So, what’s italki?
I’m glad you asked – it’s an online language learning hub made up of a global community of teachers and students.
As both a student and a teacher on the platform over the past six months, I have completed 15 learning sessions and taught 70 students from over 30 countries. While cooped up in my home office – aka my dining room table – I visited China, Russia, Chile, Norway, Kazakhstan, and Japan without crossing my doormat.
Aside from the main objective of language learning, it’s a phenomenal platform to meet individuals from around the globe. Hence, it’s no surprise that italki is one of the most popular choices for those on a budget, looking to encounter natives in a global marketplace.
Being a Student on italki
What’s to love?
Speaking to Natives
For me, the fundamental pillars of language learning are speaking and listening. As the name suggests, italki is centralized around these two elements of language acquisition, where natives facilitate your knowledge of the language by correcting your errors in real-time and providing you with space to experiment naturally with the target language.
You can ask questions about slang or curse words, teachers are happy to help and explain the most outrageous parts of the language. After all, by learning a language you are adopting another cultural mindset, so the freedom to wonder and enquire about strange linguistic phenomena is a must.
Due to the extensive market of teachers available, you can select the most compatible teacher regarding their pricing and their specialisms. All the teachers I have encountered so far make a real effort to create innovative lesson plans that differ immensely from the “textbook technique” we’ve become accustomed to in school.
One thing is for certain: italki is reflective of the unprecedented nature of life. Unlike Lingoda’s Language Sprint sign up for three months of consecutive language learning, italki allows for rescheduling, cancellations, package deals, or single slot bookings. When attempting to juggle the reality of life, the flexibility enabled by the platform suits the majority of people.
But is it the most effective platform for learning a language from scratch?
What’s to be improved?
Coming from a background in mainstream education, jumping headfirst into spontaneous discussions about the environment or world politics can provide a challenge in a foreign language. Italki appears to be most beneficial when you have already grasped the foundational grammar points and concepts of the target language. Without this, most of the lesson is realistically spent in silence, contemplating verb conjugations or the correct usage of masculine and feminine nouns.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
Learning from Scratch
While the bulk of your progress in language learning often happens in the beginning stages, it’s frankly exhausting teaching learners at this point.
Unlike other supplementary learning apps like Memrise and Duolingo, it’s not feasible to decide one day to learn Polish and the next day start speaking with a native. You must be willing to dedicate time to first building your foundation in order to utilise platforms like italki to the greatest extent.
Being a Teacher on italki
What’s to love?
Work from Anywhere
I am all for this new wave of working from home, or as I understand it, working from anywhere in the world. For many people, it can feel isolating, but teaching online has only made me feel more connected to others and their lives.
Theoretically, teaching for italki can be comfortably conducted from anywhere, provided there is a stable WIFI connection and a quiet space.
I’ve always considered myself as a somewhat well-travelled individual, but through teaching on italki, I quickly found that I had barely scratched the surface of the global insights that still awaited me.
I was in the middle of a lesson with a lovely woman from Kazakhstan when I had to abruptly stop. I was so embarrassed that I knew less than a single fact about her country, so we got talking about life in Kazakhstan.
If nothing else, italki enables you to meet and connect with a global base of students who are determined, enthusiastic, and well-informed.
What’s to be improved?
Although it doesn’t appear to be so, hours spent organising lesson plans, responding to students and rescheduling lessons are not recognised as official working hours. They soon rack up when you are providing constructive feedback or supporting students with queries, which italki does not adequately reward teachers for.
If they did, I think this would only improve the quality of teaching on the platform, resulting in a better experience for students and teachers alike.
The Pricing Predicament
Since the italki model targets a global network of individuals, the vast market of teachers available forces those already on the platform to drive their prices down to stay competitive.
Simply put: the teachers on italki are the reason the platform prospers, but sadly they’re not aptly rewarded for the substantial value of their work. As an intermediary, italki deducts a 15% commission rate, after which Paypal then takes a 2% fee (regardless of your home country). To top this off, payment made in dollars must be transferred to your local currency to have any form of utility in daily life with an extortionately high conversion fee
The bottom line: You can’t live effectively in the UK with the salary from italki unless you are willing to give up weekends, evenings, and your free time. Best to work at it on the side, and enjoy it for what it is – great conversations with interesting people.
If you are thinking of booking a lesson on italki, go for it!
Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience, leaving me feeling more connected than ever to a global community.
I would absolutely recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their self-confidence and public speaking ability.
Thanks for reading as always, and feel free to like, subscribe and comment below 🙂