15 Rewarding Reasons Why Travelers Need Italki
What is Italki?
Italki is an online language website.
The platform connects language learners with teachers, tutors, and community members.
Using a video chat, learners have the opportunity to connect with native speakers through one-on-one tutoring.
My Italki story
I’m currently learning European Portuguese. We’re planning a month-long trip through the country, and I wanted the challenge. I also love the way Portuguese sounds.
I started with Memrise (an online spaced-recognition tool), it’s a great language tool, and I quickly built a basic vocabulary.
I’m a big fan of Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months. Benny recommends speaking the language from day one – not spending months on dry textbook lessons.
I knew this was true, but I was intimidated by face-to-face (or face-to-video camera) lessons, so I put it off for 4 months. I would visit Italki and look at potential teachers, but leave without scheduling an appointment.
One day in a fit of productivity, I bought $100 in Italki credits and scheduled introductory lessons with 8 different tutors.
On the day of my first lesson, I was physically sick to my stomach. I’m an extroverted, friendly person, but the idea of being front and center in a class of one was incredibly intimidating.
I’m. So. Sorry. I. Waited!
The first lesson was with Ana, an 18-year old student taking a gap year. She immediately made me feel comfortable. We had a successful 30-minute conversation in Portuguese.
At one point, I coughed and excused myself, saying I was “doente,” sick. Or so I thought. She gave me a strange look and asked, “Did you just say you’re constipated?” We both burst into laughter at the awkwardness. She’s been my go-to tutor ever since.
Trying a variety of tutors is essential. A few of my trial lessons we’re not as enjoyable as my first lesson with Ana. I narrowed it down to 4 tutors, which I rotate between. They each have particular strengths, and I like the variety I get listening to native speakers from around the country.
Learning even a little of a foreign language is an enriching experience. I’m going to assume you know that and are already interested in learning. So why, Italki? Let me share 15 reasons I think Italki is a must for travelers learning a language.
Which means fast progress.
Anyone that took 4 years of high school foreign language knows you can walk away from all that traditional learning with a smattering of vocabulary and minimal aural comprehension.
Speaking to natives is a form of direct practice. You’re emulating what you hope to do with the language – communicate with people on your trip.
Grammar, reading, and writing have their place, but for real progress, you have to speak the language.
2. Train your ear
Online language apps, podcasts, and videos are essential language tools. Today we have a plethora of options at our fingertips. This makes it easier than ever to build correct pronunciation from the start.
But even with audio tools that I could replay over and over, there are sometimes phrases I just can’t wrap my tongue around.
Whenever I come across a word or phrase I can’t seem to mimic, I ask my tutor to say it very slowly – we both get closer to the screen, and I watch her mouth position. We break it down, and I learn the subtle positioning needed to produce the sound.
For the life of me, I couldn’t get the hang of ‘where is the train station.’ Ana and I spent a solid 5 minutes, breaking it down.
3. Learn anywhere
Gone are the days of finding a local language class to attend. And good luck with that. Even if you live near a major university, you will likely be limited to a handful of languages.
On Italki, you can keep learning anywhere – at home, on vacation, when you travel for work, or at work on your lunch break.
4. Flexible scheduling
You’re also not limited by day and time.
Italki allows you to reschedule or cancel up to 24 hours before your lesson.
So there’s plenty of flexibility to fit in lessons around a variable schedule.
5. Vested interest
Human nature takes things that cost money more seriously.
Italki lessons are very inexpensive. Especially when compared with a formal class option.
But, spending a little bit of money on your language project will go a long way in keeping you on point.
6. It’s free
Italki also has a free option to connect with a community language partner and trade time.
You will take turns, each spending about 15 minutes in your target language. This is a fabulous way to get more practice time and meet more native speakers.
But it’s not nearly as efficient as having the sole attention of a tutor for 30-60 minutes. Even if you make trades with conversation partners, I highly recommend you spring for some paid lessons.
7. Right fit
You’re not limited to the one teacher in town.
Try a bunch of tutors or conversation partners, find a few that you connect with and find it easy to talk to.
First, I have Ana; we never have a problem coming up with things to talk about. We laugh a lot, and I always walk away energized.
Another teacher, Vanessa, is always prepared with lessons, readings, and oral comprehension activities. She’s a more traditional teacher. I leave those lessons with homework and a strong desire to improve before our next meeting.
I have a teacher who is super encouraging. She boosts my confidence. When I leave a lesson with her, I feel like I’m almost fluent. Sometimes I need that to keep going. I don’t meet with her as often, because she doesn’t push me as hard. But like the friend that makes you feel great about yourself – I need a regular check-in.
Finally, my fourth teacher is calm and quiet. We have a harder time keeping a chatty conversation going. However, she’s brilliant at explaining usage and grammar topics. I keep a list of questions, patterns I’ve noticed, or words that seem to mean the same thing. She is incredible at explaining the nuances of the language and giving me examples.
8. Ask questions, learn nuances
You can’t ask books and computer courses clarifying questions.
I spent a good chunk of time learning the Portuguese future tense, only to find out that it was unnecessary – it’s a very formal, literary tense. But the book teaches it anyway.
Native speakers can explain when you sound rude or abrupt. Your sentence might be technically correct, but not convey the meaning you’re after.
Native speakers will point out tiny differences in pronunciation that sound almost identical to a foreign speaker.
9. Pick up non-verbals
All my teachers have different personalities; some are more gregarious. Others are obviously introverts. One is 18, and another is 40-something. They dress differently and live in different areas of the country.
But I’ve noticed that they all have a certain gentleness and poise.
They have a similar way of moving their hands and quiet laughs, a certain polite air about them. These are subtle, almost invisible things that make one nationality distinct from another.
Picking up on these non-verbal cues are an essential part of becoming fluent in a language.
Have you ever taken a foreign language in a classroom? Intimidating right? Not very conducive to taking chances, and really, you only get so many minutes in the spotlight.
With Italki’s online tutors, you only have to worry about one person. And their job is to smooth your path. An excellent tutor or language partner exudes patience, gently corrects and helps you relax.
11. Introverts language platform
Because you don’t have to leave your house and interact with dozens of people, Italki is the perfect language learning platform for introverts.
It’s one-on-one interaction.
12. The notebook
In Italki’s ‘notebook’ section, you can practice writing sentences, paragraphs, or mini-dialogues.
Another member of the community will correct your work and offer suggestions for better usage or more natural syntax.
You can contribute to the community by correcting others work.
Italki uses a point system to show who’s a contributing member and “real” language learner. More points mean an engaged, legit person. No points can indicate either a brand new user or a person on the platform for nefarious purposes (aka. using it to hook up).
Every time you help someone out in Italki’s ‘notebook’ you get a point added to your profile.
I enjoy helping people with their English. When I see how easy it is to drop pronouns, mix up verb tense, and generally muddle sentences, I’m reminded to extend grace to myself as I learn a new language.
There are 100’s (1000’s?) of helpful articles written by Italki teachers, tutors, and community members.
You can find a ton of advice on your target language.
There’s also a discussion page. Anyone can post a topic and start a conversation.
As I said before, purchasing lessons will make you accountable, but it’s not just about the money.
You will feel responsible to another human being. There’s a teacher on the other end waiting to hear how you’ve progressed.
This ideally causes us to prepare, to want to do well.
15. Motivation to communicate
After getting past the most basic niceties and introducing yourself, the topics of conversation are limitless.
This is good because you will quickly get frustrated at not being able to say what you want, which will drive you to learn more.
In traditional learning methods, you are a passive learner to what is served up. If the program thinks learning the names for zoo animals is vital, you will learn zoo animals.
But if you want to talk about your respective countries’ response to Covid-19, you’re going to need to learn some new words.
You will quickly discover what grammatical structures you need – simple past tense, being able to ask questions, words related to your work…and you can take the lead to learn them.
Get started today
There you have 15 good reasons to book a lesson on Italki. Don’t be like me and procrastinate.
You will thank yourself for diving in mouth first.
Sign-up for a free Italki account and take a look around the website.