Italki is one of my all-time favorite language-learning resources. Out of all the various tools and apps I’ve used to learn Spanish, italki has the most features. Think 24/7 access, 1-on-1 classes from either your computer or phone (in almost any language you can think of), along with the ability to filter potential teachers by country, native language, availability, and more.
It’s the perfect platform for any kind of learner: beginner, advanced, kids, and even those who are learning specifically for business.
Maybe I’m a bit biased but italki is close to my heart. Over 2 years ago when I first started my Spanish journey, I met a dear friend of mine through the site. I took one of his classes and after connecting through social media (and eventually in real life), we’ve managed to stay resources for each other through endless language exchanges.
I clicked on his profile and ultimately ended up taking a class because I noticed that we spoke the same three languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. To me, it was fate! But in all seriousness, I thought that was pretty cool. If I struggled to say something in Spanish, I could say it in Portuguese and he would understand. It was awesome! Additionally, italki has an extensive group of language learners and teachers, with over 5 million learners and 10,000 teachers.
Specifically for Spanish, there are almost 1,700 teachers on the platform! That means you have tons of options when it comes to finding a teacher that suits your needs, proficiency level, budget, and schedule.
italki is a cost-effective way to learn Spanish. Because teachers set their own prices, you can easily find someone in your price range. There are classes from $4-$80 an hour, but most are in the $10-$20 an hour range.
To load credits onto your account, login and click the “your wallet” option on the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the screen. The only down side about this process is that it charges a processing fee to purchase credits. It’s not much, starting at $1.02 USD per $20 credit if you pay via PayPal, but I found that annoying; I’d rather just buy lessons directly with cash
There are several payment methods available including credit card, PayPal, and Apple Pay. Your credits never expire either.
Choosing a Teacher
italki offers two types of teachers: community tutors and professional teachers. Professional teachers require documentation of teaching experience or training as an educator in order to qualify. Since they are more qualified, they usually cost more.
That said, don’t get too wrapped up in these categories because being a professional teacher does NOT necessarily make a teacher better. I’ve had a ton of classes with community tutors that were top-notch and better than certain professional teachers. It’s up to you to find a teacher that is a good fit for you, your learning style, and your language goals — regardless of their qualifications.
Another amazing feature of italki is that you can schedule three trial lessons with different teachers to get a feel for the classes and various teachers. Trial lessons are heavily discounted; a lot of the time they are half off! Take advantage of these discounts to test the waters and see what works for you.
If you have certain preferences or qualifications you require, there are a ton of filters you can use to find the best fit. For example, my advice to beginners is to find a teacher from the country you’re studying. If you are traveling to a specific country or have friends from a certain place, find teachers that sound like them! Spanish dialects and vocabulary can vary so much and this really helps to streamline the process in the beginning. Don’t overwhelm yourself!
Conversely, if you are an intermediate or advanced learner and want to practice understanding people from various countries, book classes with teachers from all over the world!
In my experience, italki has the biggest list of filters to choose from. You can search by country, additional languages that the teacher speaks, your schedule availability, price, community tutor or professional teacher, native speakers, instant booking, and learning category (such as business, test prep, kids, conversation).
When scrolling down the list of teachers, you can quickly see their native country, star rating, intro video, profile info, availability, hourly rate — everything that can quickly help you narrow down your options. There is the option to “heart” a teacher so that you can remember that they stuck out to you. Then, when you have a few you are interested in, you can go deeper by checking out their whole profile.
So, you’ve found a teacher. What do you do now?
Click “book” under their profile. You’ll then choose a lesson type: many teachers have several different lesson offerings such as a conversational class or a grammar class.
Choose a lesson length. This varies between teachers, but there are classes out there ranging between 30-90 minutes
The date and time are next. Find a time that works for both of you. Typically, you have to schedule classes at least 12 hours in advance. italki does periodically remind you that you can message a teacher to ask for a class outside of their normal schedule though. Maybe you found a teacher that looks really interesting but they aren’t available when you’d like the class? Just write to them and ask if you can work something out.
italki will then ask how you would like to communicate. You can have your lessons via italki classroom (the virtual meeting space directly offered through italki), Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, or WeChat. The teacher lists which ones that they use, and then you choose which is best for you from that list. Recently, I’ve been using italki classroom, but before that was created I used Skype.
Finally, you get to the final payment page. Either you go ahead and use your credits, or if there is an insufficient amount available, italki will ask you to purchase more credits in order to pay for the class.
And BAM, you’re all set! You’ll see a countdown appear for whenever that next class is, which I think is a super fun feature. You’ll also see that class show up on your class calendar (which you can find in the drop-down menu).
The instant booking feature on italki allows you to schedule classes and then not worry about waiting for your teacher’s response; it’s automatically locked in. Otherwise, you will have to wait for the teacher’s reply to your class request. Normally, you get a reply pretty quickly. I’ve always received a reply in less than an hour. italki gives teachers 48 hours to respond.
After your class request is accepted, often the teacher will message you to ask you little questions like, “Is there a specific topic that you’d like to discuss in class?” Sometimes they will even send a couple of pre-class documents for you to look over, say if you asked about a certain grammar topic.
italki emails you and messages you through the site itself to keep you aware of your schedule too. They send emails 2 hours before your class starts, and then notifications at 30 minutes and 1 hour before as well.
My Recent Experience
Just this week I’ve tried two new teachers on italki: a community tutor from Peru who lives in Brazil, whose class was $12/hr and then a professional teacher from Mexico whose class was $14/hr.
Now, I enjoyed both classes, but I’m going to share how different your classes can be. The teacher from Peru, her class was strictly conversational from beginning to end. I really loved her session because there was never a dull moment in the conversation — it was very fluid and it was obvious that we enjoyed talking to each other! I would totally book her again.
She was definitely prepared, as she had messaged me before class to ask if there was a specific topic I’d like to touch on in class. I told her no, but I did tell her my hobbies and interests so she was ready to go with questions.
What she told me about herself also kind of piqued my interest so there was a great back and forth between us.
Now, my other teacher, his class was a little more structured and I could tell he wanted to focus more on grammar. He took it a step further, and actually sent me documents before and after class. When he asked me if there was a specific topic I wanted to focus on during class I had also said no but I did mention that I wanted to learn more Spanish idioms. He sent me a brief list of idioms before class to practice.
During the class, there was plenty of conversation as well, but he did stop to explain the structure of his classes and asked me what I wanted out of a teacher. He also explained that he could send me “homework” to do between classes if I wanted. After our first class, he sent me two articles to look over.
It might sound crazy to you, but I would actually book the first teacher again over the second purely based on chemistry in the class. I enjoyed the class more and still managed to learn a ton. So, you really have to do the work to figure out what you are looking to get out of a class, and what your ideal teacher looks like. Eventually, you will find a few that you click with, and you’ll be well on your way to fluency.
italki as a Community
Over the years, italki has evolved beyond just a language-learning website. It’s a community. Not only can you take incredible, concise classes based on your personal goals, but you feel supported through the presence of learners around you.
You can post your thoughts about language and culture, ask questions in the forum, or participate in exercises where you post a few sentences that you need to be proofread (or vice versa; you can proofread someone else’s work).
In addition to all these features, you can follow others or gain followers yourself, similar to social media platforms. You can even find specific language topics by searching hashtags!
People can see your posts on the main “timeline” in the community tab. The italki profile itself will also post things occasionally, including ways to earn extra italki credits!
Additionally, you can send messages to other learners once you follow each other. This is a whole other opportunity to gain language practice! Write to each other, maybe even offer to do a session over video chat in order to practice — the options are infinite!
What Could Be Better
Although I do love italki as a platform, of course, nothing is perfect. Here’s what can be improved:
When I first started using italki in 2018, there was an instant tutoring option for people to take classes whenever they had free time. That option has since been taken away and I think that it takes away a huge advantage for using italki.
Currently, you have to schedule classes 12 hours ahead of time, which isn’t a terrible thing in itself, but I feel like not only are teachers missing out on a ton of money for teaching random classes, but students with super busy schedules can now feel less motivated to book a class.
Next, as I have mentioned before, the italki credits system seems like a bit of an unnecessary step. You have to purchase a minimum of $10 worth of credits per transaction, even if you want to book a single class that costs less than $10. If you use the site a lot, then that’s no problem, but if you don’t, then the extra money that you don’t use is still left on your account. And you are charged a processing fee for each transaction, just to buy credits for your future classes.
Lastly, there can be a lot of inconsistency between teachers, so you will have to spend some time to find certain teachers that really fit you. Since italki doesn’t provide a curriculum or educational structure in itself, it’s really up to your teacher how much you actually end up learning. I haven’t had any bad experiences with any teachers on italki, as they really will try their best to help you. They do work off of public ratings and reviews after all). But you will certainly learn more with some than others.
For what it is, I do think italki is hard to beat. There are just so many free features on top of the super affordable price and 1-on-1 classes available 24/7. It’s a platform truly made for any level of the learner.
And bring your friends along for the journey — italki offers $10 to both you and every friend you refer.
Give it a try and let us know what you think!