(Estimated reading time: 6 minutes)
So, it’s been a month since I started taking italki lessons and 5 lessons (4 with a female tutor and 1 with a male tutor) later, I decided to write a short review before a really comprehensive review + guide + recommendations.
Before anything, if you don’t know what italki is, it’s basically a platform acting as a middleman/agent to connect language teachers/tutors with students. Lessons are conducted over Skype, Google Hangouts, or any other messaging applications that allow video calls (or voice calls, at least). Students will buy credits (minimum US$10, not including transaction fees) and book classes. The service works something like Facebook where each user (teacher, tutor and student) would have their own personalised profile page. Every user can be a teacher, tutor and student, all at the same time.
I previously wrote a short post about some initial thoughts after my first lesson, where I share my little discovery about the differences between a professional teacher and community tutor (or you could read it on italki’s page). So, in this short review, I’ll be covering several topics:
- What to expect from an italki lesson(s)
- What I like about my italki community tutors
- Are italki lessons better than actual classes?
What to expect from an italki lesson(s)
I’m not sure if you’ve ever taken any 1-to-1 classes before but the amount of attention and flexibility you can have is probably the biggest drawing point.
This means that regardless of your proficiency in Korean, you’ll be able to get the most out of the lessons. You might be wondering, well, how do I know if the teacher/tutor is good? There are ratings!
The blue video button is the teacher/tutor’s introduction video so you can get a feel of how enthusiastic he/she is. Personally, I chose my tutors based on their enthusiasm when introducing themselves. It has worked out fine for me so far. The green button shows the teacher/tutor’s schedule.
The thing about personalised lessons is that you get to choose what you want to work on. Is it vocabulary, grammar or conversational Korean? Personally, I took up italki lessons especially for conversation and it’s been really great for me so far.
Personalised 1-to-1 lessons also force you to speak up and try to form sentences. One thing that I realised from taking group classes is that some students (usually the weaker ones) won’t dare to speak up. Well, guess what, you have no choice but to if you were to take 1-to-1 lessons!
The teacher/tutor is there to correct your grammar, sentence structure, pronunciation, intonation, basically everything. Think of it as learning your first native language as a kid and your parents or kindergarten teacher are there to help you, 100% full attention.
A Korean friend
Oh, did I mention that most of them are kind enough to answer your questions even after the lessons? That means you would essentially have a Korean friend after the lessons!
Some people might argue, though, that you’re “paying” someone to be your friend. I prefer to look at the lesson fees to be a token of appreciation instead of a “payment”.
Besides, the other “stranger” is actually forking out time to teach you a language, 1-to-1. I think that effort is a lot more valuable than US$10 or so.
Sure, you might be able to find strangers on language exchange apps to video call and converse. That’s definitely a (free) option you could consider.
My experience with language exchange partners is that they don’t usually commit. That means you just lose contact with them after a while. You know what’s the worse part? You don’t feel much of a pity because you’re not committed too!
That might just be me but the idea of actually paying for something (or receiving payment in the case of a teacher/tutor) kinda ensures commitment from both parties.
It also helps that italki has staff who actually personally review these teachers/tutors to ensure a pleasant experience for everyone.
What I like about my community tutors
Not so sure about other community tutors (might need to try out a wider variety for the comprehensive review!) but the two tutors whom I’ve had lessons with are great at picking up my pronunciation mistakes.
Somehow, they are able to tell what words I wanted to use and are able to correct me accordingly. This really helped my pronunciation.
Not afraid to point out mistakes
I know. You’ll be thinking, isn’t that something every teacher/tutor do – pointing out mistakes and correcting them? Apparently, some students would get upset when their mistakes are pointed out too much.
I think it has to do with ego or self-confidence. I can totally understand that. But you’re taking up lessons to learn (duh). The more mistakes you make, the more you learn. That’s just how it is.
And I really appreciate that my tutors point my mistakes out and correct them there and then. Some teachers/tutors (not Korean) don’t do this diligently and without hesitation, surprisingly and shockingly.
They are learners too
I want to say that my tutors are patient, kind, etc… But I think all these traits come with the fact that they are language learners themselves. They understand how hard it is to learn a language.
So they’ll wait very patiently for you to construct your broken sentence, full of mistakes and stutters, decipher it and correct you accordingly. That’s something you can’t get in a group class.
The teacher can’t possibly wait for you while the other students just listen to you stumble. It’s not that the group class teacher is not kind or patient, he/she has to be fair to the other students too!
Are italki lessons better than actual classes?
If you’re expecting a “yes”, I’m sorry to disappoint you. As much as I’d like to say yes after singing the praises of italki, I’m someone who prefers interpersonal and actual interaction. Therefore, I’d take attending actual classes in person any day over italki lessons. Lessons over the Internet can never replace in-person classes, not for now, at least.
Think of it this way: classes help you build the foundations (grammar, sentence structure, hangeul, etc.) while italki lessons provide you conversational practice and of course, some foundation revision too.
Of course, italki lessons are a lot cheaper. If money is a problem and italki lessons are the best you can afford, then you should consider taking italki lessons. However, if you can afford, take up actual lessons and use italki lessons as a supplement for your classes.
As usual, I hope this post helped you understand more about italki! Until next time, Let’s Study Korean 한국어 공부하자!