A learning environment for all ages

imageMy name is Maria and I signed up my daughter Yulia for italki to help her English studies. She is only ten years old, and as such is not allowed to be fully responsible for her account due to the law, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Yulia has been studying English for five years, since her first grade at school, and has reached approximately an intermediate level. However, she is still very shy when it comes to speaking in English and still considers English merely a subject at school, not as tool which can help her connect with people from all over the world.

To show her the wonders of speaking a foreign language, I decided to switch her from school lessons to online sessions with people from across the Earth.

I first learned of Italki on the internet, whilst watching a video a video from a man styling himself “Benny the Irish Polyglot.” He explained the process by which one can learn from italki very professionally and thoroughly and recommended that one should schedule several sessions with different teachers just to try it out. Unfortunately, the first two sessions were disappointing for us – the first teacher failed to appear for the lesson (although we soon got our money back) and the second one was nice enough, but inept when it came to dealing with children. Yulia (and, I suppose, many children) can be rather timid when it comes to asking questions of strangers. Consequently, the first lessons always require extra effort from the teacher to keep the lesson interesting and conversation flowing smoothly.

Nevertheless, following our initial disappointment, we still believed in italki and scheduled four more sessions with other teachers. Following those lessons, we had troubles selecting which one was the best as all seemed incredibly professional and Yulia loved them all. That seems to be a common flaw of italki, there are too many fantastic teachers!

We’ve since decided to continue with two teachers and the lessons are truly everything we could possibly hope for; most importantly, there are always interesting conversations with people from around the globe at a very reasonable price. Of course, it’s ever so convenient that we can select exactly which slots fit Yulia’s very busy schedule and we never have to go anywhere to take the lesson , whereas we didn’t have this option in the school lessons.

I still have some worries about whether Yulia will progress at appropriate speed as she and her teacher merely discuss the books she reads in English and are not using any textbooks. On the flip side, I really see how she actively engages in the conversation now, which is a vast contrast to how she began her studies, and tells me how much she loves the lessons each and every time. I sincerely hope that she learns something new as well.

When we started, there were only two things that worried me. Firstly, I had many doubts regarding the professionalism of the teachers, but all those doubts were unfounded. So far, all 6 teachers we have had lessons with have been very capable. My second concern was that there is a large community of so-called “freaks” on the internet. However, the staff at italki obviously do a phenomenal job of removing those individuals who would pose a threat to my daughter. Moreover, your money will always be safe on italki.

As for teaching/learning via Skype, I would say that, at least for us, it makes practically no difference compared to having the lesson face-to-face. Although there was one teacher who didn’t want to connect via the video call, that has proven to be the exception rather than the rule. When we see the teacher in his room, smiling, it feels like he is right near you! All in all, Skype sessions have proven to be fantastic. Although it would be nice to have a concrete plan as early as possible with learning milestones, I’ll ask our teachers to create that for Yulia in the nearest time.

That’s our story of using Italki! Up to date it has been a wonderfully pleasant and useful experience for not that much money at all! It has been worth every penny. We’ve already told about it to all our friends learning languages. We hope that this story will help to grow the italki community and will help new hesitating teachers and students to find each other!

Yulia has been a member of italki since November 2015