I have said elsewhere that italki is one of the best language learning tools to come along. There are tons of free things you can do to improve your Spanish while getting feedback from native speakers, and reaching out to people around the world is also fun.
But the best part is getting matched up with teachers for one-on-one lessons. Even though it is a paid portion of the site (really, you’re paying the teacher, not so much italki), it’s the most powerful part of italki.
10 Things to Keep in Mind When Selecting an italki Teacher
Even so, there are several challenges and points to keep in mind when you are hiring a teacher. Here are my suggestions as you set yourself up to learn Spanish with italki teachers:
1. There are 3 different options when selecting a teacher:
• Professional Lessons are conducted by educated teachers who most often have college degrees or more and can offer the best level of teaching.
• Informal Tutoring is for anyone who would like to teach a language but does not have a formal teaching education or credentials.
• Instant Tutoring is to find a teacher right away and begin a class.
With the Informal Tutoring and the Instant Tutoring, you will see a list of two types of italki teachers: Professional Teachers and Community Tutors. Professional Teachers are trained in foreign language acquisition and their qualifications have been verified by italki. Community Tutors “are native speakers who can help you learn a language through informal tutoring or speaking practice.” Italki recommends Community Tutors to intermediate and advanced students to practice conversation skills.
2. Even within the same level, professional lessons or informal tutoring, not all teachers come with the same experience, specialties and preparation. To compare, a firefighter with 10 years experience will know more than a firefighter with 2 years experience, even though they both went to firefighting school. The same applies to teachers, so read their credentials and try out a few before deciding who to stick with.
3. Many teachers don’t work on the weekends so if that is the main time you will be taking classes, look at this first before evaluating anything else about the teachers. Italki has a filter for this in its search options, so take advantage of it.
4. If the teacher is in a different time zone from you, their available class hours may not fit well with your schedule. Look at this first before you spend time reviewing their other information.
5. Many teachers do not adjust their available classes day-to-day or week-to-week. It’s common to request a class time and have the teacher respond that sorry, it’s not a good time. Be ready for this. The longer you plan ahead your class, the more options you’ll have if your first choice is not available.
6. Some teachers come better prepared for the class than others. In instant tutoring they can’t prepare ahead, however, the best teachers, once they understand your level, will be well prepared, and many will even send you exercises or notes a day or two before, so you may come prepared to class. (Each time you finish a class, you will be able to to write a review about your teacher and/or class.)
7. Find two or three teachers who are your principal teachers. After a couple lessons with the same teacher, he or she will be able to tailor the lessons to your specific needs. This saves time at the beginning of each lesson and allows you to advance quicker. Changing teachers every lesson wastes time and slows down your path to fluency.
8. It’s best to have more than one regular teacher because the teachers go on vacation, sometimes have limited schedules or other reasons for not being able to offer a class. Plus you have the added benefit of learning with different accents and styles. Watch their videos, review their experience and then sign up for a class. Do this with 5-10 teachers to find several you are most comfortable with.
9. Remember to take into account a teacher’s native country and how that will influence your Spanish goals. If for example you want to learn Spanish from Colombia, you may first want to look for Colombian teachers before working with teachers from Spain. Their accent, vocabulary and intonation will vary from one country to the next. Italki allows for you to search for teachers by country.
10. We each have our own language learning style and preferences. Spend time finding the teachers you are most comfortable with.