional, with a degree, and qualified to teach.
Yes, it’s how apps like italki make their money but how annoying is it to get to the checkout to see you have to pay more than what is shown.
The processing fee varies depending on how much you spend and the method of payment.
Italki don’t mention these fees until the checkout, of course. And why would they?
Well to be transparent for a start.
Even a little note/pop-up on a page just to say “We are run by people like you and therefore these fees help keep us provide you with the best team and the best service”.
This makes me feel more inclined to pay. It’s honest, it’s nice to see they aren’t shirking the issue.
It is what it is, but for me it’s a weakness.
Once again, Flexi Classes is different. NEVER do you pay extra fees to book a class. You subscribe, and that’s it.
Italki Review // Other Useful Things To Know
italki lessons are taken on either Skype or the italki teaching platform.
You can choose your preference when booking. Both work equally fine in my experience. I’ve rarely had issues with either which is great.
Italki also has an app you can download although I never did myself, opting to stay on desktop and a bigger screen.
From what I’ve read italki also tries to build its online community but this is only available through the app and not desktop which is a bit of a shame.
No forum? Perhaps there is one but I’ve not found it.
Italki Review // Should I Use It?
Italki is a great tool and despite the list of weaknesses posted above it’s a fantastic way to get speaking and studying a new language, whilst also meeting people who can become genuine friends.
There is a huge community of teachers and students from all over the world – with pretty much any language listed there.
Whether you want to study Portuguese or Polish, Afrikaans or Armenian – you’ve got a teacher there!
The key with italki is using it correctly.
Learn from my mistakes, but most of all, go and enjoy it.
Once you find the right teacher, you can really make progress… but don’t dismiss those online language schools.
They are called schools for a reason and in my experience, my Italian shot up by using the latter, not italki.
Discover more websites to learn Chinese.
Italki Review // FAQ’s
When was italki founded?
italki was founded in 2007 by Kevin Chen and Yongyue Jiang who foresaw italki as an online language exchange community.
Can I take part in group classes on italki?
No, italki is only a 1-to-1 platform for a student and a teacher.
Does italki charge a processing fee?
Yes unfortunately there is a fee.
This varies depending on how much you spend and the method of payment.
What are the costs of italki?
Costs vary per teacher and would generally become more expensive if a teacher has more experience.
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