italki is an online language learning community which connects students and teachers for live online lessons in 150+ languages. It’s highly user oriented: you choose your teacher, the type and number of lessons you take and whether to learn 1-1 or in group sessions. You pay as you go with no subscription and can connect with other learners and native speakers for free via the community.
Best for: Anyone wanting to receive live, individual one to one tuition and connect with native speakers from over 180 countries. Whether this is to learn a new language or improve on your existing skills. Also, those not wanting to commit to a subscription. However, as there is a tendency to use the target language almost exclusively in lessons, it may not suit those who are shy or tentative about doing this - or those who are absolute beginners.
Cost: Lessons are individually priced, with trial lessons starting at as little as $5.
Overall: italki is an adaptive, practical way to learn a new language or build on current skills. Live lessons get you reading, speaking, and writing in no time. Unlike many providers, italki connects you with native speakers and live teachers which allows you to get personalized real-time feedback. I found italki to be an effective platform for immersion in a new language but you do need to be prepared to dive right in and speak the target language from the off.
Tutors are available to teach over 150 languages.
The most popular are: English, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien), French, Italian, German, Korean, Arabic (Egyptian, Gulf, Levantine, Maghrebi, Modern Standard), Hindi and Russian. But equally, a range of less widely spoken (or even fictional) languages are also on offer including Basque, Choctaw, Dothraki and Klingon.
italki launched in 2006 as a social network for language exchange. It connected people around the world so they could learn from one another.
It expanded in 2008 to include a marketplace where learners could pay fees to teachers for live online individual or group lessons.
Italki now has over 5m learners and 20k+ teachers from 180 countries who offer personal tuition in 150+ languages. You select the language you want to learn, the level you want to learn at and the teacher that best suits your needs. And you pay as you go for lessons so there are no fixed fees or rigid timeslots to commit to.
To get started you go to italki.com and simply click on ‘Start now’ and open a free account using your email address, Google, Facebook or Apple.
From that point on, you are in control of what and when you learn, as well as who you learn with.
After selecting the language you want to learn, you can choose your skill level, take a language placement test or work with a teacher to build a customized learning plan.
Teachers will be filtered to match your target language and skill level. Most offer a 30-minute trial at a reduced rate and hourly rates for each lesson. They set their own fees and sessions helping you find those best suited to your budget and schedule. And because you pay per lesson, there’s no fixed fees and you can choose how much time to commit.
The italki Classroom is similar to Zoom but is a built-in feature of the italki desktop and app versions. So, you don’t need to download any additional software. Some tutors also offer the option to use Zoom or Skype.
With the aim of immersing you in a language, italki tutors will speak to you mainly in the target language right from the get go.
You also have the option to record lessons and watch them back as often as you’d like, which is great for revision.
Lessons on italki vary depending on the teacher you choose, lesson length, your skill level and your individual preferences.
Teachers will assess your current level if you’re new and help to develop a programme that suits you if you choose to commit. You can contact any teacher to clarify lesson content prior to purchasing.
Once you’ve chosen your teacher, you connect via italki’s own version of Zoom. This is built-in so you don’t need to download any software. The connection is stable and high quality so you can stay focussed on the lesson.
In a typical lesson you will:
Use the note function to write phrases
Each tutor and every lesson I took was conducted mostly in the target language. This was rather intimidating at first. But repetition, visual clues, use of worksheets, notes and the interactive whiteboard help to make things clear.
You can also review lesson content by re-entering the chat page and your teacher can share resources and set tasks to take learning beyond the classroom.
italki is a pay as you go service with no subscription fee.
Instead, you search and select sessions according to your own wants and needs and only pay for what you use. For a 30-minute trial lesson, you can pay as little as $5.
After that, teachers set their own hourly rates. On average, this is about $10 -- but varies according to the teacher's experience.
italki does not offer a free version as it’s not a subscription platform. You just pay as you go for the lessons you take.
There isn’t a free trial for italki.
However, Italki does not offer trial lessons at a much reduced cost. Sometimes as little as $5.
The trial fees are generally very reasonable for someone’s knowledge and time. And paying them can actually be a motivational factor in language-learning. If people pay for their lessons, they’re more likely to value them and engage more deeply with lesson content.
italki offers full refunds for any canceled or declined lessons. If you have a lesson problem, you should report it to italki within 3 days so they can review it.
Because there are no fixed fees, this also means there’s no commitment if you find italki isn’t for you. That being said, the scope of available lessons and teachers means you’re more likely to find a tutor that works for you.
To review italki, I spent 2 hours learning Italian, and 2 hours learning Welsh, both as an A1 (beginner) student.
Although I have some Italian, I wanted to see if italki provided a good introduction for beginners. I chose Welsh as it’s not a widely spoken language and I wanted to see whether there was still a wide choice of teachers available to teach it (which there was).
Live tutoring from professional or community teachers is a major benefit of italki. You get real time feedback and the teacher can quickly adapt to your specific needs. Your strengths and weaknesses can be instantly identified and addressed to best encourage fast learning,
To help you get fluent even more quickly you can choose teachers who are native (rather than second language) tutors. You can also connect to native speakers via the community.
When it comes to learning languages native speakers will always make the best teachers. This is because they can provide you with idioms, nuances and cultural tips that help you avoid social gaffs and change your speaking of a language from passable to perfect.
You select a native speaking teacher and use the free online community where you can post and answer questions as you please.
This is a great tool to encourage you to engage with different content and to clarify any misunderstanding in your language-learning journey.
One of the advantages of italki over other competitors is the scope of languages (150+) and teachers (20k) to choose from.
Live tuition means you’ll be getting a more personal and realistic language-learning experience, compared to textbooks or automated online programmes. And whilst there is a strong emphasis on speaking and listening you can ask your tutor to focus more (or set after lesson tasks that focus) on reading and writing.
italki lessons plunge you straight into the target language. Where possible, your tutor will only use the language you are learning but provide lots of visual clues to help you understand what is being said.
While this may seem a little daunting at first; it exposes you to the language in a way where it becomes more familiar quicker. to help you get fluent fast.
Though you can join group lessons, italki specializes in offering 1-1 tuition.
As such, individual questions and concerns can be instantly and all lessons can be tailored towards your personal goals.
In addition to italki’s 1-1 tutoring, what helps give them an advantage over some other providers is their pay-as-you-go-system.
This means that you can pick and choose lessons based on your availability and avoid committing to rigid programmes that don’t work around your lifestyle.
Overall, this means you get more value for your buck, as you get to frame your language-learning around your personal schedule, rather than catering to a fixed timetable.
italki teachers will usually provide worksheets and tasks to practice and extend your learning between lessons. And italki itself provides podcasts you can listen to on the go as well as daily practice exercises in most languages.
While you can fit lessons around your own life; instructor availability may mean you’ll find yourself taking classes with different tutors. While a bit of variation can be a good thing, too much can lead to a lack of consistency in the teaching.
Although all of the tutors I had were very engaging and enthusiastic, some were better communicators than others. Some were clearly following on from a previous lesson and seemed briefly disoriented. And meeting a tutor for the first time will inevitably mean time is spent establishing rapport, where you are at and where you’re aiming to go.
However, this is all probably a price worth paying for the flexibility of in person learning Italki offers.
You need to be prepared to dive right in with italki because, right from the get go, your tutor will be speaking the target language.
If you are an absolute beginner (as I was with Welsh) this can be quite scary. I did persevere and visual clues helped, but I did feel a little overwhelmed. This was less of a problem with Italian, so having some very basic knowledge of a language before using italki might be helpful.
Also, if you are an analytical person and need to know why things are as they are (like me) italki might not be for you. My tutors wanted me to see patterns, rather than explain the grammar and building blocks of the language.
Languages have so many elements. So you need a structured curriculum when learning a language, especially as a beginner.
You can of course set your own program of study with an italki tutor. Some may have their own - but these can vary in quality and style.
All this means it can take time to find the right path for you on italki.
The italki learning style would suit anyone who:
Already has some foundational skills and is looking to advance
While italki is designed for students of all skill levels, you will be expected to converse in your chosen language. So, coming to italki with some basic knowledge to build upon is ideal.
Right away, italki has you speaking and listening in your chosen language. This means you get real-life experience talking to a professional teacher and/or a native speaker!
italki offers a number of features that make it an ideal choice for students who want to learn a language. These include:
There are lots of great features on italki, here are some of the highlights:
Live lessons allow you to interact with the tutor and have your individual queries addressed immediately. Italki tutors will be able to adapt their teaching to the different needs of learners as they arise.
You can select a tutor that is a native speakers in your target language. This will not only mean you hear correct pronunciation but will naturally pick up colloquialisms, idioms, nuances, cultural insights and grammar.
You can also interact with native speakers via the free italki community.
The best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it. Italki provides the opportunity for you to do this through live teaching. Either 1-1 or in small group sizes. Plus the teacher will be maximizing opportunities for you to hear, speak (and therefore think) in your target language.
italki’s pay-as-you-go-system means that you can pick and choose lessons based on your availability and avoid committing to rigid programmes that don’t work around your lifestyle.
Overall, this means you get more value for your buck, as you get to frame your language-learning around your personal schedule, rather than catering to a fixed timetable.
This means language learning is accessible to you both at home and on-the-go
The italki language challenge allows you to can rack up points, badges, certificates and coupons for hours spent practicing your target language!
Our evaluation system uses a range of criteria known to make language learning effective.
As italki provides live tuition, your learning experience can be negotiated by you. This means you can ensure all aspects of language learning are covered, feedback is instantaneous and any issues can be dealt with the instant they arise. Inevitably, there’s a strong emphasis on speaking and listening and, as you’ll be working with a native speaker, you’ll gain a strong sense of correct pronunciation. Complete beginners may find total immersion in the target language a little overwhelming and one of my tutors was not keen to answer questions about grammar.
italki gives the learner a high degree of control over their learning. As long as you take the time to find a tutor that suits your style, your experience should be indivdualized and enjoyable though full immersion in the target language is a challenge at first.
italki has some stand out features such as the ability to connect to native speakers for live 1-1 tuition and to personalize your learning experience. It also offers an extremely wide range of language choices.
The costs for italki vary by tutor. If you find a tutor who suits your needs and budget then it is likely you will feel that the platform offers very good value for money. As it’s a pay as you go service, you are only paying for what you use and don’t need to worry about having unused time written off - as you do with Preply.
Apple Store 4.7 /5 based on 600+ reviews
My aim here is to write the best and most balanced italki review, so here are some reviews I have found on the site and on forums such as Reddit:
“I joined iTalki recently and I’ve taken about 6 lessons so far. The first couple lessons are always about figuring out which tutor suits you. Once you find someone you’re comfortable with, iTalki becomes an excellent tool to practice your speaking skills.” -- Comment from Reddit
“I have noticed a significant improvement in the way I learn English. I have even already had some interviews in English, something that was not possible a few months ago.” -- Comment from italki
“I would go with italki instead of the expensive course. I think that having a cool teacher is more helpful than anything else. With italki, you can choose the teachers. With the university, you can’t.” -- Comment from Reddit
There are lots of options online when it comes to learning a new language. Each of them comes with their own pros and cons. So, I’ll keep this short with a brief comparison of italki against three other leading online language learning providers:
In short, it depends on your preference.
If you’ve tried out some other providers like DuoLingo and found the content hard to translate into everyday life, italki is an excellent resource for building your speaking and listening skills.
Also, if you have a busy/unpredictable lifestyle and find that you can’t commit to fixed days, italki makes the scheduling process easy and convenient for you by letting you choose your time slot.
Although I don’t have extensive speaking skills in my chosen language, I found that after only a couple of hours I had so much more confidence speaking Italian aloud than I ever did from using previous sites. That being said, as someone with zero knowledge of Welsh I felt very overwhelmed at first - though I did make progress by the end of the lesson.
While being thrown in at the deep end and conversing almost solely in your chosen language is intimidating, it is arguably the best way to progress and advance those foundational skills.
With trial lessons starting at as little as $5, with no commitment needed, you have very little to lose and a whole lot to gain. If you’re looking for adaptive learning that suits your needs and helps you to become fluent fast, italki is one of the best e-learning options out there.
So, why not browse the teachers and give it a go?
Yes. Italki is effective and good value for money. It has some stand out features like live 1-1 lessons from native speaker. It’s ideal if you want a more immersive approach to language learning and do not want to commit to a subscription or fixed timetable.
Italki is a pay as you go platform. You pay individually for the lessons you take and fees vary from tutor to tutor. Discounted trial lessons to give you a flavour of the platform can be as low as $5.
You take 1-1 or small group classes over italki’s own version of Zoom. Your tutor will conduct most of the lesson in the target lesson - with lots of visual clues to help you understand.
150+ languages including the popular ones such as English, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien), French, Italian, German, Korean, Arabic (Egyptian, Gulf, Levantine, Maghrebi, Modern Standard), Hindi and Russian. And less widely spoken (or even fictional) languages including Welsh, Choctaw, Dothraki and Klingon.
There is no subscription option but italki offers full refunds for any canceled or declined lessons. If you have a lesson problem, you should report it to italki within 3 days so they can review it.
There isn’t a free version of Italki though you can buy heavily discounted trial lessons for as little as $5