While everybody is quarantined at home, we’re all looking for indoor hobbies. If you’ve always been wanting to learn or improve your skills in a particular language, now might be a great time to do so. Here are my suggestions!
There are a lot of places where you can find free lessons, but having an actual person to talk to will give you the best results, which is why that is what I’m focusing on today. I have also written about ways to learn a little bit of a language for an upcoming trip here if that’s more of your speed. You don’t have to spend tons of money and pay for a lesson every single day, and you’ll find that by getting yourself to speak with a fluent speaker, you’ll make a lot more progress than only studying independently.
Why take lessons with a teacher online?
Like I just mentioned, you’ll make so much more progress this way. I’ve heard of countless people using apps like Duolingo to study, and while those apps are a great supplement for beginners, nobody is going to get anywhere near fluent on Duolingo alone. The way to make real progress is to have more language output, meaning you’re producing the language, not just consuming it. Think having a conversation vs. watching a show on Netflix – while Netflix will do wonders for your listening skills, the more conversations you can have in the language, the better you’ll be able to use it to communicate, which in the end, is the whole purpose of language.
Where to find teachers…
There are three sites that I primarily use for language learning with live teachers: Verbling, italki, and Lingoda. I’ll go through the pros and cons of each below.
Verbling is a site that connects you with teachers of just about any language you may be studying (there are over 40 available) by providing a platform for teachers to set their own rates and connect with students. I suggest looking at the profile of several teachers and not just picking someone based on their prices, but on their experience and how knowledgeable they seem to be in their introduction video. Lessons on Verbling are bought in packages, and you’ll use the entire package of lessons with one teacher, taking lessons as frequently or infrequently as you want.
- Teacher quality: I’ve had the best luck with Verbling when it comes to teacher quality, and you can easily read reviews they’ve gotten from previous students to assure you’re choosing a quality teacher. Teachers also create their own lesson plans, and in my experience so far, I’ve gotten most effort out of teachers and their lesson planning on this site.
- Flexibility: There are teachers all over the world, many of whom teach while living abroad, so you’ll definitely be able to find a teacher at a time that works for you.
- Pricing: While prices vary widely between teachers, I think that Verbling is a little more expensive overall.
Recommendation: I’ve been taking classes with Anabel for over two years now and recommend her if you’re going to take Spanish classes.
italki has all of the same features as Verbling, plus community tutors and a more active language learning community. There isn’t much you can do for free on Verbling, but there is on italki. You can ask questions, post writing samples for others to correct, and find people to have a language exchange with (this usually means spending an hour on Skype or another video calling platform, speaking in one language for 30 minutes, then switching to the other). You buy lesson packages on italki in the same way as Verbling.
- Community Tutors: italki has both teachers and community tutors. Teachers need to have some kind of certification to teach the language they’re offering, so they should be higher quality overall. Community tutors don’t have to lesson plan, as they’re more like conversation partners.
- Pricing: Community tutor prices are usually lower. This is a great option if you’re using an app or some kind of study program where you’re not getting to speak and want to add a little bit of speaking into your routine.
- Teacher Quality: I’ve had a harder time finding quality teachers on italki. I’ve had more issues with the teacher being late or cancelling classes at the last minute than on Verbling.
Recommendation: If you want to take Spanish or Catalan lessons with a community tutor, I’ve had good experiences with Carol.
Referral: After you buy $20 in credits, we’ll each get $10 toward future lessons. https://www.italki.com/i/DBdHbB?hl=en-us
I recently started using Lingoda and I’ve been happy with the experience overall. The general concept is the same as Verbling and itlaki since it’s a platform for connecting with language teachers, but they run things a lot differently. On Lingoda, you work your way through their set curriculum instead of your teacher creating the lessons. You buy lessons in packages that have to be used within the month, instead of being able to schedule classes as frequently or infrequently as you want like with Verbling and italki. Another thing is that you choose the lesson topic and time, then a teacher will sign up to teach that class, and it’s harder to choose your teacher… which is pretty much the opposite of the other two. One last big difference is that group classes are available along with individual lessons.
- Group classes: This is my first time taking group Spanish lessons since high school, and it’s gone a lot better than I expected. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to hear other people’s mistakes, but I don’t think that has been an issue. It has also been really nice to hear a variety of accents speaking Spanish, increasing my listening skills.
- Sprint promotion: I like that the packages are bought monthly, so I end up taking a lot more lessons. I’m currently enrolled in their Sprint, which means I’m signed up to take 15 classes a month for three months. I wouldn’t normally take so many classes because of the cost, but this is a short-term deal. I’m currently a little over halfway through, and I can tell you without a doubt, my Spanish skills have improved a lot. There is a new Sprint beginning on April 8, 2020 if you can sign up by March 24. If not, you can just buy monthly packages or wait for another Sprint promotion.
- Learning materials: Once you’ve signed up for Lingoda, you’ll have access to all of their lessons. It’s great for prepping for a lesson or reviewing material from a lower level if you’re not an absolute beginner.
- Structured lessons: I love the way Lingoda structures their lessons. They follow the concept of teaching in thematic units, which is great for language learning because you hear and use the same words repeatedly throughout the unit, therefore getting a better understanding of them and having a better chance at remembering the words than if you only ever heard them once or twice.
- Choosing teachers: You choose the lesson and the time, then a teacher signs up to teach that class. I really don’t like not being able to choose my teachers because as a language teacher myself, I’m pretty picky about teaching styles. In the last month and a half that I’ve been with Lingoda, most of the teachers I’ve had have either been great or good enough, but I’ve had two that I want to avoid future classes with (one just wasn’t a good teacher and the other couldn’t stop talking about Trump in a class with a non-political theme) and it’s hard to avoid them completely. You can somewhat choose your teachers if you always wait until the last minute to schedule classes, but it’s harder to get into the lessons you want that way.
Referral: Use my code xmp7a9 and to get $50 off your first month (and give 5 free group classes to me).
If you have any questions about online language learning or want tips on any other specific area, let me know!