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Finally had time to write this blog post about my first italki lesson and experience! It was a lot better than expected, probably because the community tutor was awesome. Anyway, this is not exactly a review because it’s been only my first lesson! I’ll be sure to write a complete and comprehensive review after about 10 lessons but for now, just some thoughts.
Professional teachers and community tutors
Before I delve into my experience, explaining this will be important. So, at italki, you will realise that there are two types of lessons – professional teaching and community tutoring.
Experience: Professional teachers are, well, professionally-trained and certified by language academies or institutions. In other words, they actually went through teaching courses! So these teachers are supposedly as competent and qualified as any teacher you would meet in a language school or centre.
Community tutors, on the other hand, are teaching freelance and do not have any sort of qualifications whatsoever, other than their passion for teaching and language proficiency. Generally speaking, community tutors are students or working adults who teach for some side income. For example, tuition teachers. Not sure about overseas but in Singapore, you don’t have to be trained in an education institute to teach at a tuition centre. Well, I’ve tutored primary school kids before, that’s why I know!
Fees: Anyway, experience and qualifications aside, professional teachers on italki are usually more expensive, sometimes twice the price of community tutors. In a way, we’re paying for some sort of “guarantee” that the teacher knows his/her stuff well. Professional teachers typically charge US$10/hour and above, while community tutors will go as low as US$5/hour.
Curriculum: I guess professional teachers would have a curriculum ready while community tutors would usually play by ear. Personally, my goal is not to follow a study guide but rather, for conversation practice. Therefore, it would make perfect sense for me to pick a community tutor. (Community tutors are generally younger :p) Oh, and lessons are typically conducted over Skype video calls.
Some thoughts after the lesson
If most of the other italki tutors are as enthusiastic as my current Tutor, I’ll definitely see myself using italki very often. Not going to provide any names as of now, though. One lesson alone is not sufficient to gauge a person’s enthusiasm but I’m very happy with the recent session. It was like as if talking to a friend!
Another thing is, I’ve actually learned quite a lot in terms of expressions and certain commonly used words. It has been quite some time since I last had a long chat with a native Korean. I almost forgot how valuable each moment with a native speaker is. The best part of it is that the tutor was actually three years younger than I am. That means we would be able to relate to each other much better as compared to speaking to an older person, for example, my teachers at Daehan.
Some people might think, though, why are you paying to chat with someone over Skype? Why not just make Korean friends in your own home country, which in my case is Singapore. There are indeed quite a number of Koreans living in Singapore but the hard part is actually finding someone who is willing to language exchange with. If anyone has good ideas for face-to-face language exchange, please let me know.
Back to the main point, chatting over Skype is technically free, except for the tutoring fees. US$6 translates to about less than $9, which is about the cost of transport plus a cup of drink at a cafe. I mean, the least I could do if I were to ask a Korean friend out to chat and help me with conversational Korean is to treat him or her a drink, right? If you look at it this way, the cost is actually the same. A chat at a Starbucks cafe would, in fact, cost more.
So… italki or chat at a cafe?
I would choose “chat at a cafe” any time but the problem is I personally don’t know that many Koreans! For now, I would pick italki because of the convenience it provides. Besides, paying a small fee ensures that both the tutor/teacher and the student would be punctual. If there’s a way to get to know more native Korean speakers who are willing to help with language exchanges, though, I would be more than happy to pay a little more (buy him/her a Starbucks drink :p) to have face-to-face conversations.
Till then, look forward to a more comprehensive and complete review of italki in the coming months! In the meantime, let’s be hardworking and study Korean! 한국어 공부하자!