Turkmen

italki Review – The Good, The Bad, & The Just Alright

Quick Review

4.5 

Summary:

italki is the most flexible and affordable place to find a tutor for the language you’re learning. They have a huge number of teachers offering classes to students of over 100 different languages. As a learner, you’ll be able to find a tutor that best fits your learning style, schedule, and personality. Teachers are able to set their own prices and make their own schedule.

Teacher Quality

You’ll find everyone from long-time professionals to brand new teachers.

Platform

The overall platform has tons of useful features but also some room for improvement.

Value

Huge number of teachers, low prices, and flexible scheduling.

Price

The prices vary by teacher and language with some being as low as $4 and others as high as $60 per hour. Most will fall somewhere near the $10 per hour range.

An Honest Review of iTalki With Image of Man Working on Computer

It’s very rare for me to recommend a particular resource for everyone, regardless of the language that they’re studying. Usually each language will have their own unique resources that are great specifically for students of that language.

Italki is the exception to this.

Anyone studying any language would benefit from using italki.

And I do mean any language. You can find an online tutor for pretty much any language you would possibly want to learn. There are languages I’ve never heard of that have tutors on italki.

In nearly every case, italki will both be the cheapest and most convenient place to find a teacher.

This in-depth review will look at every aspect of what it’s like to use italki for your language lessons. It’ll be split into the following parts…

What is italki?
Languages and prices
Different types of teachers
Choosing a teacher and scheduling classes
Booking and paying for lessons
The lessons themselves
italki Community
Weaknesses & alternatives
Teaching on italki
Final thoughts

What is italki?

italki is essentially a platform where you can book language classes directly from a tutor. You’ll find thousands of independent teachers offering classes on italki. They set their own schedule, price, have unique qualifications and experiences, and come from all over the world.

A somewhat flawed analogy is that italki is similar to Airbnb, whereas typical language schools are more like traditional hotels.

italki itself doesn’t offer any classes, it’s simply teachers using their platform to facilitate the classes. Payment is made through italki and classes typically take place over Skype, but options such as WeChat, FaceTime, and others are often available.

Languages and prices

There’s no other place where you will find as many teachers or as many languages being taught. To give you a rough idea of just how many teachers there are on italki, here are the numbers of available teachers (at the time of writing) for several different languages.

Less Common Languages
Wolof? Xhosa? Yep, you can find a teacher on italki.

English – 4680
Spanish – 1916
French – 834
Mandarin – 855
German – 501
Portuguese – 389
Korean – 230
Greek – 76
Romanian – 47
Afrikaans – 36
American Sign Language – 9
Haitian Creole – 14
Belarusian – 4
Sinhala – 2

This list is far from complete. You can find a teacher for any of more than a hundred different languages – more than a few of which I’d never heard of before.

This abundance of language teachers available opens up a lot of options and lets you be pickier than you otherwise might be able to.

If you’d prefer your teacher be from a certain country, be within a certain age range, be a native speaker, or have experience teaching certain age ranges – this becomes possible on italki.

On italki, every teacher sets their own prices. Not surprisingly, this can lead to huge differences in costs per lesson.

As an example, for Spanish, you can find a few teachers charging over $50 per hour. Luckily, on the other side of the spectrum, there are currently 689 teachers charging between $4-$9 per hour.

The prices will also vary depending on the supply and demand of teachers for each language. In addition, teachers from economically developed countries will almost certainly charge more than teachers from a country without a lot of economic opportunities.

This huge number of teachers with varying schedules makes it possible to find your ideal teacher and to take classes online without spending a fortune.

Not only that, if your native language is a language other than English, you can likely find someone that teaches your target language and also knows your native language.

I didn’t really appreciate italki until I moved to Beijing. I was looking for classes to improve my Mandarin. I ended up realizing that taking online classes was actually cheaper than finding an in-person tutor.

This appreciation was amplified by the fact that I wouldn’t need to travel around the city to meet up with them. I could take the classes from home and schedule them when most convenient.

Spanish Tutor Search

Different types of teachers

There are two different types of teachers available – Professional Teachers and Community Tutors.

Professional Teachers have at least one of the following, verified by Italki staff:

  • Professional teaching experience in school, university or language institute
  • University degree in education
  • Teaching certificate

Community Tutors are either Native speakers or have an advanced level of the language they’re teaching.

Typically, though not always, you’ll find that the professional teachers are more expensive and have more experience teaching. They’re more likely to have extra materials or prepare lessons specifically for the student.

Community tutors would generally be a better idea if you’re more interested in casual conversation practice.

I’ve taken classes with Community Tutors who I’ve considered to be much more skilled than some Professional Teachers. Remember, these are just labels and each teacher or tutor is unique.

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Choosing a teacher and scheduling classes

Before even looking at the teachers, I’d suggest taking a few moments to think about what your ideal class would look like.

  • Do you want the teacher to explain things to you in your native language when you get stuck?
  • Do you want to focus on learning specific grammar points?
  • Would you prefer casual conversation practice?
  • Are there any specific materials you’d like to go through?
  • What else would you like or dislike in your lessons?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Everyone will have different preferences and each person’s ideal class is a little different.

After you know what you’re looking for in a class, you can begin to look for the right teacher for yourself.

However, due to the sheer number of teachers available, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose one. Luckily italki has a few features to make it easier for you to figure this out.

You can see where each teacher is from. This helps if you’d prefer to practice a particular variation of the language. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Peru, it may make more sense to practice a Peruvian variation of Spanish.

You’ll also be able to see how many lessons they’ve taught, their ratings, schedule of availability, other languages they speak, and both a video and written introduction.

If you click on a teacher, you’ll be taken to their teacher profile which gives a bit more information.

One thing I’ve found to be really helpful when choosing my teachers has been to read through the reviews of other students.

It’s quite rare for people to give bad reviews (I know I hate doing so!). However, you can still get an idea of whether or not a teacher would work for you based on what others say.

For example, I hate when teachers try to teach me lots of vocabulary or come into the lesson and with a rigid plan that they are unwilling to stray away from. You can usually spot comments from other students related to these types of things in the review section.

You could easily spend hours reading through tons of teacher profiles, trying to find the perfect one for you.

Don’t do this!!!

While you can get an idea of whether or not a teacher will be a good fit, it’s impossible to know for sure until you actually have a class with them. The good news is that italki makes it easy for you to try out new teachers.

You’ll find that most teachers offer a 30-minute trial class, oftentimes for half the price or less than that of a regular lesson.

My recommendation would be to schedule trial lessons with several different teachers and then continue taking regular classes with one or two that best fit your learning preferences.

As we move forward, we’ll look at booking a lesson that fits into your schedule.

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Booking and paying for lessons

When you find a teacher that you’d like to schedule a lesson with simply click on the “Book Now” button. Alternatively, you can contact the teacher and ask them any questions you may have before beginning.

Often you’ll find that teachers have a few different types of classes that they offer. These may have different prices or all be the same.

Additionally, you’ll likely find a few different options available for the lessons. This may include different lesson lengths and sometimes the possibility to book a package of lessons at a discount.

Moving forward, you’ll need to select the time that you’d like the lesson to take place. This is easy to do because italki’s schedules show when the teacher is available according to your own time zone.

After selecting the time for your class, you’ll choose which platform you’ll use for your lessons and add your username.

The italki Classroom platform works well for video lessons and allows for easy messaging and screen sharing, but you can also elect to use a communication tool you’re more comfortable with.

You can also leave a message for the teacher before taking a lesson. This could give them a better idea of your language level, what you’d like to focus on, or just some things you may be interested in talking about.

Then, of course, you’ll have to pay.

In order to take lessons on italki, you can either pay for lessons with a specific teacher, or you can purchase italki credits. The credits carry the same value as USD and can be used to purchase classes with any italki teacher.

When you go to pay for a lesson, lesson package, or credits, you’ll also see a processing fee attached (ugh), depending on the payment method you choose. For $10 paid by debit card, it’s 69 cents. This fee shoots up to $8.40 if paying by bank transfer!

The percentage goes down a little if you purchase more credits. Buying $100 worth of credits will cost $4.44 extra if paid with a debit or credit card.

I imagine that the advantage of purchasing credits instead of lessons with a specific teacher is that you could potentially save some money on the processing fee by paying for more at once without being committed to one teacher.

The credits will basically sit in your account wallet until you use them. Unfortunately, you can’t get a refund on your purchase, so be sure to only purchase as many credits as you’ll need. Given the relatively minor savings in the processing fee for higher amounts, I’d suggest not adding too much money unless you’re certain you’ll use it.

Another thing to be aware of, from my understanding, is that if you go over 12 months without logging onto your italki account, you’ll lose the credits you’ve purchased. However, if you log on once in a year, even if you don’t take any classes, those credits will remain in your account indefinitely.

The lessons themselves

The lessons on italki are as unique as the teachers and what you’d like to focus on.

I’ve had lessons that are painfully slow where I’ve wanted nothing more than to end the lesson early and cut my losses.

I’ve also had lessons where time flew by and it felt more like I was chatting with a friend.

Everyone has different personalities and different learning styles. It’s very possible that one person’s dream teacher would be another’s least favorite. What I love in a teacher, you might hate.

For this reason, I strongly encourage you to take trial lessons with several different teachers. Everyone will offer a unique experience and it’s up to you to figure out which one is right for you.

The general format for most of the lessons I’ve taken has basically been the same. If it’s the first time I’ve taken classes with someone, usually they’ll add me on Skype a few minutes before the class begins.

Then, we basically just chat online with me getting feedback throughout for the majority of the lesson. Some teachers try to correct every mistake, others let the mistakes slide, others take notes and go over them at the end. It all just depends.

While I’ve never done it, if you’d like, you could bring a textbook, reading materials, writing homework, or anything else to go over during your lesson. Most teachers are very flexible and accommodating to your wishes.

italki Community

italki may be most well-known as a place to find affordable online language tutors, but it actually has a lot more to offer than that. There are several free “Community” features that you’ll find in the italki app. We’ll take a look at each of these now.

italki Community

Discover

Under the Discover tab in the italki app, you’ll find a bunch of content created by other members of the italki community, teachers and learners alike.

Topics and Posts

In the “For You” section, there are a bunch of posts that you might be interested in, categorized into topics. These posts include things like general language discussion, conversations on more specific topics like food or books, people asking specific questions about languages, and lots of learners looking for language partners to practice with.

Discover Tab

There are also some prompts on this screen for users looking to get writing or speaking practice, which other users can see in the Exercise section and then provide feedback.

Here’s a post I wrote about traditional Chinese banners (锦旗).

The posts really can be just about anything you can think of. Often times, teachers write posts as a means of helping promote their tutoring services.

italki Posts

Exercise

italki Exercise

This section is my favorite and most used of italki’s free features. I think it’s the best place to improve your writing skills in your target language.

It works rather simply. You write about any topic you’d like to write about in the language you’re learning. Then, someone who’s proficient (usually a native speaker) will come in and read your writing, making corrections.

Just be sure that whatever you write, you’re comfortable having strangers on the internet read it. It’s public!

If you find this feature useful, be sure to return the favor and help correct other people’s writing. It’ll be appreciated!

You can also record yourself speaking about anything you like, which makes for a great way to get feedback on pronunciation.

Questions

This is another useful free part of the italki Community. Here, you can ask any of those language questions you’ve been wondering about.

This could be which word to use in a certain context, questions about grammar points, and whatever other random questions you come across while studying.

You’ll almost certainly find people are willing to help you with your question. Again, do the same and answer questions about your native language to pay it forward.

Language Exchange Partners

Although lessons on italki are generally rather inexpensive, if you’d prefer not to spend any money at all, you may enjoy using the resource as a way to connect with a language partner.

This is something that used to be a dedicated feature, and it was possible to search for language partners with handy filters such as native language, where they’re from, gender, etc.

Unfortunately, connecting with other users isn’t as simple as it once was. You can still message other language learners, but you’ll have to write a post stating that you’re looking for someone to connect. The biggest downside to this change might be that other sections of the app are flooded with people looking for language partners.

Still, the potential for useful language exchange is high. With such a large community of users, it’s easy to find someone to practice languages with. This is especially true if you’re a native English speaker.

By finding a language exchange partner, you’ll be expected to help them learn the language and they’ll help you. Both parties will help each other out.

When you find someone you think you’d like to chat more with, you can send them a message or add them as a friend. You’ll likely notice many of the teachers also take part in language exchanges.

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Weaknesses & alternativesprocessing fees

I’m a huge fan of italki. I personally use it and often recommend it to friends. However, nothing is perfect and there is plenty of room for improvement.

One of the areas in which I think there is the most room for improvement is with the Community features that are only available on the app. The ability to have your writing corrected and to correct the writing of others is great, but having to do it on your mobile device is not.

In a similar vein, it’s a shame that there’s no dedicated feature for finding language partners, even though so much of the italki community uses the resource for just that — other sections of the app are full of people looking for exchange partners.

It’s also never fun to find charges you weren’t expecting when you go to pay. Maybe they could be more upfront with the processing fee or include it in the cost of the credits or lessons. I’m not really sure the best way, to be honest.

Another thing that might be beneficial is a private rating system or a way to mark your favorite teachers. Most people, myself included, are hesitant to give someone a bad review. You don’t want to hurt their ability to earn money. This is especially true if they seemed like a good teacher but their style was a bad fit for yourself. If you use italki a lot, you may find yourself forgetting which teachers you preferred.

The other issues I have with italki are less about italki and more about my own personal study habits.

I’ve always had a hard time scheduling as many classes as I should take. In my mind, I may plan on taking three classes per week, but since I need to schedule each of them individually, I often put it off and don’t take as many lessons as I’d like.

This may just be because I hate scheduling anything in advance. I hate committing to things I guess.

I’ve found I’m much more likely to take classes when I can just decide in the moment that I want to study and schedule something last minute. For the most part, with italki, you’ll need to schedule lessons at least 12 hours in advance.

Another possible weakness, or perhaps it’s just something to be aware of, is that the quality of teachers and your chemistry with them will vary significantly. This is largely related to personality and learning style.

I don’t think there’s anything italki could or should do about this, but it’s something you need to be aware of before taking classes. A teacher who is a bad fit can kill your desire to study. Just be patient and try out lots of teachers. There will be someone that is a good match for you.

There are a few alternatives to italki.

Verbling is the biggest competitor to italki and they provide a platform that is similar in most ways, but with a few differences.

Verbling’s payment system and the overall platform is quite a bit better than italki’s, in my opinion. You’re able to pay for the class without the need of adding money into your account wallet first. Classes also take place within their platform so you don’t need to switch to Skype for the lesson itself.

The reason I prefer italki is that there are far fewer teachers available on Verbling and they’re generally more expensive. You’ll even find some of the same teachers on both platforms, but they charge a bit more on Verbling.

The other alternatives would depend more specifically on which language you’re learning.

Baselang, for example, is awesome if you’re studying Spanish. For $149 per month, you can take unlimited Spanish lessons. Besides being great value for serious students, the ability to schedule lessons at the last minute makes it much more likely for me to take as many classes as I feel I should.

It’s possible that there may be other similar platforms in other languages that could be worth using instead of italki but I haven’t discovered them yet.

Online language schools are another option but I would rarely recommend them.italki logo

If you search for online tutors in your target language, you’ll almost certainly find dozens or more of online “language schools.” You’ll find they mostly look very similar to each other and will give you a free trial class.

I’m sure there are some good ones, but I generally advise people to stay away from these. More often than not, they’re less of a school and more of a middleman.

You’ll pay a large markup to take classes from these online schools and give up a lot of flexibility. Instead of having hundreds of teachers to choose from, there will likely only be a few options. Additionally, you’ll find less flexibility in scheduling your lessons.

If you want lessons with a structured curriculum, you can find teachers on italki that offer the same thing. Alternatively, you could use your own materials to study from independently and ask your tutor for additional practice or help with confusing points.

Teaching on italki

If you’re looking to make a little extra money, teaching on italki may be worth considering.

The flexibility and convenience of working from home is a huge benefit. You can set your own hours, prices, and aren’t required to accept everyone who requests a class from you.

Additionally, teaching can be really enjoyable. You’ll get to speak with students from all over the world and learn about them and their lives and culture.

italki will take their 15% cut of your earnings, so plan ahead for that.

If you are interested in becoming a teacher, you’ll need to apply online. The application process should take about two weeks.

You’ll need to include a picture of yourself, information about your language levels, along with a video and written introduction. If you’re applying as a professional teacher, you’ll also have to upload documentation proving your experience or educational background.

If all goes well and you’re accepted, you can then update your schedule and prices.

One thing that surprised me is that they’re not accepting new applicants for every language. My guess is that some languages may already have too many teachers compared to students. You can see which languages are accepting new teachers here.

Just because you get accepted as a teacher on italki, doesn’t mean you’ll instantly have lots of students looking to take classes from you. New teachers will almost always need to initially lower their prices until they get more reviews and students.

As a new teacher, I’d suggest being flexible to each student’s needs and really trying to do that little bit extra. This may be making notes on things they can work on, looking for materials they may enjoy studying, letting your lessons go a little bit longer, or anything else you can think of to help your students.

The easiest way to make good money on italki is by keeping your schedule full, and the best way to do that is by having lots of returning students.

Final thoughts

italki may be the most useful tool you’ll find for learning a language and is something that I highly recommend using.

Even though I live in Beijing, I still take lessons on italki as a means to improve my spoken Mandarin. I was initially surprised to find that it was not only more convenient than finding a local tutor but also cheaper.

Regardless of where you live or the language you’d like to learn, taking classes on italki will be extremely beneficial.

And if you don’t have money to spend on classes, that’s not a problem either. The potential for language exchange and other free extra community features are great. I’d suggest trying italki out for yourself.

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Bluebird Languages Mini-Review: Over 160 Languages Available

Bluebird Languages – 3.5 

Bluebird Languages has several types of lessons you can choose from, including a daily lesson, core vocabulary, essential verbs, creating sentences, powerful phrases, and conversation. Each topic seems to have a beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson, although it’s not clear how advanced “advanced” is.

In each lesson, an English-speaking narrator will ask you to listen to and repeat translations of various phrases. The recordings in each language seem to use native speakers’ voices, which is quite the feat considering they have lessons in over 160 languages.

Bluebird Languages’ phrases don’t construct a replicable dialogue, so the phrases don’t seem to have a lot of context other than the topic at hand. Furthermore, the topics seem to be identical in all languages, so most of the phrases will not be culture-specific. They also don’t break down complicated pronunciation, but you can try to break it down yourself by slowing down the recording to 0.5x speed.

Bluebird Languages seems similar to Pimsleur but appears less organized and will probably not improve your communication abilities as quickly. Nevertheless, it may be a good free alternative for beginners, and the program will probably help you develop some confidence in speaking languages that have less challenging pronunciation. The conversation and personalized lessons require a monthly membership, but there is enough free content that these add-ons may not be necessary.

Visit Bluebird Languages

The current rating is our best estimate. We haven’t had the opportunity yet to more thoroughly evaluate this resource, as we do for our full reviews.

LangCorrect: Unlimited, Free Writing Practice With Feedback

LangCorrect – 5 

LangCorrect is a free community-driven writing site where users can both contribute to editing others’ work and receive feedback on their own writing.

After writing your piece, you may submit it to receive feedback from other site users. In order to ensure accurate feedback, multiple users can cross-check the corrections that were made and add comments.

Volunteers and Patrons have access to writing in up to 10 languages, but typical users can write in a maximum of two languages at a time. Everyone is encouraged to both write and correct others’ work on the site.

If you are looking to improve your writing skills in one of the over 100 languages available, trying out this resource is a must! However, if you’re studying a less common language and not finding many users to give you corrections, consider trying the exercise section in italki’s community features.

Visit LangCorrect

The rating is our best guess, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully test and review this resource.

Cudoo Review — I Wouldn’t Even Use it if it Were Free

Quick Review

0.6 

Summary

Cudoo is an online learning platform that offers courses in over 160 languages. The platform also offers courses teaching soft skills and other professional development courses. Certificates are available upon course completion, and courses are provided to libraries and non-profits for free. We feel that the quality of the language courses is quite low, and that the prices are relatively high.

Quality

It’s nice to have native speaker audio, but I personally found the course to offer very little learning potential.

Thoroughness

The course didn’t cover everything listed under “Course Content” and offers no explanations.

Value

This course is way overpriced in my opinion. I wouldn’t even use it if it were free.

Languages

There are courses in over 160 languages on Cudoo. You’ll find languages as rare as Alsatian, Jerriais, and Navajo alongside more popular languages like Spanish and German.

Price

Price varies by course, from $4.99 to $24.99, with language bundles costing up to $199.

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Speaky Review: Better Than Other Language Exchange Apps?

Quick Review

3.7 

Summary

Speaky is a social language-learning app for people interested in language exchange. It’s available for iOS, Android, and the web. Users can chat with other language learners, share photos, leave voice messages or even have voice calls. The basic features on Speaky are free to use, but access to more than five translations per day requires a subscription.

Community

There are some dedicated language learners on Speaky but not as many as similar apps.

Features

The platform is easy to use but lacks advanced features.

Value

Speaky is mostly free to use, extra features are available for a subscription.

Languages

There are over 100 languages on Speaky. These include popular languages like Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, etc.

Price

The basic features on Speaky are free to use. A premium membership is available for a subscription.

1-month Subscription $5.99/month
6-month Subscription $4.83/month
12-month Subscription $3.91/month

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uTalk Review – Learn Set Phrases But Not A Language

Quick Review

3.2 

Summary

uTalk is a software program and mobile app offering learning material in over 140 languages. Its approach is based on learning set keywords and phrases through gameplay. It covers a wide range of set phrases and offers pronunciation practice. It does not offer any in-depth language instruction or grammar.
uTalk is most useful for people who want to learn key phrases in a new language and aren’t interested in a more comprehensive understanding.

Quality

The app is very user-friendly, and the content is mostly useful, but the features are limited.

Thoroughness

The opportunities for focused practice are somewhat lacking.

Value

The price is very low, and there’s a decent amount of content, but there are more time-efficient ways to learn.

Price

$2.99/month on a monthly basis and can be canceled at any time
$1.67/month for a year-long subscription
$1.00/month for a two-year subscription

*This is the price for the more popular languages like Spanish, German, Arabic, etc. Less common languages such as Afrikaans and Tibetan cost slightly more.

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Transparent Language Review – Their Courses Are Awful!

Quick Review

1.8 

Summary:

Transparent Language markets itself as “the most complete language-learning system for independent learners.” While there are lots of different exercises for you to work through in their Essentials Course, I thought that the material wasn’t all that helpful and that it got very repetitive. Although the courses might not be all that useful or in-depth, with over a hundred languages on offer it might be worth checking out if you want to learn the very basics of a more obscure language such as Buriat, Kazakh or Turkmen. But, even then, I’d try to find other resources first.

Quality

While the exercises are for the most part well-designed, diverse and easy to use, it is the core material itself that I found lacking.

Thoroughness

I hardly came across any explanations at all; practice was almost exclusively memorizing words and phrases.

Value

I would only consider using if it were free and I was studying a very rare language.

Price

There is a free two-week trial period for you to try it out. Otherwise, it is $24.95 per month or $149.95 for a whole year if you just select one language. If you want access to all of the languages it is then $49.95 per month and $249.95 a year.

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