New Year’s Language Challenge


Happy 2015, everyone! 

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here (okay, maybe more than just a minute…) but I’m back and excited to be reconnecting with all of you in the new year! In the next week or so, I’ll get you up to speed on what’s been going on in my life and fill you in on my future plans for the Backpacking Brunette. Before we get into all that though, I have some very exciting news I’d like to share you with you. 

Before I left for Madrid this summer, I brushed up on my rusty ol’ high school Spanish with the help of a website called italki which connects people interested in learning a language with professional tutors from around the world. For more on how italki works, check out this incredibly detailed post.

italki makes learning a language convenient, affordable and fun. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time, so when italki offered to sponsor me to take part in their New Year’s Language Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity.

I can’t think of a better way to get started on my 2015 goal of becoming fluent in Spanish than joining the New Year’s Language Challenge. No matter what language you want to learn, there’s someone on italki who can teach you. So, don’t put your language goals off any longer. Join me!

Registration opened January 1 and will remain open until January 31. The entry fee is 100 ITC (or 10 USD). These credits can’t be used toward lessons, but hey, you’ve got to pay to play.

From January 15 until February 28, you need to complete 20 hours of language lessons with a tutor of your choosing. The challenge will last for six weeks. Don’t wait until January 31 to sign up or you’ll have to cram 20 hours of lessons into just four weeks.

If you successfully complete 20 hours of language lessons before February 28, your italki account will be credited with 400 ITC. Yep, that’s right. You’ll be awarded 40 USD to be put toward more language lessons. Pretty cool, right?

So, what are you waiting for? Join me in italki’s New Year’s Language Challenge, and let’s start 2015 off with a bang! 

Disclaimer: italki is sponsoring me to take part in their New Year”s Language Challenge. However, as always, my opinions are all my own.


How to learn any language anywhere

learn a language anywhere

One of the reasons I decided to au pair in Spain is because I’ve always had an interest in learning Spanish.

I completed four years of Spanish classes in high school, but unfortunately, I did not continue my language studies in college. I could kick myself for that now. In preparation of living in a village where the majority of people do not speak any English, I brushed up on my Spanish with the help of a website called italki.

You can learn absolutely anything nowadays without even leaving the comfort of your home thanks to the internet. It’s amazing. My boyfriend, Taylor, discovered the wonders of italki when he was searching for native speakers to practice his Spanish with (unlike me, he actually stuck with it in college). He also used the site to learn some Italian before we went to Europe!

So, what exactly is italki? According to its website, italki’s mission is to make human connections between language learners and language teachers. It believes anyone anywhere in the world can become fluent in a foreign language. Using technology, italki is revolutionizing the way people learn foreign languages.

For example, this platform provides a way for someone interested in learning Spanish (me) to connect with a professional Spanish tutor. My tutor, Rocio, lives in Madrid and has a master’s degree in teaching Spanish as a second language. From mid-July until my departure, we Skyped twice a week for hour-long lessons.

Each lesson costs approximately 120 – 140 italki credits (ITC) which is equivalent to 12 – 14 USD. Now, that’s super reasonable considering most private language tutors charge upwards of $20 an hour. You purchase ITC prior to scheduling sessions with a tutor. After the completion of the lesson, you receive an email asking you to confirm the lesson took place. Once you do, the tutor receives his or her payment through italki. It’s that simple!

Worried about not knowing what you’re paying for when you sign-up for a session? italki gives you three trial-sessions at a majorly discounted rate (50 ITC or 5 USD). It allows you to try different tutors out to see if their teaching style is a match for your learning style. In addition to connecting language students with professional tutors, italki also offers informal tutoring.

Informal tutors are individuals who don’t have a teaching degree but have a background that allows them to help you learn a language. For example, some informal tutors are interpreters or translators. I’ve never had a lesson with an informal tutor, but I think it might be a good option for people on a budget. Most lessons with an informal tutor are significantly cheaper than lessons with a professional tutor. It varies from tutor to tutor, but I’ve seen rates as low as six ITC or six USD an hour. Remember though, the person you’re paying isn’t a professional!

One of the coolest things about italki, in my opinion, is the language partners community. After you set up a profile, you can start chatting with native speakers in whatever language you’re studying. These conversations might start within italki messenger but later migrate to email, Skype, Facebook, Viber or What’s App.

Every conversation is generally a 50/50 exchange. For example, for the first part of the chat with my language partner, we would speak in Spanish (the language I’m studying). Then, for the second part of the chat, we would speak in English (the language my partner is studying). Oh, and did I mention finding and chatting with language partners is absolutely free? How cool is that?!

Taylor has a lot of experiencing using the language partners part of italki. Not only has he improved his Spanish, but he’s also met some really cool people. In fact, when we were in Europe this summer, we traveled to Jaen, a city in the south of Spain, to visit his friend Daniel, whom he’d met through italki.

We ended up staying with Daniel and his girlfriend for three days in his family’s summer cottage. They showed us around their city, cooked us traditional Andalusian foods and provided us with a comfortable room to stay in free of charge. Staying with locals (and more importantly, friends) really made our time in Andalusia special. If it weren’t for italki, Taylor would have never met Daniel, and we might have never had the opportunity to experience the Andalusian culture so intimately.

According to italki, the global community has over a million language learners. You can learn anything from Spanish, French or Italian to Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Hindi. If you want to learn a language, chances are there is someone on italki who can teach you. So, what are you waiting for? Check out italki today!

What language are you interested in learning? Would you consider finding a professional tutor on italki, or would you rather meet with a tutor in-person?