italki and HelloTalk are online platforms that make it possible to find a tutor or exchange partner to practice a new language. italki primarily offers tutors for language learning, while HelloTalk matches native speakers with those learning their language for a different take on the learning experience.
The goal of italki and HelloTalk is the same: to help a user learn a language through personal communication alone. However, there are some notable differences between them, mainly:
- italki works on a teacher-student concept, whereas HelloTalk pairs two students together to teach each other their native languages.
- HelloTalk gives the option to subscribe to audio lessons in 10 different languages, while italki focuses primarily on matching tutors with students.
Both resources are flexible and affordable (HelloTalk is free for the most part), and I’d find it hard to recommend one over the other. If you’re looking to take a more standard approach to language learning, you would probably benefit more from italki. HelloTalk is a slightly more interesting concept and has the potential to be rewarding for users.
While italki and HelloTalk are two of the best platforms for language exchange and finding a tutor, both are better as complementary resources to a structured course. You can find more information on the best language learning resources based on the language you want to learn here.
What I like about each resource:
- There are a huge number of teachers to choose from, from brand new tutors to long-time professionals. Rates vary from one teacher to the next, so you can find a price that suits you.
- You’ll even find teachers available for less common languages.
- A user has the flexibility to schedule lessons to their convenience. If a teacher doesn’t fit your schedule, you can move onto someone who does.
- The Community Features available in the app give access to extras like Questions, Exercise and For You, which make it easy to ask questions, get feedback on your writing or pronunciation, and find free exchange partners.
- Being able to practice with real people is exciting.
- You have the flexibility to visit the app whenever you have the spare time, with no pressure to commit to something unachievable.
- The app uses built-in language tools that come in handy for communication between users who don’t have much language overlap.
What I don’t like about each resource:
- Not all tutors are guaranteed to fit your language learning style, and you might need to try out several before finding a good match.
- The flexibility to choose your lesson schedule makes it easy to take on fewer lessons than you should.
- You could easily opt to rely on Google Translate, one of the built-in language tools, rather than making real effort with practicing a language.
- You might need to do some searching before you find partners with the same level of dedication and enthusiasm as you.
- The additional audio lessons probably aren’t worth paying for.
italki offers classes to students in more than 100 different languages. Popular languages include French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Italian. You’ll also be able to find teachers for less popular languages like Balinese, Gujarati, Nambya, Samoan and Tlingit.
There are 150 languages supported for language exchange on HelloTalk. Students can match up with partners from around the world, or take advantage of the audio lessons for 10 different languages: English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and Portuguese.
Prices on italki vary from one teacher to the next, with some teachers charging as low as $4 per hour and others charging as high as $60 per hour. On average, prices fall around the $10 per hour range. Note that it’s not always a case of “you get what you pay for”. Some teachers are simply a better fit for your learning style than others.
You won’t need to pay for the basic features of HelloTalk. While you can trial HelloTalk’s audio lessons for free, they require a separate subscription once the trial period has ended.
If you want to get more out of the HelloTalk app, you can pay for a VIP subscription. This offers a number of features including no ads, the ability to filter users by gender, up to 25 new language partners a day, and unlimited translations. A VIP membership costs $4.99 per month or $2.17 per month for a 12-month contract. You can also pay $124.99 for lifetime access.
How languages are taught with italki
italki lets you book language classes directly from a tutor. You can find a teacher for more than 100 different languages, which allows you to be pickier with your search. If you want your teacher to be based in a particular country, or teach a certain age range, it’s possible on italki.
In most cases, taking online classes on italki is cheaper than finding a local tutor for personal sessions. This offers a more convenient alternative and means you can take classes from home, scheduled to a time that suits you best.
You’ll be able to choose between two different teacher types: professional teachers and community tutors.
The key difference between the two is that professional teachers are verified by italki, and have either a university degree in education or professional school teaching experience, while community tutors are either native speakers or know the language they’re teaching to an advanced level.
When it comes to choosing a teacher, think about what you’re looking to get out of a class, and use that to make your decision. italki’s features make the selection process easier, showing you where each teacher is from and how many lessons they’ve taught, their availability, ratings, and both a video and written introduction.
Clicking on a teacher brings up a more in-depth teacher profile. It’s helpful to read through reviews of a teacher by other students when choosing who to go for.
There’s a processing fee for purchasing the credits, which is a tad frustrating. You’ll also lose any extra credits you purchase if you go for 12 months without logging into your italki account.
The lessons themselves are unique to your teacher and your language learning goals. Each teacher has a different style, and it might take you a while to find your perfect match. Lessons generally take place over a video chat platform, and most teachers are happy to accommodate your preferences.
Read our full review of italki.
How languages are taught with HelloTalk
HelloTalk is an app that you can download on either iOS or Android. It uses built-in language tools to make communication between its 10 million-plus users easier. As a beginner language learner, you’ll be able to talk to someone using that language. Here’s what it looks like:
When you press and hold a message, you’ll be given this toolbar, which allows you to view a translation or a transliteration, or hear text-to-speech audio of the message. If you’re talking to someone who’s learning your native language, you can also make corrections to their message.
The experience you can get out of HelloTalk depends on the partner you find. If your partner is patient and willing to correct your mistakes, you’ll be able to learn a lot more quickly. As an absolute beginner, though, you might find yourself relying entirely on the translation feature, which doesn’t make for good learning.
The app is split into four categories: Talks, Moments, Search and Learn. The first three categories are for connecting with other users – Talks is the messaging feature, Moments allows you to post life updates, and Search lets you find language partners.
The Learn category is for language instruction, in the form of audio lessons for 10 languages. You’ll need to purchase a subscription for unlimited access to these lessons. It’s important to note that paying for access won’t give you a VIP membership to the app.
You can browse the lessons by level or topic. These audio lessons were actually developed by other providers that partnered with HelloTalk. As such, they’ll be a bit different for each language.
I probably wouldn’t recommend purchasing a subscription for unlimited access to them. Instead, I’d prefer to use HelloTalk to practice with other language learners and find another resource for lessons.
Read our full review of HelloTalk.
Overall, italki and HelloTalk are impressive in their offerings, although the learning experience they can offer is based purely on the partner or tutor you pair up with.
HelloTalk might not provide you with the means to fully learn a language, but it’s a valuable resource to use during your language learning process. For this reason, I wouldn’t suggest using the tool solely to learn a language if you’re a beginner.
italki offers more language learning promise. You might need to go through a few teachers to find the best match for you, but once you do find someone, you can get a lot out of the experience.
If neither of these options sounds quite right, there are other options for you to consider. Language exchange resources like Tandem are similar to HelloTalk. As for italki, your alternatives depend on the language you’re learning. For example, Baselang is great for if you’re studying Spanish.
You can check out the top language learning tools based on the language you want to learn in the table below.
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