Why I love italki

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Hello. My name is Barbara Laane. I live in Elgin, Illinois which is 40 miles west of Chicago- the third largest city in the United States. I work in Chicago and I enjoy being here because the people are very friendly and diverse. The architecture is fantastic, the restaurants are varied, the museums are wonderful and the arts scene is lively. There is so much to do and see in Chicago.

My native language is English and I’m learning German. My husband, Michael, is half German so he has cousins who live in Germany. We once stayed with Mike’s cousin Rose and her husband Sigi for four days during the summer of 2015 and we had a wonderful time. I tried to pick up some German before visiting Rose and Sigi in Germany, but I found that it is really hard to learn a language on your own without a teacher.

I learned about italki when I was watching some videos on a Smarter German website. This website mentioned that italki was a valuable resource for learning the language. I went on the italki site and was thinking about giving it a try. I thought about it for two months before I finally decided to try it. I registered on the site and I spent a bit of time looking through the biographies and listening to the teachers’ videos. I knew I wanted a native language speaker but also someone who could speak English fairly well. There were a number of teachers I thought about trying, but one of the biographies really caught my eye. The two words I picked up on in the biography were joy and motivation. I wanted to learn, but I also wanted to enjoy the learning process so I dove in and scheduled a class with this teacher. 

I was really nervous about that first class, and the night before the class I had a really difficult time sleeping. My first learning experience on italki was great.  This teacher helped me to get over my initial nervousness and told me that the best way to learn the language was to just start speaking it without worrying so much about making mistakes. He took the time to get to know me a bit, assessed where I was on my path to learning German and put my mind at ease. Before I took the class, I thought I would try this teacher and others as well. However, because I really enjoyed the first class and felt really comfortable, I decided to schedule additional classes with this specific teacher. My experience with him far exceeded my expectations. There was enough variety in the class to keep things interesting. I have worked on essays, did speaking assignments and worked on grammar. Of course, I practice my listening and conversation skills as well. Along the way, I also get to learn about German culture. I’m constantly learning new words in both the basic course book that we are using as well as the conversations we have. I completed the initial italki challenge and continue to take classes with this same teacher because, as he knows that I’m weaker at conversation and listening comprehension, he focuses our work on these two skills quite a bit. This teacher is flexible and willing to help me with any special assignment I am interested in working on, and he is also a good motivator. In one of my recent classes, he told me how important it was to speak clearly so that others could understand what I am saying. I practiced the speech a number of times with corrections being provided after each sentence. I then I went off on my own and tried it again and recorded it for his review. 

I have been a member of italki since January, 2016. There are a number of benefits to using the italki site, but the biggest benefit for me was being able to find a teacher with whom I felt comfortable with that also had a flexible schedule. I like being able to see when my teacher has hours available and being able to schedule according to that schedule. I also like that I don’t need to travel to take a class-  all I need is my computer and an internet connection. There are so many teachers to pick from on the site that you are bound to find someone who will be a good fit for you. In addition, there is an area where you can work on writing, and other people who are good with the language will come along and help improve your writing skills. You can also find language partners on this site to schedule a time to get together with them. Of course, the articles, forums and discussion boards are interesting as well.  

I was skeptical at first about learning a language without attending a class in person. I have always attended group classes in person and thought it was important to be in a class atmosphere in order to learn. I have also tried online courses before, but I find it hard to stick with them when I don’t have a personal instructor to talk with. I was really surprised when I found that it truly was possible to learn with a teacher over the Internet. I have a PDF class book that we work with and we use other materials as well for language learning. What I have found is that I really like the individualized attention I’m able to get when having one-on-one lessons. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m slowing down other students by asking a lot of questions, or about others who need more attention when I’m able to understand the material.  

If I knew a friend was interested in taking language lessons, I would definitely let him/her know the effectiveness of the italki language learning website. This site is so flexible that you can really use as much of it as you want. If I were to take a class where I live now, it is likely that I would be using class material that was written in both English and the target language to make it easier for me to understand. However, I like being immersed in the German language, and I think that it is pretty cool that my instructor is from Germany. The book that I work with is written completely in German albeit with a lot of pictures to facilitate understanding. Though I struggle at times with understanding what I’m supposed to do in some of the exercises, I’m learning a lot in the process and my language skills are improving along the way.

I have found Skype to be a really effective tutoring experience. I can see and listen to my teacher, and he can see and listen to me. There is a chat window available in Skype so you can also write out what you are saying as well. I found that when I don’t understand what my teacher is saying, I can simply ask him to write it down and he can write the text in the chat window. I then look at those phrases and use that as a type of learning reference material. I can also write down what I’ve said in the chat window for him to review. With Skype, It is also possible to share screens as well and you can send links, images and PDFs/documents through the IM chat window. 

I believe that teachers can be very effective when teaching using this medium, and students will be surprised at how well this works. The teachers that will be the most effective with this medium are the ones who can be flexible with their student’s learning needs. In order to get the most out of italki, students should be prepared to really know what they want to get out of the lesson and contribute to the learning process as well. You will learn more as you put more effort into the class. I’m always thinking about new topics that I can talk about in German as well as thinking of new ways I can improve my language skills. My teacher offers really good suggestions as well, from new programs to use such as animated programs my son may like to watch, to fun game sites to try. It is because I am able to access teachers from around the world that I’m able to expand my learning of the culture and language.  

I hope you will find the italki experience as rewarding as I have. I look forward to continuing learning German and using this site as part of my learning experience. I wish you all great success in your learning adventures. Have fun!

Barbara Laane 

Barbara Laane has been a member of italki since January 2016