I originally found out about italki about a year ago. I’d been living in Sevastopol, Ukraine and I was more or less the only foreigner in the town. I searched through several language learning forums and blogs and came across italki, as well as some other sites.
My first learning experience on the site was rather mixed. I began taking advantage of the language exchange features offered by italki. Although I did meet some nice people and get some good language use, it was such a hassle finding times to meet up. Chat partners would often be reluctant to agree to a certain time and I found people often had the attitude that they were always on skype, so we could meet at any time. Although this might be fine for some people, I have a busy schedule to maintain and like the certainty of knowing when I’ll be having lessons this week. Because of this, I decided to start paying for lessons, which I was much happier doing because of the security and added bit of professionalism it brings.
The payment system is extremely convenient and fair to use. Money only changes hands once the teacher and the student both agree that the lesson has finished to a satisfactory standard. In the event that something went wrong (one of the parties didn’t turn up, the quality was substandard) and that everyone agrees, then no money changes hands. If there’s a dispute then it goes to italki for arbitration. Personally, I’ve found that people’s honesty and personal agreement is more than enough to ensure that everything happens fairly.
I originally set out to actively maintain and practice the language skills which I had, and clearly communicated this in my correspondences with the different teachers: I pay for an hour of conversation and I want my mistakes corrected and maintained, as well as possible alternative forms offered. From doing this I’ve gone on to take up other languages with the help of italki and been successful at it. The key to avoiding disappointment here is being realistic and not expecting to much – if you want instant fluency, it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to be patient and decide what your personal language learning aims are.
As far as I’m concerned, the benefits offered to me by italki are unfathomable. Italki provides me with access to a plethora of native speakers from all over the world. In the international world we’re living in, teachers live far from their native country. I’ve had conversation classes with a German guy living in China, meaning the times for German can be more flexible for me (not just according to Central European time). What’s more, communicating over the internet means that there’s no travel time involved between lessons, except from your bed to your desk, perhaps! I don’t meet people like that in everyday life like I would if I lived in London, Paris or New York, for example. Even then, the added comfort of being able to have a few lessons a day from home in different languages is definitely much better than most possibilities available in “the real world”.
I was originally somewhat scepticle about coming across bad teachers. There’re so many teachers available how do you know who’s good and who’s wasting your time? I’ve always looked at this pragmatically and the fact of the matter is you can’t know if someone’s good or awful until you try them. I’ve had lots of good teachers, some mediocre teachers and a couple of awful teachers. In the event of having an awful teacher I just don’t see them again. I’ve decided it’s worth taking the risk and getting a good teacher 9/10 times and ending up with a bad teacher the other time. You’ve lost $6, so what? Don’t go back, it’s not the end of the world.
There are lots of people out there who want to learn a new language and always come up wih excuses like such as time, money, finding a good teacher. Italki helps to eliminate all of these problems: you learn at home, with a qualified native speaker at a price you’re happy with. I’d definitely recommend, and do recommend it to people regularly just for these very reasons. As an English teacher I also regularly recommend it to my students. Do I want them to learn somewhere else? Not at all! (although it is up to them) The fact is that native speakers can be so hard to come across in some parts of the world chatting online is time (and money) well spent. What’s more it’s considerably easier to find a new teacher in the event that you’re not satisfied (as mentioned above).
In conclusion, I’d definitely recommend italki to everyone. It is the opportunity for language learners and teachers from around the world to meet each other easily and allows everyone to find the teacher that is suitable for them, according to whatever personal criteria there may be. This, coupled with the easy to use payment system, makes italki the community ever language learner should be involved in to compliment their learning experience.