When I started studying Chinese, the first tutor I found was on Verbling. She was skilled, professional and helped me get past that very beginner stage. Overall, my experience was rather positive. I found Verbling to be quite a good platform to use and had no real complaints.
No though, if I were to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t use Verbling to find a tutor. While it’s a good option, I don’t think it’s the best.
- A platform like italki or Verbling where you book classes directly from the teacher
- An online language school
- 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 though I’ve been studying Mandarin in Beijing. If you don’t live near many native speakers of the language you’re learning, it becomes even less convenient and more expensive.
Online schools are an option but are generally not my first choice (the exception being Baselang for Spanish). There’s a ton of variety when it comes to choosing a school. Some are quite good and will organize a curriculum and have skilled teachers, but more of them are essentially middle-men between you and the teacher, taking a large cut. Typically, you’ll find they’re somewhat flexible with regards to scheduling classes, the number of teachers available is fairly low, and the price is on the high side.
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 a bit cheaper than most online language schools but are more expensive than italki. The average price tends to be between $16 and $31 depending on the language you’re learning
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 four Chinese 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 over 60 Chinese teachers charging less than $10 per hour. Of these, 16 are professional teachers and 45 are community tutors. Without a doubt, italki is far better for those looking for a lower cost option.
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 at 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 from poorer countries, 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 and know to avoid them.
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
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 a language, 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 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.