I found my first Chinese teacher on Verbling about a year and a half ago. She was skilled, professional and helped me get past that very beginner stage. Overall, my experience was rather positive.
Now though, I’m not sure that Verbling would be my first choice. Let’s take a look at our options for finding a Chinese tutor.
1. A platform like italki or Verbling where you book classes directly from the teacher.
2. An online school like eChineseLearning or Hanbridge Mandarin that hires teachers.
3. Finding a local teacher from somewhere like Facebook, craigslist or an acquaintance.
Finding a local teacher is almost always the most expensive and least convenient. I found this to be true even living in Beijing. In many other places, it’ll be difficult to find a Chinese tutor near you. Offline classes do have their advantages though and I can understand why some people would prefer that.
Online schools are the best option for a lot of people but aren’t necessarily my favorite. They’re often times cheaper than finding a local teacher but it may require an upfront commitment to a certain number of classes or length of time studying. On the plus side, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a teacher with lots of experience. Often times these schools will provide a structured course around whichever topic you prefer.
For me personally, I prefer to use a platform like italki or Verbling. On both of these sites, you’ll book your lessons from the tutor directly. This gives a lot more independence and flexibility to both the student and the teacher. You’ll have more say in terms of price, schedule, and your preferences for a teacher. italki and Verbling are quite similar but they aren’t the same.
This article is going to discuss Verbling and then make comparisons to italki.
Finding a teacher
The process for finding a teacher on Verbling and italki is essentially the same. You’ll browse teachers and see where they’re from, the price, their rating, and a short description. All teachers on Verbling include a video introduction and many on italki do the same.
On both platforms, you can get a pretty good idea of the teacher’s personality and teaching style before taking any classes. You’ll see their schedule and available time slots. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be able to find a teacher that is a good fit for your learning style and objectives.
Both italki and Verbling have far more teachers you can choose from than other places. Pretty much every online school will have significantly fewer teachers. It’s also much easier to browse and change teachers on Verbling and italki than it is elsewhere.
While Verbling may have more teachers than other online schools, they have far less than italki.
italki also has community tutors, which Verbling does not. To be a community tutor, you don’t need any kind of teaching certificate or experience. You just need to be a native speaker. These community tutors on italki are very affordable and perfect if you only want conversation practice and not necessarily a teacher.
How much do the classes cost?
The classes on Verbling are priced competitively to online Chinese schools, but are more expensive than italki. The average price on Verbling is $22/hr.
As I mentioned, there are far fewer teachers available on Verbling compared to italki. For those looking for a low-cost option, italki is much better.
Let’s take a look at the cheapest options on both sites. On Verbling there are no teachers that charge less than $10/hour. If I set the max price at $15, there are only seven teachers at that rate – and three of them are new teachers.
On italki there are 146 teachers to choose from with prices starting under $10. Of these, 43 professional teachers and 103 are community tutors. I’ve seen professional teachers on italki with prices under $8/hour and community tutors for less than $5/hour.
You’ll find many of the same teachers on both platforms. The same teacher will often charge $1 or $2 less per class on italki compared to Verbling.
italki requires you to first purchase tokens before paying for classes. This is slightly annoying as you’ll have money just sitting in your account. I like how Verbling allows you to simply pay class by class without having to deposit first.
Both Verbling and italki have small processing fees when you pay.
Teacher qualifications on italki and Verbling
On italki, to qualify as a professional teacher, the teacher must have one of the following:
* Professional teaching experience in a school, university, or language institute
* University degree in education
* Teaching certification (i.e. CELTA or TESOL) from an accredited institution
On Verbling, teachers must submit an application. They’re required to have teaching experience and be a native speaker. They say that having a teaching certificate will increase the chances of being accepted as a teacher, but it’s not necessarily required.
Verbling also requires teachers to test their internet speed when submitting an application. One problem you see with lots of teachers, especially within China, is that they may have problems with a slow internet. This could potentially prevent some of those problems from arising. However, if someone consistently has a bad internet connection on italki, you’ll likely see this mentioned when students leave reviews.
Both platforms offer online classes.
On italki the classes are conducted over Skype. Prior to your class time, the teacher will send you a request on Skype and at the scheduled time, the two of you will begin your class. Not every teacher on italki will have the option for video chat. The vast majority do, but it’s possible you’ll find a few that don’t.
Verbling uses their own video platform instead of Skype. You’ll log-in to your Verbling account and take the classes from there directly. This may make it easier for some as you don’t have to deal with Skype. It’s pretty simple and intuitive to use.
I prefer italki over Verbling
Verbling is a solid platform for finding a Chinese tutor but italki is the leader when it comes to finding language teachers online.
There aren’t that many good reasons to choose Verbling over italki for finding a Chinese teacher. The main reasons would be if…
* you want to avoid using Skype and having to deal with two different applications for your lessons. I’ve been trying to get my Mom to use Skype for years to talk with me and she somehow has never figured out how to use it. If my mom were learning Chinese, Verbling might be her best option.
* you find your ideal teacher on Verbling and they don’t have a profile on italki. This will be fairly unlikely given the overlap in teachers between the two platforms and the huge number of teachers italki has. But if you find that perfect teacher, stick with them.
* you want to use Bitcoin or avoid buying credits first. I prefer Verbling’s checkout and payment process.
Verbling is an awesome platform but it’s not my first choice for finding a Chinese teacher. The problem is that there are a lot fewer teachers on Verbling compared to italki. This gives you fewer options, makes it more expensive and allows less flexibility for scheduling your lessons.