Italki.com is a website that helps language learners connect with students and teachers from all over the world.
As a learner, you can choose to:
- Have a language partner (where you help each other learn your own language, pretty much like a language exchange programme). This is free;
- Connect with a teacher and be taught the language of your choice in a structured way, similar to a classroom setting;
- Connect with a community tutor. A tutor will help with conversation skills, but won’t have a pre-structured lesson plan.
Teachers and tutors both charge for their services, although a tutor will typically charge less than a teacher.
You can also check your writing skills by writing a notebook entry. Someone usually comes along pretty quickly to offer corrections or suggestions on how you can improve your writing (this is done by fellow Italki members free of charge, so if you get a question answered try to answer other people’s questions about your own language – pay it forward!)
I joined Italki this year as a community tutor, since I do not have formal training in teaching. My aim was to see a) If I could actually do it, b) If I liked it, and c) If I could make a career out of this kind of work.
As it happens, I can do it, and I absolutely love it! Since I am a community tutor, lessons tend to be a fairly casual affair and whilst I am always happy to help someone practice their conversation skills on whatever topic they choose, people are generally happy to let the conversation flow organically and talk about whatever comes up (themselves, their job, their interests, and so on).
Sometimes students will tell me they want to improve their listening skills and I will therefore hold most of the conversation, but more often than not they are looking for someone to listen to their skills and correct them accordingly, but more importantly reply to them in Italian and have an actual conversation with a native speaker.
The most rewarding part is when someone re-books you (and I have thankfully had several people come back for more lessons).
So far, I can put a big fat check against points a and b, but not so much c.
I can’t really charge high prices as I need to remain competitive with other Italian tutors. The problem I face is that Italy doesn’t have a minimum wage, and therefore tutors are happy to charge quite low prices for their services (which, in my opinion, are far too low for their skill set).
I live in the UK where we do have a national minimum wage (now known as the “living wage”) and since the average Italian tutor on Italki charges almost £2.00 below that it’s clear I won’t be able to give up my day job by working on Italki alone.
I do plan to expand and seek more students outside of Italki, but for now I am happy to continue working through the website, Skyping with people from all over the world and enjoying myself in the process!