Learning a new language is never easy. Those evening classes you took back home probably gave you a great start, but there’s only so many times you can hear how to order your meal or ask for directions to the train station. In an ideal world, students need to immerse themselves in the language, stay with a family and get to know their culture and customs. It’s the only way to learn, but can be quite intimidating, especially if you’re a complete beginner. And it’s not always practical when you have your own family and work commitments.
Communication with native speakers is essential to develop confidence and ability in a new language. At school we were all encouraged to have pen pals and take part in school exchange trips, but the real opportunities for communication stopped there. Many expats living in Spain still encounter problems finding Spanish people to chat to despite living in the country. Sounds ridiculous? I know! But with all the possibilities for networking in your mother tongue plus most Spaniards speaking at least some English, learning Spanish can soon be overlooked.
The internet has opened up a world of inexpensive and convenient possibilities to expand on this idea of communication with native speakers. Nowadays, the world is so much smaller that we can achieve a lot more without expending the air miles. italki.com is one of the most exciting sites to have embraced this thirst for languages with its online language exchange service.
italki.com originally launched in 2006 but it wasn’t until the end of 2007 that the American and Chinese co-founders were able to introduce the features that set it apart from its competitors. The site offers its members several different options to maximise their language learning:
- Language exchanges with native speakers (student to student) via SKYPE, pre-recorded messages or chat so you can help each other – great for learning the intricacies of everyday Spanish rather than the more formal textbook language
- Forums where students can post questions and answers for each other about language, culture, traditions, travel and so on
- Groups encouraging students learning the same language to work together and help each other by sharing resources, ideas, tips and knowledge
- Libraries of online resources from videos and podcasts through to web links, news articles and flash cards, plus italki.com’s unique wiki pages where students and teachers can update and amend entries, ensuring italki.com text books are up to the minute and accurate
- Lessons taught by qualified language instructors (native speakers) who set their own hourly rates and create personalised lesson plans for their students. Their profiles, qualifications and timetables are available to view so that you can choose the right teacher for you
Paul, an English language teacher living in southern Spain was really impressed when he signed up to be both a teacher and a student on italki.com. “I’d been looking for a way to get into teaching English to foreign students online. It seemed such a simple idea but difficult to market. italki.com provides me with the ideal platform not only to find students but also to work with them on a regular basis. I was so impressed I’ve even signed up for Spanish lessons with one of the other teachers!”
China based italki.com has 800,000 subscribers in 200 countries corresponding in 90 different languages worldwide. We think it’s the way forward.