Before we ever arrived here in Korea, we knew we wanted to learn as much of the language as possible in order to experience the culture and get around easily. We listened to podcasts, watched Korean drama shows, and found some cool apps for my tablet that taught how to write the Korean alphabet.
Our Korean has improved a lot, and we have had many rewarding exchanges with friendly people here. But quick conversations on the subway don’t always lead to the depth of understanding that I had hoped we would experience.
Did you know that Korean is considered a level 5 language for native English speakers to learn? That is the hardest level there is! Languages that are level 1 (considered close to English) take an estimated 23 weeks to learn. But to learn Korean it is estimated that you need 88 weeks!
So when I heard about italki, an online foreign language community that offers tutoring via Skype, I had to check it out!
5 steps to getting instant feedback from a native speaker
Raven struggles the most with picking up Korean naturally, so she was our “guinea pig” so to speak. It was really easy to get started:
- Sign up for an account – you can create one for your child or sign up yourself and use it as a family account.
- Purchase italki credits - these are the currency used to pay for lessons. You can use Paypal or a credit/debit card.
- Find a tutor – use the “contact teacher” form and explain to them that you are seeking tutoring for your homeschool child.
- Schedule a session – and share Skype usernames
- Get tutored! - log into italki and Skype and have fun.
The italki website is set up like a community, and there are more features available than just tutoring. You can share notes in the language you are learning, ask questions, find language partners, and more. You are also able to turn off some of these features, such as receiving follow requests.
Raven has done 6 lessons so far, with more scheduled in September. We started with a professional tutor, Miss Euna, but she was unavailable for a while due to health issues so for the past month Raven has been working with a community tutor – Miss Jee. Both of them have been kind, patient tutors that really knew how to work with younger learners.
I was impressed that they both came prepared for the sessions with visuals, worksheets, and they utilized the chat feature in Skype to give examples that we could save and review throughout the week.
Both tutors usually had sessions open for the evening, since they are used to tutoring people in different time zones or after school and activities. This wasn’t a huge problem for us, since evenings are usually quieter around our house.
In our initial contact, I kind of gave each tutor an idea of what level Raven was at and our first session with each was a trial to see if they fit with our needs and to assess what should be covered. I was able to talk to them during the session and give them a little background about our learning experiences with Korean.
So far, Raven has learned the Korean writing system – hangul, and she is working on both speaking and reading basic statements and questions.
Why italki is the Cadillac of homeschool foreign language
Video lessons and computer programs are a good way to get accustomed to a language, but they don’t compare to the one-on-one experience of a native tutor. With italki, you get all the bells and whistles of a tutor and language learning community – but without the high price tag.
- Customization – You can choose your tutor (professional or community) and find one that fits with your child and family. You can also tell your tutor what you want to learn and focus on (conversation, travel phrases, etc.)
- Secure – get professional tutoring from the safety of your home.
- Flexibility – Online sessions make learning a foreign language easy anywhere and anytime!
- Fluency – Get pronunciation tips, spelling, and grammar help directly from real people who speak the language.
- Price – each 30 minute session cost around $6-$8! Most tutors charge around $12-$15 per hour.
- Guaranteed – your italki credits are not transferred to the teacher until you confirm that the session occurred. You can also reschedule or cancel sessions.
Personally, I’ve tried other foreign language community sites and I could never get very far because it expected me to be able to read and write in Korean up front! When searching for a tutor on italki, you can choose what languages you prefer your teacher to speak. We searched for native Korean speakers who had a good grasp of English.
We have loved the italki site so much, and Raven’s awesome tutors, that I scheduled a few sessions for myself to learn some much needed phrases for our upcoming vacation!