What is italki?
There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we learn, opening up doors of opportunity not previously available to most people. italki is an innovative language website that takes full advantage of these newfound opportunities.
italki provides foreign language lessons with native speakers/teachers to students located all over the world. Students are able to practice their language skills one-on-one with a “real” person who speaks and uses the language with great proficiency.
All this is done from the convenience of your home using Skype.
How italki Works
After signing up for an italki account, users are able to browse the profiles of hundreds of instructors. Searches can be narrowed by language, country the teacher is located in, other languages the teacher speaks, and the cost of lessons from that teacher (each teacher sets their own prices).
Once you decide on a teacher, you may purchase italki credit (ITC) to be used in scheduling lessons. Because there are so many currencies involved, having a common ITC makes it easier for everyone to keep track of the cost in their own currency. For those using the U.S. dollar as their currency, you can purchase 200 credits for $20 (not including a small processing fee of approximately 2-3%).
The amount of credit required for each session varies greatly depending on the teacher (experience level, skill level), the language, length of lesson, and other factors. Several of the teachers do offer shorter classes for children (30 minutes instead of 60) and the price is adjusted accordingly.
After ITC has been purchased, the next step is scheduling a lesson. In order to schedule a lesson, you first click on the teacher of your choice and choose the desired lesson. Some instructors offer package deals with multiple lessons at a discounted rate. Next, check the calendar for available days and times. A note of caution here–times are given in what I call military time. Meaning 2:00 in the afternoon is really 14:00. Remember, the teachers may be on the other side of the world, so offering classes at 2:00 in the morning may be most convenient for them. Makes sure you pick a time most convenient for you!
Now that you have scheduled a class, the only thing left to do is show up for class. You do this by logging into Skype a few minutes before class time and wait for a call from or message from the instructor letting you know they are ready to begin.
Our italki Experience
I feel it is so important for each of our children to study a foreign language. Having lived in two “foreign” countries, I have seen the benefits of knowing more than one language first hand! Besides the obvious need to communicate with others, knowing a foreign language is beneficial on so many levels.
Why Learning a Foreign Language is Important
- spreading the Gospel – there is no greater gift than being able to share the Gospel with the unsaved in their mother language
- opening doors – there are so many opportunities given to those who speak more than one language. These opportunities may be education, employment, or simply the ability to help those in need.
- brain development and learning – when you learn other languages, the brain makes connections that enhance learning in other areas. Overall language skills improve, critical thinking is increase, and much more!
We have given each our children the opportunity to choose a language that interest them. My oldest daughter is fluent in Spanish and my son, who is a Junior in high school, is studying Japanese. My third child, Maddie, just turned 11 and has decided to study French in hopes of one day visiting Haiti.
Maddie has only been studying French for a few months. She is still what I would consider at a basic level, working on learning new vocabulary. Previously, she did not use a set curriculum to study French. I just found resources at the library or online to let her get her feet wet.
She has been very anxious to learn more and was very excited to try italki. The first thing we did was choose a teacher for her based on the recommendations of italki. They have set up a homeschool friendly page with suggested teachers who have experience teaching younger children. Honestly, I was so thankful for the recommendation as I would have had no idea who to choose from among so many teachers. We read through each of the recommended teacher profiles and chose one that we felt would be a good match for Maddie.
The lessons began with Maddie’s teacher calling her by video on Skype. The first couple of lessons she took were a bit of a technical struggle. We had gotten on Skype before hand to make sure everything was working, but for some reason our video stream didn’t work right away. Both times, my son was able to get things worked out, but it was a disappointment to miss the first 5-10 minutes of the lesson trying to figure out the technicalities.
However, once we had the video up and running the lessons went very smoothly. Each time, Maddie’s instructor, Lea, would go over different vocabulary words. Most of the time she spoke solely in French. At first, it was a little difficult for Maddie because she was unsure of what was being asked and didn’t know what she was required to do. But as time went on, she started to understand a little more and was able to participate more fully.
Lea was a great instructor, full of energy and enthusiasm. She sent Maddie a few handouts for her to print out and work on during her own time. During the lessons she would make the learning fun and engaging by creating visuals or activities to help increase the student’s understanding of the the material.
Maddie has taken a total of 6 classes now. She has thoroughly enjoyed the classes and I am pleased with her progress and learning.
I would recommend italki for all levels of language learning. However, I would like to add that while I think it is great for beginners, I think it would be even better for those with a few years of language learning under their belts.
Once a student has a solid vocabulary base, they are then able to use their time with their teacher to vocalize their newfound language skills. This is a skill that is difficult to learn and practice with a curriculum or computer program.
Another thought I would like to add is that while 6 lessons was great to get started, in order for real progress to be made I would recommend a longer commitment to the program. Student would then be able to get comfortable with the teacher, practice getting the words out (much harder than it seems!), and learn to actually speak the language.
In the future, I am hoping to enroll my son with a native Japanese speaker. I know it will be the next best thing to actually going to Japan (which he would love to do…maybe someday)!