Regular 1-on-1 classes with a native tutor are the best way to master a language.
But, where to find your tutor? On Italki!
In this review of Italki, I’ll tell you why this is the best platform to take online language lessons.
Italki: a quick review
Find language tutors online
The best place to take language classes online
Italki is the largest and oldest platform that puts together language learners and online teachers.
You can certainly find an online tutor that teachers the language you’re learning and meets your requirements in terms of teaching method, schedule, and budget.
Range of tutors
- Huge range of tutors, both in terms of price and quality
- Easy-to-use interface
- Useful free features like the notebook
- Support not always helpful
What is Italki?
Italki is the best website to find a tutor for the language you’re learning.
Italki themselves don’t offer any educational services. Instead, it acts as a facilitator thanks to a massive database of teachers and practice.
It’s a bit like what Airbnb is for accommodation where typical language schools are more like traditional hotels, or what Uber is for transportation.
You can book a private lesson or class, or just a simple chat to practice. Sessions all take place over a video conference tool like Skype.
Before Italki came along, it was hard for most people to practice the language they were learning. Unless you were lucky enough to travel abroad or lived in a cosmopolis, you were left speaking to yourself.
Now, you only need to log into Italki and book a lesson!
Why a review of Italki
Many language learners ask me what’s the best way to learn foreign languages.
My answer is: if you have time and money, take 1-to-1 language classes on Skype.
Any other learning resource, even the best ones like Ripeti con Me, are but a supplement to or a substitute for conversations with native speakers.
Now that I’m shifting from online tutoring to blogging, I’m happy to recommend the best place to find Italian language teachers online (or any other teacher).
While there are some extensive reviews that give an objective view of Italki’s feature, most of them lack the personal feeling that only first-hand experience as a user can give.
This review is written mainly from a student’s point of view but also includes remarks for language tutors.
Since I have a lot of experience on Italki, I hope that it can inspire you to learn Italian or any other language on this platform.
If you’re a wanna-be online language tutor, check out my guide to teach on Italki.
My experience on Italki (learner + Italian tutor)
Unlike many popular reviews of Italki, this is written by a real user with extensive experience both as a learner and as a tutor.
As a language learner, I signed up on Italki in 2010.
I’ve taken classes 400+ classes on Italki to learn Korean, Mandarin, German, Brasilian Portuguese, Russian, Indonesian, Turkish, Cantonese, and Romanian.
As a professional Italian language teacher, I applied for a teaching account in 2016.
Since then, online tutoring became my main source of income.
I’ve taught 1400+ Italian classes to students all over the world.
My most affectionate student alone took 350+ lessons.
My teacher profile boasts a 5/5 rating.
I was chosen by Italki to shoot a professional profile video that is being used as a model for new online tutors.
Enough with bragging. Now, I’ll tell you what I think about Italki and taking online language classes in general.
Why take live lessons vs self-study courses
The most important and yet the most overlooked skill in language teaching and self-study is speaking.
For reading, or grammar, or listening, you can grab a textbook or an app and learn something.
For writing, you only need a pen and paper, optionally a dictionary or Google Translate.
But for speaking, unless you’re motivated enough to speak even when you’re alone or use a specific course like Ripeti Con Me that prompts you to repeat what you hear, you’re left alone with your silence.
Live lessons make up for this lack of practice.
Why take 1-to-1 lessons vs not group classes
Since you take classes to practice speaking, you want to use all the time available to practice yourself.
That’s what happens with 1-to-1 lessons: it’s only you and your tutor.
Ideally, your tutor will let you speak most of the time and only help you fix your mistakes and keep the conversation alive.
On the other side, if you take group classes, you might save money because they’re cheaper, but class time is split between students and most of the time you’re left quietly listening to your teacher or your fellow students.
Why take language lessons online vs offline
Taking language classes in person is time-consuming.
You need to:
- Commute to and from the classroom, which takes time and money
- Arrive early and wait
- Arrive late and lose time
- If you take informal tutoring in public spaces like cafes, they tend to be noisy and you also have to pay for two drinks
On the other hand, if you take online classes:
- You only need to log into Skype at the scheduled time
- No commuting time or expenses
- You’re in a quiet, relaxed environment like home
This saving in time also translates into saving money, because teachers also save time and can set lower rates.
With Skype, Zoom, or similar videoconferencing software you can see and hear your tutor, have them correct your mistakes in the chatbox or in a Google doc, share files, and share your screen.
Why take online language lessons on Italki
There are many platforms like Italki – or that wish they were like Italki.
However, Italki is the best in its industry. Here’s why!
The widest range of tutors
Italki is the oldest and largest service in its category.
They have a huge number of teachers offering classes to students of over 100 different languages.
Thus, you can certainly find a tutor that best fits your learning style, schedule, and personality.
Following a major update in 2019, their website became more usable and visually appealing.
You can easily navigate their menu to find online tutors, language exchange partners, and other features.
Useful search panel
You can select tutors based on the following criteria, among others:
- Native speakers or non-native
- Hourly price
- Languages spoken
- Country of origin
- Weekly availability
This search panel is the best designed among similar websites.
Convenient scheduling system
Purchasing, scheduling, rescheduling, and canceling lessons is quick and intuitive.
There’s also a messaging system to contact your tutors.
Fair treatment of tutors
Italki takes 15% of your lesson fee as a commission and leaves the rest to your teacher.
This is a relatively low rate in the industry.
Thus, you can take a lesson knowing that your teacher is not being exploited.
What I don’t like about Italki
So far, I told you what’s good about Italki.
However, Italki is far from perfect.
Yet still, most of my criticism is about teaching on Italki rather than learning and thus I’ll not mention that in this review.
Anyway, here’s what I’m not happy about as a learner.
Discontinuing instant tutoring
Italki used to have a feature called “instant tutoring” that allowed you to find teachers available to teach right away (i.e. within 10 minutes).
That was perfect for busy schedules.
Well, forget it. It’s gone.
As a learner and teacher, I always use Skype for my lessons.
With file sharing and screen sharing, it’s just good enough for the average online class.
Italki developed a virtual classroom as an alternative, but it has never worked properly.
Just don’t use it. Choose Skype, instead.
After every lesson (except for trial lessons), you’re asked to leave a review of your tutor.
You can give a score of 1 to 5 and, optionally, write a short review.
However, ratings are higher than they should be for at least 3 reasons:
- Since people find it awkward to leave bad reviews right after direct contact, they tend to overrate their experience
- Even if a trial lesson goes bad, you can’t rate it
- Unhappy students leave after one lesson, while happy students keeping taking classes and rating every class
As a result, 95% of active tutors have a rating of 4.9/5 or above.
For that reason, an excellent rating doesn’t really mean anything.
Alternatives to Italki
Italki is the only place you need to go to learn or teach Italian or any language online.
Just in case you’ve heard about alternative platforms, I’ll mention them only to tell why you don’t need to bother trying them out.
The only valid alternative to Italki is Verbling. Its scheduling system is similar to Italki’s, but with a smaller database of teachers.
I don’t recommend Preply or Verbal Planet because their interface is sloppy, their database is small, and they exploit teachers with outrageous commissions.
How to use Italki
A review of Italki wouldn’t be complete without introducing the main features of the website and showing how to use them.
In this guide, I’ll focus on learning (not teaching).
How to sign up
The signup process is just a few short steps.
Enter a short bio, a profile picture, and other basic information.
Then, choose what language you’d like to learn and which language(s) you can speak.
The site will take you to a list of available teachers.
How to find a tutor
On Italki, you can choose from two different types of teachers:
- Professional teachers, who are certified in foreign language instruction
- Community tutors, who are native or advanced teachers and can offer a more informal teaching experience
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
They’re usually more expensive than community tutors (but not necessarily better).
There’s also the free option of a language exchange. However, this can work with intermediate speakers only because beginners need professional guidance.
Personally, I recommend native speakers, in any case. Even if you’re a total beginner.
Beginners need special guidance. Thus, you should invest in a professional teacher, at least during your first few months of study.
Every teacher’s profile contains a video introduction, more about their teaching style, individual lesson details, and testimonials from other Italki users.
To me, the most telling parts of a tutor’s profile are:
- Their video introduction
- Their teaching style
- Their students’ reviews
How to book a lesson
When you find a suitable teacher, click ‘Book Now’ to choose a lesson type and find a suitable appointment time.
Most teachers give 30-minute trial lessons at discounted rates so you can explore different types of teachers without the commitment.
If you decide to stick with a teacher, you can save money by choosing a bundled package of lessons (usually 5 or 10).
Some teachers provide different kinds of lessons (e.g. speaking practice, structured lessons…) for different prices.
Lessons are always available in 60-minutes sessions, but sometimes 30-minute and 45-minute sessions are also an option.
If you’re a beginner, you might benefit from frequent, short sessions.
How to have your homework corrected for free
2020/09 Update: In a suicidal move, the “notebook” feature has been removed by Italki.
Practice is important for retaining the information you learned in your lessons.
Outside of regular classes, you can develop your writing skills through the notebook feature.
We all learning through mistakes, so don’t be afraid to practice your writing and share it with the Italki community.
Other members can view your entry and help you with any corrections or comments. 100% free!
You find your notebook under “community” on the top menu.
How to find a language exchange partner
If you’d rather exchange time for time, instead of time for money, you can always look for a language exchange partner.
This section is somewhat hidden under the “community” item in the top navigation bar.
With such a large community of users, it’s easy to find someone to practice languages with.
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.
You can search through community members interested in doing a language exchange fairly similar to how you would look for a tutor.
You can filter by a few options, such as, where they’re from, the language they’re learning, gender, whether or not they’re a native speaker, and where they live now.
Ideally, this can be a great free option.
In reality, you often end up wasting time looking for people, finding people who are not motivated or just don’t know how to teach their language.
This is true especially for total beginners who need professional guidance.
Italian teachers on Italki
I did a quick research on Italki to find out how many Italian tutors are there and how much they charge.
Here are the findings!
Native vs non-native tutors
- There are 515 Italian tutors in Italki
- Of them, 441 are native Italian speakers (85.6%)
Let’s focus on native speakers.
Professional teachers vs. community tutors
Let’s split them by type (professional teacher vs. informal/community tutor):
- 240 are community tutors
- 201 are professional teachers (45.6%)
This is the distribution of hourly rates for professional teachers and community tutors together.
Rates range from 4US$ to 31$.
On average, community tutors are cheaper because they’re less qualified.
You can expect to have decent conversation practice for 10-15$.
On the other hand, professional teachers are more expensive because they’re more experienced and qualified.
You can expect to have a structured, productive lesson for 15-25$.
Common questions about Italki
Is Italki free?
Yes, Italki is free of charge.
In particular, this is what you can do for free on Italki:
- Sign up and create a profile
- Browse teachers’ profiles
- Look for language exchange partners
- Post your homework and have it corrected by other users
- Read other people’s homework with corrections
- Read articles about learning languages
However, some services offered on Italki (not by Italki) are not free:
- Language classes
How much does Italki cost?
Italki is a platform. It’s free to sign up and browse teachers’ profiles.
If you take paid lessons, the price depends on your teacher.
Every teacher sets their own prices, including discounted bundles.
For the Italian language, you can expect to pay 10-25US$ for a 1-hour lesson.
For other languages, it also depends on the cost of living in the tutors’ country of origin (or residence).
For example, Japanese or German teachers are among the most expensive because the cost of living in Japan and Germany is high.
However, there’s plenty of cheap Vietnamese teachers because the cost of living n Vietnam is low.
How much does a lesson on Italki cost?
Every teacher is free to set their own prices, including packages for different lesson types.
Informal tutors are usually cheaper than professional teachers (but not necessarily worse).
For the Italian language:
- Informal tutors take 7-15US$ per hour
- Professional teachers take 12-30US$ per hour
For the English language, a tutor in the Philippines can cost 3-4 times less than one in the US.
How does Italki process payments?
Payment is safe because Italki acts as a proxy.
This is the process:
- You buy credits on Italki
- You send a lesson request
- The tutor accepts your requests
- You take the lesson
- You mark the lesson as completed
- Funds are transferred from your account to your tutor’s account
To pay for your classes, you need to buy credit, first.
You can check your credit from your profile settings.
Is Italki safe?
Personal safety is not an issue, either, because:
- The only personal information you need to disclose to your tutor is your Skype user name
- You can always block them on Skype
I’ve never had any bad experiences on Italki, but maybe girls receive more unwanted attention.
In any case, you can also block users on Italki.
How do Italki lessons work?
Italki is a platform, not a course or lesson provider.
This platform puts language learners and online tutors together.
You can book a private lesson or class, or just an informal conversation to practice.
You can choose teachers based on their qualifications and read reviews from other students.
Sessions take place on Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts.
How long are Italki lessons?
Each lesson lasts 30, 45, 60, or 90 minutes. The most common duration is 60 minutes.
Prices vary depending on time duration.
Many teachers of lesson packages at a discounted price.
Is Italki any good?
Italki is the best platform to find online language tutors.
No matter if you learn Italian or a rare language, chances are that you’ll find your ideal teacher there.
They have the largest base of teachers offering classes to students of over 100 different languages.
Italki boasts a 4.8/5 rating on TrustPilot.
Here are some enthusiastic reviews that are written by Italki’s users:
- “A great way of taking lessons from native speakers. I have Skype lessons from Spain with my teacher in Siberia, and it works beautifully.”
- “The site gives you the choice of teachers and you can have a trial run to see if the teacher is what you are looking for.”
- “Italki is a great place to learn foreign languages with a native speaker and you also can make new friends from all over the world.”
- “I really would like to recommend Italki as it is a great opportunity to reach your goal in learning languages.”
- “Easy to use, straightforward, and a great selection of teachers.”
Italki promo code
As a member of Italki myself, I can invite you to join and give you a 10$ credit when you buy your first lesson.
You don’t need to enter any promo code, just sign up from this link (that includes the promo code).
The promo code is applied automatically.
Remember that the credit is only applied once you make your first purchase on Italki (i.e. not upon registration).
Sign up now and get a 10$ credit!
I hope that I convinced you that Italki is the best place to take online language classes.
Now, it’s time to sign up and find your language tutor.
To get a 10$ credit on your first purchase on Italki, sign up from this link.
If you’re learning Italian, make a study plan that includes online classes.
See you on Italki!