Despite having taken four years of high school Spanish, I knew next to nothing when I decided to move to Spain after college graduation. In preparation for living in a village outside of Madrid where very few people spoke English, I thought it wise to brush up. So began my journey to learn a language online with italki.
Image Credit: Upsplash (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase by clicking on them, I make a small commission (at no extra cost to you). You get an awesome product/service, and I can keep creating valuable content. Talk about a win-win!
What is italki?
A Chinese company founded in 2007, italki’s mission is to make human connections between language learners and language teachers. You can tap away at Duolingo until the vacas come home, but if you want to learn a language, you’re eventual going to have to talk to an actual person. Isn’t that the whole point?
With the help of technology, italki is revolutionizing the way people learn languages. They believe anyone anywhere in the world can become fluent in a language.
All you need is an internet connection.
On italki, it’s about mastering a timeless skill, cultivating new perspectives and connecting with fascinating people from around the world.
My italki story
italki has over 4 million users from over 100 countries. With the help of its 4,000+ instructors, italki offers classes in more than 100 languages. The most popular language is English followed by Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese, according to Wikipedia. italki even offers endangered languages such as Native American Blackfoot and South African Xhosa.
My boyfriend, Taylor, introduced me to italki. He’s been using the platform since we were in college and has studied Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic and Chinese. For nearly two years now, Taylor has been one of italki’s professional English teachers. His students live all over the world.
Inspired by Taylor’s love for languages, I’d like to learn another language with italki. In 2019, I plan to either study Portuguese or Italian.
But first, here’s the story of how I learned (and continue to learn) Spanish with italki.
Through italki, I met Rocío—a professional Spanish teacher who lives in Madrid. She has a master’s degree in teaching Spanish as a second language, and while she has classroom experience, Rocío now teaches exclusively on italki.
In the months leading up to my move to Spain, we Skyped twice a week for hour-long sessions. Rocío assessed my level in our first class together and provided appropriate material such as PDFs and audio recordings. Our classes were conducted entirely in Spanish, which isn’t as scary as it sounds. Immersion really is the best way to learn.
Even after I moved to Spain, I continued taking lessons with Rocío through italki. Our weekly lessons together kept me focused on my language studies, and I much preferred the one-on-one classes to traditional language schools.
At some point next year, I may resume classes with Rocío in order to study for the DELE Spanish proficiency test. She offers a preparation course.
italki also advertises lessons with community tutors. Community tutors are individuals who don’t have a teaching degree but have a background which allows them to help you learn your desired language. For example, some community tutors are interpreters or translators. Others have studied multiple languages themselves.
Lessons with a community tutor are great for language learners on a budget. While it varies from tutor to tutor and language to language, most community tutors have lower rates than professional teachers.
But, since the rates are so much lower, don’t expect your community tutor to do a lot of outside prep or provide material. Community tutors are a good fit for students who already have a solid knowledge base and are looking for conversation practice.
Currently, I take lessons with Mauro—a community tutor who lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He’s a university student, and italki is his side hustle. We meet once a week for an hour-long Skype chat. Usually, we just shoot the shit, but sometimes, Mauro provides conversation topics to challenge me.
My favorite italki feature might be the language partners community.
Once you’ve set up a profile, you can begin searching for native speakers in whatever language you’re studying. Your conversations might start in italki messenger but later move to another platform like email, Skype or What’s App.
Having real conversations with native speakers is one of the best ways to learn Spanish as an adult.
Through italki, I’ve connected with lots of interesting, fun language partners.
While living in Spain, I met with two women on a weekly basis for over a year! Our conversations, which always took place on Skype, were a 50/50 exchange. For example, we’d speak in Spanish for the first 30 minutes then switch to Spanish for the last 30 minutes.
Best of all, finding and chatting with language partners is completely free.
Other free italki features include access to language learning article and community discussions. You can also publish virtual notebook entries and receive corrections from native speakers.
How to use italki to learn a language online
Are you ready to learn a language online with italki? It’s seriously so easy to get started.
Step 1: Make an account
Once you’ve signed up with a valid email address, you’ll need to complete your student profile. After your basic info, fill out the “Languages” section with your native language, other languages you speak and the languages you’re learning.
There’s also a section to write about what you’re looking for. I use this part to tell potential language partners I’m interested in a 50/50 exchange with native Spanish speakers. You can also write an introduction detailing your language learning history.
Step 2: Choose an instructor
italki has lots of professional teachers and community tutors to choose from. In order to find the best fit for you, watch the teacher’s video introduction and read reviews from previous students.
For new users, italki offers three 30-minute trial lessons at majorly discounted rates. These trial lessons allows you to try different teachers to see if their teaching style is a match for your learning style.
Step 3: Purchase italki credits
On italki, you only pay per lesson. Lesson prices vary based on tinstructors and languages.
My lessons with Rocío, a professional Spanish teacher, cost $18 USD per hour. I think that’s super reasonable considering I charged almost $22 USD as a private English tutor in Madrid. My lessons with Mauro, a community Spanish tutor, cost $7.50 USD per hour.
Discounts are available if you buy lesson packages.
In order to make the payment process safer and easier for all parties, italki requires you to purchase italki credits (ITC). Ten ITC cost $1 USD. You can pay for ITC using a credit/debit card, bank transfer or PayPal.
Step 4: Choose a date and time
When you’re viewing potential instructors’ profiles, you’ll be able to see their availability. Once you’ve decided on an instructor and purchased italki credits, you can select a time and day that works for you.
Make sure your timezone is up to date in your student profile. You’ll receive a reminder email two hours before your scheduled lesson.
Step 5: Connect and learn
After an instructor accepts your lesson request, you’ll have access to his or her Skype name. The majority of italki lessons take place on Skype.
Once the lesson is completed, you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm the lesson took place. The instructor won’t receive payment until you confirm, so be timely. This is also a chance for you to leave feedback about the class and instructor.
Why you should learn a language online
I first wrote about italki back in 2014—a few months into my language (re)learning journey. To be honest, I don’t know how I would have learned Spanish without it.
Even though I’ve lived in Spanish speaking countries on and off for the past four years, italki played a vital role in my language learning journey. Because of italki, I’ve been able to:
- Connect with instructors who fit my learning style and goals
- Learn Spanish on a budget
- Take classes from the comfort of my own home
- Meet language partners who became friends
For most people, learning a language isn’t fast or easy. It’s taken me four years to call myself fluent (but always still learning). Learning Spanish is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most worthwhile.
There are already so many challenges when it comes to studying something new, but italki makes learning a language online convenient, affordable and fun. Click on the banner below and jump start your language learning journey today!
Have you learned a language online with italki? What are your go-to resources for studying a second (or third or fourth) language? Tell me in the comments!
Thinking about learning another language? Save this post to Pinterest for later!
John Flores says
Hi Alex! I found you on YouTube and I have found your information relevant and valuable in preparing to move to somewhere in Mexico either within 6 months or at the end of 2021. I grew up as a toddler speaking Spanish with my Grandparents up until probably 5-6 years old until we moved away from them. At home, we basically spoke zero Spanish except for a few common words like chancla and mande. At times I can understand Spanish speaking people here in San Diego, but can’t for the life of me reply back in Spanish. Do you think, I’ll have just as difficult a time as other newbies to learn Spanish? Thank you, Jon
Alex | Backpacking Brunette says
Hi, Jon! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment & I’m so glad to hear you’ve found my content helpful as you prepare for your own move to Mexico. It’s perfect that you asked about learning Spanish because tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 11) I have a video going up on my channel about learning Spanish as an adult. You should definitely check that out because I think you’ll find the tips I share helpful. In the meantime though, to answer your question, I think one of the main reasons many new learners struggle with Spanish is they don’t have sufficient motivation. You, on the other hand, have plans to move to and live in Mexico which in my mind is as motivating as it gets. I have a feeling you picked up more as a child than you even realize & that will start to come back to you as you dedicate more time to your studies. Keep me updated on your language learning journey & please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Wishing you all the best!
John Powell says
Thanks for sharing the Italki post. It sounds awesome…… Thanks again