Have you ever considered using iTalki as your online language learning platform? If so, you’ll know it’s not easy deciding especially if you don’t know other iTalki users learning the same language you want to learn.
So what do you do? Many people have found success by using iTalki to help reach their foreign language goals.
However , It doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too.
There are a few things you should know and do before you sign up to ensure your time, effort and money are well spent.
This post will show you what you need to know to make sure iTalki is the right platform for you; how to select a suitable language instructor; and how to effectively and intelligently use iTalki to reach your goals in addition to the dos and don’ts of learning Arabic or any other foreign language on iTalki.
How does iTalki work?
iTalki is a flexible language learning platform that offers access to a searchable database of professional and non-professional language tutors with whom you can have personal one-on-one sessions.
There are two tiers of language instructors on iTalki:
Professional language teachers:
They are generally native speakers for the most part, experienced in teaching the language, have developed curriculum and follow a structured approach.
They are not professionally trained to teach a foreign language but they are mostly native speakers. Students on iTalki who use them do it mainly for conversational practice and the lower rates.
You can use the search filter to narrow down your search for instructors based on budget, instructor’s experience, reviews, age, country, gender and other criteria.
This search ability on iTalki gives you as a learner a lot of leverage, flexibility and the ability to find the most suitable tutor.
You can also use the search to quickly switch to another tutor if you are not satisfied.
Is iTalki right for you?
To save yourself effort, money and time, it is quite important to ensure that iTalki meets your specific learning needs before you sign up for the service.
Below is a list of reasons iTalki could be a good match for your learning needs:
- If you are self-studying a language and need a little guidance from a tutor, especially if you are an outgoing person and thrive on human interaction.
- If you want to develop your conversational skills in the foreign language, you’ll naturally need a lot of conversational practice with a native speaker. iTalki platform is the perfect place to connect with native speakers and improve conversational skills with them.
- If you are studying the foreign language at a school or university, but you need some sort of enrichment to either improve your speaking skills or strengthen one or two aspects of the language that your regular instruction cannot fulfill.
- If you are trying to learn a specific dialect or a language variant. This usually applies to Arabic and Spanish languages, since they are spoken in many countries and have many varieties.
For instance, iTalki is a great resource to find native speakers of Arabic dialects such as Moroccan, Yemeni or Sudanese, etc. It’s important to distinguish the dialects from Modern Standard Arabic when it comes to spoken Arabic.
All native Arabic speakers speak at least one dialect of Arabic. Most Arabic tutors, for example, advertise their dialect on their profile in addition to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).
- iTalki is a great platform to test your language speaking proficiency, especially if you are preparing for a trip overseas, getting ready to take a speaking proficiency exam or you want to brush up on your foreign language ahead of a new job, etc…
How to select a Tutor on iTalki?
- First, use the filter in the search tool to look for professional language teachers since they have the experience and scientific approach in teaching the language. Although their rates are higher, they are the most effective learning option on iTalki.
- If your budget doesn’t allow it, then look for community teachers. They may not have teaching materials and prepared lessons, but I’ll share tips below that will allow you to maximize your benefits while working with them.
- To avoid being overwhelmed with the choice of teachers, narrow down your search using the filter parameters (age, country, rate, experience, gender etc..). However, when you start, try at least two or three different tutors so you can develop an idea on the most compatible choice for your learning.
- Check the reviews from other students to see if there are any red flags or pet peeves you can’t tolerate. Focus on patterns of complaints in the reviews. If you see the same complaint from different students, then this makes the complaint more credible.
- Reevaluate your tutor periodically as you progress in your learning. Different stages of language learning may require different styles of teaching. This may make you feel uncomfortable, but you need to remember that you need to get the best instruction for your time and money on the platform. It’s not personal.
- Mind the time zone of your potential teacher. This could be crucial if you lead a busy professional and personal life and find yourself in need of scheduling sessions weeks or even months ahead. The last thing you want is you or the tutor connecting at midnight for your session.
How to handle your first session (or trial session)?
Now that you picked a tutor and have your first session, you have to ask your professional tutor if he runs structured classes, personalizes the learning plan and assigns homework outside the class. A professional language teacher is expected to answer yes to each of those questions.
If you obtained a community tutor, make sure they don’t stop at conversations but they must also give you reading assignments to prepare you for the discussion on the next session.
Regardless of whether it is a community tutor or professional teacher, on the first session, the teachers are expected to assess your proficiency level, discuss your learning objectives and discuss expectations of both sides moving forward.
- Expect and demand that teachers come prepared, find reading articles and assignments for you way ahead of the sessions. If you’d like to have a particular topic, make sure you tell your tutor. However, it’s always your tutor’s job to provide assignments and homework.
- Study the language outside iTalki. Only use the platform for language practice, asking questions and soliciting feedback.
- Prepare your questions and any special requests for the next session.
- Use the last 5 minutes at the end of every session to ask for feedback about your performance, any mistakes you made or points you should improve on.
- Worry about switching tutors if you are not happy with yout current instructor. Just send them a simple message along the lines of “Hey, sorry but I’ve decided to go with another tutor for the moment.”
- Worry about making mistakes. You are expected to make mistakes, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking lessons on iTalki.
- Give money to someone who makes you feel discouraged or disrespected. Do not give money if they’re not conducting classes the way you’d like and aren’t willing to change things for you.
- Spend your sessions with community tutors just doing pointless “small talk.” Even conversational sessions have to be structured, learner-focused and build around a learning plan.
- Feel bad about switching instructor if you feel he or she is not meeting your expectations. It’s not personal.
As we have seen above, iTalki is a great cost-effective and convenient learning tool if you plan on using it to improve your speaking skills, complement your ongoing language learning or learn a specific dialect that has no written form.
You should also be methodological in picking your tutor and be demanding when it comes to the quality of learning content.
Happy learning !