Not just for structured lessons, iTalki is an invaluable tool to get conversation practice with real, native speakers for as little as $5 per hour. Whether you are already learning in the classroom, independently, or want full guided lessons from a tutor, iTalki is our top recommendation for all language learners.
Trial lessons from $1, full lessons from $5 per hour
iTalki is a site I came across a few years ago but didn’t use at the time, until I noticed that almost ALL language bloggers and polyglots (people who speak many languages) highly recommend it.
It seems to be the one resource that is universally used by all the top language experts - and so with that high praise I had to see for myself.
iTalki is an language tutoring site that connects learners with native speakers through various paid and free resources. The main part of the site offers one-to-one lessons from teachers all around the world, covering almost any language.
You can arrange lessons with both professional and more casual tutors via Skype, either in a formal, structured way, or just for conversation practice. This makes it suitable either as your primary learning resource or to supplement independent learning.
Each tutor has a video introducing themselves, and there is a robust filtering and review system to help you find the tutor that’s just right for you (from over 5,000). You can even take trial lessons for as little as $1.
The site also has a host of free community features, though the review will be focused on the one-to-one lessons.
Let’s face it, everyone’s ultimate goal when learning a language is to be able to speak it. For all the great courses and apps out there, nothing is going to get your there quicker than actually practicing speaking the language!
This is one of the hardest parts to practice though, so unless you are living somewhere with easy access to native speakers, it's worth reading on. I recommend everyone get regular conversation practice, no matter your level, and iTalki makes that really easy.
On iTalki there are two different types of tutors you can have lessons with.
Professional tutors are people with formal training teaching the language.
Community teachers can be anyone who wants to help people learn their native language.
Tutors set their own prices, and as you would expect the professional tutors tend to charge more per hour (around $10-$30) than the community teachers (around $5-$15) but don’t let that put you off trying them out too. Many users have reported preferring a community tutor they found.
Which you choose might also depend on what you are looking to get out of it. Professional teachers are likely to have a structured course planned out, whereas community teachers are great for speaking practice.
They important thing is to try a few teachers to find the one that suits your own needs and leaning style.
This is one of my favourite features of iTalki. Each tutor can offer a special rate for a 30 minute trial lesson, and these can be as low as $1.
As mentioned above, being able to find the right tutor is important, and you shouldn’t feel bad about shopping around doing a few trials at first.
One of the advantages of having access to so many tutors online is the flexibility it gives you to match your own schedule and budget.
The scheduling system is easy to use and shows you a calendar with available timeslots, all in your own local time, so you don’t need to worry about mix ups trying to coordinate with someone in a different time zone.
Due to the range of hourly rates and the fact that you choose your own schedule, it is also easy to match your own budget, whatever that might be.
If you are taking classroom lessons or studying independently, but just want a little extra conversation practice then you can just have one or two community teacher sessions a month at $10 each.
If you have a higher budget and need to learn more intensively you can have structured lessons 3 times a week with a professional teacher at $20 each. It’s entirely up to you.
Getting conversation practice with real world speakers is one of the most valuable things you can do as a language learner at any level, so it is really suitable for all language learners.
In particular, you will get a lot of benefit if any of these sound like you:
In my early days of learning Spanish my main problems were a lack of confidence to speak to people and a lack of listening comprehension. Taking lessons online and having to face these difficulties might sounds scary at first, but the benefit is huge.
I would definitely use iTalki to tackle these issues earlier on if I could do things differently.
After using iTalki for a while I discovered some tips that will help you get the most out of it.
I’m genuinely struggling to find negatives for iTalki. For the cost there is nothing else that will give you the same amount of benefit to your language learning.
A couple of minor things to be aware of:
One of the things that brought iTalki to my attention in the first place is that I noticed I kept seeing it recommended by different high-profile polyglots and language experts.
They all have their own courses and products they sell and so don’t tend to overly promote other products, but this is one that seems to be universally loved and recommended as an essential tool for any language learner.
It’s hard to find higher praise than that.
Whether it’s an hour of informal conversation practice once a month, or daily structured lessons, iTalki is something absolutely all language learners should use to get real speaking and listening practice.
For the cost of lessons (from $5 an hour) I don’t know of any other language resource out there that will give you the same benefit.
It can be scary overcoming the fear of speaking as a language learner, but there is no way around it, if you want to learn to speak, you need to practice speaking! And this is the best way to build the confidence to use your new language skills in the real world.
Be bold, take the step to book your first lesson today and see how much you benefit.