In this Italki review I’ll be sharing my experiences with Italki over the past few years as a language learner, as well as comment on how much you might be able to make on it as a teacher if you’re interested in that. I first signed up to Italki in 2016, and started using it a fair bit in 2017 to learn Mandarin Chinese. Here are some of the emails I’ve received from Italki, just to prove I’m actually a user of it 🙂 (click the image to enlarge):
What made me want to try Italki? A few years ago I started learning Mandarin Chinese as a hobby, and I thought that Italki might be a better choice for finding a good language teacher than trying to find someone in real life. Being based in Sydney Australia, any Chinese teachers in my area had to charge at least $30 AUD an hour, and it would often be a pain trying to meetup. For a 1 or 2 hour lesson, I’d often have to spend at least half an hour (probably significantly more) of travel time in addition to the high cost of the tutoring. I was hoping that through Italki I’d be able to find a Chinese teacher at a significantly lower cost than I’d find locally, and going online would be far more convenient as long as there were no technical or internet issues.
At the time of writing in 2020, here are my stats on Italki:
Each of the 34 lessons I took on Italki were 1 hour long. Here’s an excerpt of my lesson history:
In total I took dozens of hours of tutoring, and I feel I have plenty of experience on the platform to comment with authority on how good Italki is for learning a language.
My experience with Italki
I had a great experience with Italki, and can strongly recommend it for finding a language tutor. Like Preply, Italki’s website interface is very slick, and there are loads of good teachers on the platform for all the major languages. There are also loads of filters you can use to find the perfect tutor, such as the following:
- What other languages the teacher speaks
- Whether they’re a native speaker of what language they’re teaching (always check this!)
- Professional teachers with formal credentials, or “community teachers” who do not necessarily have credentials (this is an interesting filter – around half of teachers on Italki are one or the other. If you’re looking for speaking practice you can go with a community teacher, but if you’re learning for a test, you may want to go with a professional tacher)
- Category (general, business, test preparation, kids, conversation practice)
- Price per hour
Here’s what it looks like to search for a teacher on Italki:
It’s very helpful that every single teacher on Italki has a video introduction, because you definitely want to hear them speak before hiring them. All teachers also have a profile page where they write about themselves, as you’d expect, and it’s good that a lot of teachers write a fair bit about themselves. On the profile page of each teacher you can also see some statistics on them as follows:
(you want to know this before hiring someone, because it shows how reliable they are)
… As well as reviews their students have left them:
So when it comes to looking up a teacher and deciding whether they’re right for you, Italki shows you everything you’d want to know.
As far as annoyances I have with finding teachers on Italki, there’s just one thing: the inability to sort your search by some metric. For some reason, while you of course have a filter for price of teachers, you can’t sort by lowest price or highest price, for example. Nor can you sort by the number of reviews or by highest-rated teachers.
Taking lessons with Italki teachers
The 2 teachers I tried for Mandarin on Italki were absolutely fantastic — cheap and dedicated to doing a great job. Therefore, I never tried to find other teachers, and continued to use both of the teachers I found for all the lessons I continued to take. Both of them were far cheaper than any local teachers I could hire in Sydney, 100% attentive to teaching, and would often go above and beyond. For example, one of my Mandarin teachers would send me lesson recaps going over the sentences we’d studied, so I could refer back to them later:
This wasn’t even required or agreed on, but they did it anyway. And this teacher’s rate was only $10 USD per hour, an outstanding value compared to any half-decent teacher in a Western country who will charge far more than that. Being based in China, their rate still allowed them to make a respectable income for the time they spent giving lessons, while still being very low by Australian or US standards.
What languages are in Italki? Can you find a decent number of teachers for each of them?
I have personally only looked for tutors for Mandarin on Italki, but you can also find tutors for other major languages, as you’d expect. Here are the number of teachers for each major language at the time of writing:
- 4,793 English teachers
- 880 Mandarin teachers
- 815 French teachers
- 1,966 Spanish teachers
- 386 Portuguese teachers
- 464 German teachers
- 623 Japanese teachers
- 211 Korean teachers
- 234 Arabic teachers
- 86 Hindi teachers
- 534 Italian teachers
- 637 Russian teachers
If you’re learning any of these commonly studied languages, you should have no problem finding a suitable teacher. For more obscure languages, you will have a lot more trouble. There are a number of languages listed on Italki that have no teachers at the time of writing, so you may have to go outside of Italki if you’re learning something less common.
Are there any coupons or gift codes for Italki?
I am looking into this, and will update this article if I find a working coupon.
How much do Italki teachers make?
I have not personally used Italki as a teacher. However, we can get a reasonable idea of how much teachers on Italki can expect to make by browsing through many different teachers, looking at what they charge, and how many lessons they’ve booked. There are all kinds of factors involved in how much a teacher earns, and it’s a bit of a pain that Italki does not make it easy to see overall numbers on things like the average amount made per teacher on their platform. But in browsing through different teachers and different languages, I can say there are definitely plenty of people making reasonable money as teachers on the platform. Here is also one good example of someone earning a significant amount of money on Italki teaching English, for example — and in fact, for every major language offered on Italki listed above, there are easily dozens or hundreds of teachers for it who have done very well on Italki. In looking at Mandarin teachers again, a decent portion of the 880 total Chinese teachers on Italki have done dozens, hundreds or even thousands of lessons.
Therefore, we can definitely say that Italki is worth signing up to as a teacher, as it would appear that there’s a good chance you can make at least a reasonable part-time income on it if you put the effort in.
Other tools for language learning
In our language learning section, we’ve compiled user-reviews for a number of language learning tools including Babbel, Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, and I recommend having a read through those to see if they might be able to help you. These tools are different to services like Italki — instead of hiring a teacher, you’re interacting with a software. See also our piece on the best way to learn a foreign language, where we’ve posted some great stories and ideas on how to learn a new language.
What do other people say about Italki?
We’re collecting Italki user reviews and will post them here in addition to my own review above. So far we’ve got a few good comments from Italki users (both students and teachers), as listed below:
I strongly recommend Italki and I highly recommend it for online language learning. I am currently bilingual because I have 3 different Spanish teachers from 3 different countries while paying $4-6 per lesson - very powerful virtual learning. I love the different personalities and specialties you can focus on. I use it to practice business presentations or read material together.
--Erick Prospero, Ninja Tropic eLearning
I LOVE italki! It is one of my most-used tools to learn to communicate in a new language or improve skills. It is essentially a platform where people can speak to native speakers via WeChat, Google Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime. People offering lessons on italki are either licensed teachers or community tutors.
The thought of speaking to a native speaker is obviously a goal for many people, but doing so early on is absolutely terrifying for many. However, this practice accelerates the learning process significantly. When you practice on italki, you are experimenting with what you have learned already, and getting more input from the speaker. We acquire languages through comprehensible input - a pillar of Krashen's research on second language acquisition. Never before in the history of our world has a new language been this accessible.
In the next hour, a learner can be on a call with someone speaking their target language. Italki is a platform designed for learners, so learners can expect patient native speakers there. Benny Lewis from Fluent in Three Months loves to use this from the beginning of his journey. If you don't have strong skills, don't worry. You can even use the chat function to get through it. You'll then have some useful notes to study and bring back to your next stronger conversation.
A platform like italki allows people to learn a language anywhere. However, it can also be a side hustle for a learner, too. Consider offering lessons and use the money for a short language immersion stint abroad. I spent five weeks in Paris studying French and my home was an AirBNB. Some extra cash and rewards can make this possible when we can travel again.
--Janina Klimas, Real Life Language
italki really does have a lot of languages that they cater and you can easily sign in as a tutor yourself in teaching a certain language. I tried this myself (since I'm a filipino). I can actually start teaching the language once my account is verified. Setting up an account is relatively easy as a teacher but just to try it out, I tried to sign up as a tutor, I thought they would have a more tedious process of hiring, but it's relatively quick. I only needed to be interviewed and upload many documents supporting my level in Filipino and I'm in. I still haven't had the chance to teach and apply the payment scheme italki is offering by talking about 15% of your tutor rate.
As a student, I tried signing up for Japanese and Korean. When they said that italki is very competitive when offering language classes this only applies to popular languages like Spanish, French, German, and Mandarin Chinese. Signing up for other languages has a way steeper price range.
I'm an intermediate Korean language learner and slightly above average Japanese learner. To my surprise, the tutors or teachers have vast materials they can use FOR BEGINNER levels. I was told that about 95% of students on italki know nothing about the language they want to learn. They have only basics like saying hello and that's about it. For that reason, my Korean teacher didn't have any materials at all that's fit for my level.
I was self learning Korean and I had come up with materials of my own. I know the basics of reading and writing and I can communicate colloquially however I have difficulty formulating sentences with proper grammar. And speaking Korean to your age group as opposed to speaking with older groups of people, i need to learn the formalities of speaking with respect since this is very important to their culture. So, I needed to practice on that. Apparently, by far, I was the most advanced learner my teacher ever had and that she only had one book fit for my level. It's a grammar book, mostly on reading comprehension still. But free talk classes allowed me to speak better using the language. What we did to compensate for the lack of materials was that I prepared my books and she adjusted to them. She would also prepare some quizzes I can answer verbally during our sessions.
What I have to say is that the experience would actually depend on who your teacher will be. When I signed up for Japanese classes, the teacher I got isn't as fluent in English as I thought she would be. So she was teaching me Japanese the Japanese way, I didn't want to pay a hefty price while paying for Korean classes. The price is pretty expensive because they base their rate on American standards so I was paying for $15 per class for Korean and another $15 for Japanese. The courses differ from one teacher to another. If you get a tutor, it's more affordable than getting a certified teacher for that language.
Overall, I would highly recommend this to beginner students but I wouldn't recommend italki for those who have an intermediate or advanced knowledge of a certain language. You can easily get people to talk to you online and practice the language you want to master without having to pay for such a price. Since I already have the basics down, I only need to practice my speech and improve on my grammar, talking to friend I meet online can help me with it but paying for such a price where the teachers don't have much resources for my level is I think quite an expense I wouldn't want to continuously pay for.
--Megan Casilla, All Digital School
I'm a Polyglot who speaks 6 languages, 4 of whom I learned totally on my own (French, Russian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese).
And to me, actively speaking with someone in the target language is 75% of the process of getting to language proficiency. Books, audios and programs are only 25% of the equation.
But not everyone can travel and meet a native language speaker. That's why I use iTalki, to be put on the spot and have to respond to someone in the target language on the fly.
I find iTalki to be an essential tool in my language learning. However, not all teachers are perfect, which is normal in any place. So I recommend to all those planning to use iTalki to try at least 5 different teachers using the 30 minutes trial session option before they choose one, then to stick with that one for as long as possible so that the teacher will get to know you deeper and can work on your weaknesses to correct them.
So far, my experience on iTalki has been positive, but I am sure this is because I take the time to find a great teacher who matches my personality, who loves languages as much as I do.
--Abdulaziz M Alhamdan, M.Sc., StoryBonding.com
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