I’m in my late 40’s, and I decided that I needed to learn French after realizing a couple of years ago that basic holiday French was not enough for me. I work in the education sector and understand the importance of searching for learning opportunities wherever possible. A colleague mentioned finding a language partner to converse with and I did some hunting. italki came up in a search and I realized that I might benefit from conversing with a community teacher, rather than a language partner at my stage in the learning process.
The hardest part was actually committing to italki as a concept. Actually going through with purchasing credits was my first potential stumbling block. Was this site going to take my money and run? Was it a scam? What if it went wrong? All of these questions were relevant at the time but, on reflection, unfounded. So, I was careful in choosing the ‘right teacher’ for me and scheduled the first lesson. To make matters worse, I had never used Skype let alone the italki dashboard, etc. As the clock ticked onwards towards the start of the first lesson, I got more and more nervousness. Once again in hindsight, this was unfounded. The first lesson was excellent, and even with minor teething problems on my part it went extremely well. I had paid for 1000 credits and committed to a 5-lesson package, so I was well and truly in it for at least five lessons. I didn’t opt for a 30-minute trial lesson at a reduced cost. I believe that the teacher’s time was valuable and merited the full payment. I can understand that a trial lesson may be helpful for people to see if they like the teacher, but to me, careful selection beforehand is key. My teacher appreciated this and we quickly built a rapport.
I like being challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone, so my teacher very rarely speaks in my native language (I’m sure she knows it better than I do and would speak English if necessary!!). In reality I usually understand approximately 50% of what is being said, but this is enough to get the gist of it and then work out my responses. Of course, there are occasions where I understand more than 50% and then our conversations flow nicely (well they do in my world anyway). We decide in advance what the next lesson will be about and I try to prepare something to make it easier for both of us. This helps to improve my written French as well as my spoken French. It is not enough to just expect the teacher to do all the work. I tend to book two lessons a week and the more I practice the easier it gets.
I am not skeptical at all and am now on my third 1000-credit purchase. This will continue and it has since become part of my normal week routine. We have fun, we share some laughs, and we discuss serious issues. My teacher has even introduced some new music to me and I have developed more of a cultural interest compared to before I started italki. I forget words, I get reminded, and I may forget them again but over time they start to ‘stick’. My teacher is patient, enthusiastic and works hard during lessons just as I do because there is nowhere to hide!
In my opinion, tutoring via Skype has all in all worked out well. We generally tend to have a good connection with good sound quality and video. I work with a laptop and an iPad so that I can use my electronic dictionary on one screen while using Skype on the other (this is just my preference).
In summary, make a decision on whether to use a professional teacher, community teacher, or language partner. Financial considerations will no doubt influence this decision. Then, look at a summary of the potential teachers or partners and choose on the basis of whom you think will work well with you. Purchase your credits without worrying as, trust me, you will get what you pay for. italki emails keep you informed and up to date, which will even remind you that your next lesson is soon going to start. You will look forward to your lessons and with growing motivation to continue, learning becomes easy. So take the plunge!!
Paul has been a member of italki since