Improve your German with italki
Reading books and articles in a foreign language helps you to enhance your passive vocabulary quickly and much of that passive vocabulary will eventually become active. That means you will be able to use it in a conversation. What if you could accelerate this process?
italki.com is a platform where you can connect with native speakers from all over the world to practice speaking, reading and listening and learn new grammar.
I’ve been using italki since 2012 and love it. Therefore, I’ve decided to write an article series about italki and how to use it efficiently to improve your German. This first article will introduce the platform and its principal functions. If you already know and use italki, you can skip it. The other five articles have more detailed information and tips how to improve your German efficiently with italki:
- How to work efficiently with a community tutor
- Working with multiple teachers
- How to afford professional teachers when you’re on a budget
- Advantages and disadvantages of structured lessons
- Speaking practice – Avoid these pitfalls
But let’s now have a general look at the platform and what it offers.
What is italki?
italki is a platform that connects language teachers with students from all over the world and also gives you the possibility to have texts corrected by native speakers for free. The company was founded in 2007 and is based in Shanghai, China. Over the years, it has become the biggest and most popular language learning platform.
italki is not an online school and doesn’t ask teachers to follow a certain curriculum. Each teacher decides how to teach, when to teach and which price to charge. italki deducts a commission of 15%, so when you pay USD 10 for a lesson, your teacher will receive USD 8.50. Other platforms charge much higher commissions, so that’s another plus factor for italki. Lessons start at USD 5/hour and can cost up to USD 80/hour. Those are the limits set by italki. Lesson prices depend mainly on the language and the teacher’s experience. A German lesson tends to be more expensive than a Spanish lesson.
There are articles and podcasts available in various languages but in my opinion, this part of the website is a bit unorganized. However, if you’re interested in language learning in general (not just German), you’ll find interesting articles on the italki blog.
Types of teachers on italki
You can have lessons with community tutors or professional teachers on italki. What’s the difference? According to italki, professional teachers have a language-related degree that qualifies them to teach their native (or another) language in a professional way while community tutors are just native speakers (or speak the language at a C2 level). That’s the theory.
In reality, there are community tutors who offer very professional lessons and professional teachers who offer only conversation practice. italki has a search function which lets you choose whether you want to be shown just community tutors, just professional teachers or both in the search results. I recommend choosing the “both” option. It makes more sense to limit the search results by price per hour and availability. Then, you can check some teacher profiles. Pay attention to the course titles and descriptions. What exactly are they offering? Does the course description make sense? Is it what you’re looking for?
Don’t be discouraged by disappointing experiences with teachers or tutors. Sometimes, you find your perfect teacher at once and sometimes, it takes a while. With 1:1 lessons, it’s important to feel comfortable with the teacher. If this is not the case or if you don’t like the tutor’s teaching style, just move on. There are plenty of German teachers on italki and new ones are appearing all the time. Sometimes, it makes sense to give the teacher a second chance. And sometimes, you discover only after four or five lessons that a particular teacher is not your cup of tea.
Both professional teachers and community tutors can offer single lessons or packages of 5, 10 or 20 lessons. The packages normally come with a discount but unless you feel totally comfortable with a teacher during your first lesson, I recommend that you buy your first three or four lessons as single ones. It’s possible to terminate packages but you’ll lose some money.
How to use the italki community features
Italki used to have a function to find a language exchange partner. Unfortunately, this option is gone now. However, there are still possibilities to connect with other language learners and get help.
You can submit a text or an audio file (only available on the app) or ask a question. In most of the cases, someone will correct your text, comment on your audio or answer your question. When submitting a text, make sure that it’s not too long and double-check your spelling and grammar. I recommend using a GoogleDoc to write your text because Google has become pretty good with detecting at least spelling mistakes in all major languages. A well-written text of 150-300 words is more likely to be corrected than a text of 500-600 words that is bursting with mistakes that could have been avoided by paying more attention.
When submitting a question about grammar, use of words or idiomatic expressions, try to be as specific as possible. By the way, you can also use the Questions section to look for a language exchange partner. Depending on your native language, this may work well or not at all. Italki started as a platform to encourage language exchange but has now become mainly a place to connect teachers/tutors and language students, that’s something you should keep in mind.
How to contact teachers
I’m writing this paragraph from the perspective of a teacher. You can contact every teacher by filling out a form provided by italki, either before or after booking a lesson. Please use this possibility and tell the teacher a bit about yourself and why you’d like to have lessons. You can also ask questions but please make sure to read all the information on the teacher’s profile and in the course descriptions first. Unfortunately, it happens pretty often that people contact me asking questions like “Which book do you use?” or “Do you work with beginners?” This information is available on my teacher profile and I’m not keen to repeat everything in a private message. I also don’t like it when someone books a lesson without writing a few lines. It’s kind of okay when I click on the person’s profile and see that he or she has at least an A2 level of German because that means that we can talk a bit and get to know each other in class. However, if you’re starting from scratch or have just basic knowledge, please tell your future teacher so that he can plan the lesson accordingly.
Refer italki to your friends and study for free
If you haven’t signed up for italki yet, you can do it now using this referral link. If you do it, you will receive USD 10 in italki credits. That’s enough for one lesson of 30 or even 60 minutes. However, you will only get those USD 10 once you have booked your first lesson and paid with your own money. But I can assure you that the investment is worth it if you want to boost your German skills. Well, and once you’ve registered on italki, you get your own personal referral link (Scroll down to the menu at bottom of the page where it says More –> Refer a friend and get $ 15). So if you manage to convince a lot of your friends to register on italki and book lessons, you’ll earn USD 15 for each referral and can study for free. That’s great, isn’t it? You can also share your referral link on social media.