Italki Review: How Italki is Helping Me Learn Spanish

There is only way to learn to speak a language: speak it, speak it, and speak it some more.

While the easiest way to immerse yourself in a language is to travel – or, better yet, move – to a country where the language is spoken, all is not lost for those of us who can’t do that just yet. Thanks to the wonders of Skype and free websites like, we can immerse ourselves in any language from the comfort of our living room couches! (Actually, in my case, it’s the dining room table. I still haven’t quite mastered the art of using a laptop on my actual lap.)

If you’re looking to ramp up your language learning, then you might want to consider signing up for italki.

* Please note: this review is very long. I can’t help it. I’m full of words. Believe it or not, I actually cut out a good quarter of each post before I actually publish it. If you don’t like posts with a lot of words – well, you probably won’t like this blog. Sorry.


First of all, it’s important to point out that italki itself isn’t a language program. It won’t teach you grammar, or provide you with video lessons, or offer you with step-by-step how-to-learn-any-language instructions. What it will do is provide you with access to a much more valuable resource: actual, thinking, communicating human beings. 

Registration on italki is free. Once you’ve registered, you’ll set up your profile, including which languages you speak and which languages you’re learning. There’s lots of “social stuff” on italki: upvoting, friending/following, discussion threads and so on. While some people might love the social media stuff, I don’t bother much with most of it. My goal is to connect directly with Spanish speakers who can help me, or with French speakers who need my help.

In my opinion, these are the five best ways that italki is helping me learn Spanish:

1. Find a language partner

A language partner is someone who speaks the language that you’re learning, and who is learning the language that you speak. If you click on “Language Partners” at the top of your italki screen, you can search for someone to connect with, being as specific as you like.


My specific search – female Spanish-speakers learning French – brought back dozens and dozens of results.

Once you have a list of results, you can read people’s profiles and find someone who seems interesting. When I first signed on to italki, I followed people and they followed me back, but nothing ever came of it. My “followers” count went up, so I suppose I might have looked a bit more popular, but it wasn’t actually helping me learn Spanish.

I’m much more specific now. After clicking the “follow” button on someone’s profile, I send them a note requesting that they follow me back, spelling out exactly what I’m looking for. I include time zones in three major Spanish-speaking cities. This might seem a bit too straightforward for some people, but I don’t want to waste lots of back-and-forth time. As lovely as a person might be, if our schedules don’t mesh, then she isn’t the language partner I’m looking for.


I send very specific follow requests on italki. Yes, I realize that I accidentally typed “who” twice.

Once I connect with a language partner whose schedule matches mine, we set up an initial Skype meeting. From there, we can decide if we would like to meet regularly for practice sessions. So far, I’ve had nothing but good luck with language partners. I meet weekly with five fun, encouraging, friendly women – a different one every weekday. 

I use a webcam for all of my language exchanges – I like to see a person when I’m talking to her. I know, though, that some people prefer not to use webcams at all. If you’re not comfortable with video, make that clear from the beginning, and you should be able to find someone to talk to using audio only.

2. Hire a professional teacher or a community tutor

If money is tight, or if you’re happy with your progress, then language partners might more than meet your needs. I wanted to progress more quickly, so I decided to hire a professional teacher to help me learn.

On italki, you can choose between two types of paid lessons: professional lessons and informal tutoring. Teachers offering professional lessons have to have some kind of certification, whereas informal tutors don’t. Teachers are generally more expensive than informal tutors, but many of them are very reasonably priced. Some of them are so inexpensive, in fact, that the language teacher in me feels a bit bad about how low their rates are.

Many teachers and tutors offer trial sessions, lower-priced half-hour sessions for new students. Some of these trial sessions can cost as little as 10 credits, or one dollar. This lets you “sample” a teacher to make sure that your styles and personalities mesh well. Each student is only allowed to take three trial sessions, perhaps to discourage people from taking trials without committing to any teacher. (I personally disagree with the three-trial policy, but it is what it is.) 

One great thing about the italki booking system is that there’s no back-and-forth needed. You access the teacher’s schedule, click on an available time, and send a session request. Best of all, the schedule is automatically converted to your time zone, so you don’t even have to figure out what time your session actually starts. I booked two trial sessions, with the idea that I would take two weekly lessons with the teacher that I clicked best with. Then I clicked with both of them. Rather than choosing between them, I decided to do one weekly session with each of them.


My fantastic italki Spanish teachers, Mati and Auri.

Connecting with Skype tutors ended up being one of the best things that I’ve done to speed up my language learning. Between my conversation partners and my tutors, I’m spending a whopping seven hours on Skype every week, five and a half of which are in Spanish. While this might seem like a lot, the time flies by, and I credit Skype conversations for 80% of my progress.

3. Write a notebook entry

The best place to seek out corrections is in your written work. While a patient and encouraging teacher or language teacher will correct you at times when you’re speaking, it would be counterproductive to expect them to correct every single mistake. Too many interruptions would break the flow of conversation, which is the whole point of doing a language exchange.

In a notebook entry, though, you’re laying down your work with the understanding that native speakers will correct it, change it, and point out your mistakes.


One of my notebook entries, with corrections suggested by a native Spanish-speaker.

Don’t forget to return the favour and try to correct other people’s work as well. There are always notebook entries that go without corrections, which must be very disappointing for the writer. When choosing notebook entries to correct, it’s best to stick to your own language or to a language that you know very well. I’ve seen corrections made by a non-native speakers that were very inaccurate.

 4. Find a penpal

I connected with one potential language partner, but no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t schedule a Skype meeting. Instead, we decided to be penpals. We write to each other using the italki private message system two or three times a week. Eva writes to me in English, and I send her message back to her with a few corrections and suggestions. Then I respond to her message in Spanish, and she corrects my work.

I struggle with writing in Spanish. A lot. I’m surprised by how helpful it is to have a penpal! I appreciate being able to take the time to think about what I want to say, and to really dig in to the corrections that Eva makes on my work. I also like having a penpal because – unlike with notebook entries – we can develop a relationship and have longer and more personal conversations.

5. Ask, answer and read questions

I click on this feature when I have a few spare minutes and want to help other learners. People post brief questions in any language, and native speakers answer them. You can look at all of the questions, or sort them by language. I try to answer as many French questions as I can, focusing first on the ones that haven’t been answered yet.

Reading questions and answers in the language that you’re learning can help you clear up understanding, build vocabulary, and learn expressions.


A few Spanish questions on italki.

Out of the five components that I mentioned in this post, I think that asking and answering questions is the one that I use the least. Still, it can be a very useful way to interact with native speakers without much of a time commitment.

What I would like to see at italki

Of course, no review is complete without a mention of what’s lacking. Here are a few things that I would like to see at italki:

  • a live chat feature that would allow you to exchange messages back-and-forth with a native speaker.
  • three trial sessions allowed for each language being learned, rather than three trial sessions total per student.
  • a way to connect with community tutors without setting an appointment in advance. Sometimes I have 30 spare minutes that I’d like to spend in conversation. It would be nice if community tutors could sign up for “drop-in” sessions. Potential students could message them and, if they’re available, the session could start immediately instead of being booked 24 hours in advance. 

If you aren’t regularly talking to people in the language that you’re learning, then you’re missing a huge piece of the language learning puzzle.

Sites like italki can help you find that puzzle piece. Once you start talking to real, live, unpredictable human beings, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your ability to speak progresses!

Go ahead and sign up for italki. Find a partner. Write a notebook entry. Start actually communicating with people. After all, human communication is the reason that languages even exist in the first place!

A few final notes:

This is a completely unbiased review. Italki does have a referral program that allows referrers to earn credits, but the link that I posted in this review is not an affiliate link. The only thing that I’m hoping to get from anyone who decides to join italki is the satisfaction that one more person is seeking out native speakers to communicate with! If, however, you would like to support me by providing me with one free lesson (at no cost to you) when and if you buy any credits, you can use this referral link when signing up for italki.

I’m not looking for any more language exchange partners at this point. But if you’re an intermediate or advanced Spanish-speaker and you want to practice for half an hour every week or two (just Spanish – no French or English), please contact me!

32 thoughts on “Italki Review: How Italki is Helping Me Learn Spanish

  1. Jared Romey


    Great review and insightful ideas on what italki is not doing, but should be. I especially think the 3rd point, about drop-in sessions with tutors is a great idea. I’m not always that good about planning ahead for an appointment. Hopefully they’ll do something about that.


    1. Stephanie Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Jared! While I could try to connect with one of my Skype language partners at the last minute, sometimes I want to be a bit selfish and practice only Spanish – not do a 50/50 exchange. I know that some people who work from home might be willing to act as drop-in tutors. I’d be willing to do it in French or in English if I found that I had a few unexpected hours free!

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  3. Trevor

    At what point in the language learning process do you suggest that people start connecting with Spanish speakers on Skype through iTalki? I’m a beginner in Spanish so didn’t know if there was a level of proficiency that was needed before one started. Thanks.

    1. Stephanie Post author

      I think that this really depends on your willingness to prepare, and also on your confidence level. You have to be able to hold up your end of a conversation, but with a bit of preparation (vocabulary, topics, etc), this is definitely doable for an absolute beginner. Just remember that your partner isn’t a teacher – they’re there to practice with, not to teach you. Try your best to stick to 50-50 exchanges, even if your partner’s English is much better than your Spanish! For absolute beginners who are willing to pay a little bit (10ish dollars per hour), I highly recommend working with a Skype tutor.

    2. Lori Hazzard

      I use Paola Martínez Mendoza as my teacher. She is Colombian. She is the best teacher so far. She speaks slowly, and is patient, and is encouraging along the way. If you are just beginning, she is the best. She also offers a lot of hours. Message her for special hours, she is pretty accommodating.

      1. Stephanie Post author

        Thanks for the suggestion! I really should work with teachers with different accents. I’ve never worked with a Colombian teacher before.

  4. Diana

    Funny that now italki has put in those features you mentioned (except three trial) , guess they really do listen to their community.
    For other people:
    Italki really is great. Even if you don’t spend money it has a huge community, better than any other language community I have found so far 🙂
    I am learning chinese , spanish, and arabic.
    Those tutors are not that expensive, most community tutors are under $10 an hour , that is way cheaper than if you were to take lessons in person.

    1. Stephanie Post author

      That’s one of the best things about italki! They’re small enough – and they care enough – to take their users’ suggestions into consideration. I’m glad that you’re enjoying it as much as I am!

  5. Taha

    Hi Stephanie,
    Another useful article 😉
    I have an addition to the “What I would like to see at italki” of your article.
    I’d like that italki add a new feature to their search system, I think this feature is essential in a platform like italki, this feature is, instead of searching for teachers who teach X language, male/female, price per hour, etc.. , I think they should add TIME to their search criteria.

    Like so many italki members, I’m very busy person, so I want to search for teachers who will be available, say, Monday at 11:00 AM, I can’t get this result.
    for example (and this happened a lot for me) I searched for French teachers and I got a lot of results, but it is hard to go through all of them and check their schedule to see if they are available on next Monday at 11:00 AM.
    what I want in search feature for sites such as italki is as follows:
    Find: (French) teachers, from X Country, who are (Male/Femal), and their price $X , and ONLY give me results for those who are available on (SPECIFIC DATE AND TIME).

    and to make things better, they could add an option that allows me to save my “searches” and CREATE “search alert” like in some Job websites, so if my search didn’t return satisfying results now, and after a few days a teacher changes his schedule so it fits my spare time, I get an email alert from italki that there is a new teacher matches my search criteria 😉

    This feature will help both students and teachers to meet and have lessons.
    I will send this suggestion to italki, and I hope they implement it in the future.


    1. Stephanie Post author

      This is a *great* idea. It takes me a very long time to find a teacher who matches my (admittedly very limited) schedule. I particularly like the idea of a “search alert”. If you don’t mind, I’ll also send this suggestion to italki!

    2. Lori Hazzard

      I use Paola Martínez Mendoza as my teacher. She is Colombian. She is the best teacher so far. She speaks slowly, and is patient, and is encouraging along the way. If you are just beginning, she is the best. She also offers a lot of hours. Message her for special hours, she is pretty accommodating.

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  7. Taha

    Hi Stephanie,
    I sent this suggestion to italki just after posting it here, and it’s appreciated if you could also send them this suggestion 🙂

  8. Naya

    I have found a great Spanish tutor on italki but she is one of the more expensive tutors, so I would love to do a language exchange to supplement my tutoring but I am having the hardest time getting people to commit. I’ve communicated with people and it sounded like they were interested but I’m very busy so setting a specific time is crucial for me and that’s where I seem to lose people. I am starting to think that maybe people just look for you on Skype but I am rarely just signed on to skype. It sounds like you were able to actually schedule times for the exchanges. What am I missing?

    1. Stephanie Post author

      Have you tried sending a note with specific times? I emailed a dozen people, and ended up setting specific times with several different people. While one of my favourite partners came from italki, I found that I had the best luck with conversation partners on It’s a *very* bare-bones “unprettified” site, and I think that it tends to attract a slightly older crowd. People only sign up there to find a language partner; there’s no social network feel at all there. Buena suerte!

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  12. Vernon Douglas

    Hi Stephanie, I’m enjoying your website. I’ve been learning Spanish on my own for a few months now and using Italki and speaking on skype with people. I was interested in this article because I have been thinking about using a teacher on italki. Did it really make a big difference or do you think it is just as beneficial to keep talking with my friends informally?

    1. Stephanie Post author

      There’s a difference between a language tutor and a language exchange partner. A language exchange partner can provide a sounding board for practice. S/he can also provide feedback on whether or not you “sound like a person”, and help you with wording things in a natural way.

      A good tutor (good being the operative word here!) can target the errors that you consistently make, and help you correct them. S/he can also answer questions and provide guidance on grammar, syntax or pronunciation. I like working with tutors, but I don’t like following someone else’s lesson plan. I prefer to just chat informally with a tutor, and have them point out common errors. If the same error comes up consistently, I like knowing that my tutor will provide me with some systematic practice, by bringing up topics of conversation that lend themselves to that structure. For instance, if I’m struggling with preterito vs. imperfecto, a good tutor will ask questions related to past actions and point out errors as they pop up. Does that make sense?

      Tutors cost more money. Language partners cost more time (since half the session is in your target language, and also since they might not provide you with the systematic practice that you need to target your areas of weakness).

      If you have more time than money – go for language exchange partners. You can use my sneaky trick of asking professional teachers to do a language exchange with you. You’ll be likely to get better corrections of any errors that you make. (But don’t expect them to plan lessons for you – after all, you’re language partners, not teacher and student.)

      If you have more money than time – go for tutors. Try a few until you find one who matches your learning style. You need someone that you’ll feel comfortable with, who will treat you as a friend instead of a student (well, that’s what I want, anyway), and who will push and challenge you.

      If money and time are about equal – try both! Language exchanges and tutoring sessions have different dynamics. There’s a lot to be said for both!

      (And if you managed to read this comment-as-long-as-a-blog-post – thanks for you patience! Haha!)

  13. Juan Luis

    Hi Stephanie,

    Very interesting post. I would just have one question. According to your experience, it is better to hire a tutor or a professional teacher? Maybe it depends on the person more than on qualifications. I am tihinking of taking some classes from September on and just wondering what would suit me better.


    Juan Luis

    1. Stephanie Post author

      I think it does depend more on the person than on the qualifications, but it also depends on what you want as a learner. I’ve tried both, and I’ve had best luck with professional teachers in Spanish. They cost more, but I get more out of the session. It depends on what you want: the opportunity to practice (without targeted feedback), or someone to give you corrections and guide the conversation. I just want to talk – but I want to know that my tutor will help me work on errors before they’re fossilized. I want her to ask me questions about my past, for example, if I keep mixing up preterite and imperfect. So, for me, I’ve found that professional teachers are the best bet. But when I have more time, I’ll also work with informal tutors just to get more practice.

    2. Stephanie Post author

      Oh, and just because someone’s listed as a professional teacher doesn’t mean that they’re a good match for you (or, sadly, even a good teacher). You have to try a few until you find someone you like.

  14. Cat

    I love italki very much! I also credit my italki sessions for much of my progress in speaking. It really does a lot for building confidence.

    I also like the fact that they read blogs and reviews of their users and most of the time, they let you know they are there by writing comments 😀

  15. Mary


    I always enjoy your articles so I’d like to say thank you. I’m Japanese, learning English and Spanish.

    Have you ever heard about HiNative. I’m not working for them or anything but I was wondering why I don’t see so many articles on HiNative yet because that app is amazing. I found one article “” but I just wanted you to know about this app and review it.

    The website of this app is this “”. If you are going to review this app, please let me know! Because I really like this app and playing with it all day long. Also I love Duolingo too.

    Thanks for reading this.

    Thank you,

    1. Stephanie Post author

      I don’t know much about HiNative. I found things that worked for me, and I stuck with them. At this point, I’m not looking for any new chat/language partner apps, even though I know there are a ton of them out there. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  16. ana


    I know this post is old but, I am just now discovering all the wonderful language learning websites out here. My question for you is how do you weed out those who are genuinely looking for help versus those who want to meet or something extra? I only ask because as soon as I made the profile, I had 10 men email asking for english skype sessions and even after politely saying maybe after getting to know you, they still email me multiple times.

    1. Stephanie Post author

      Hi Ana! I generally prefer working with female language partners. If you’re not comfortable talking to someone, then you’re under no obligation to answer their multiple emails!

  17. Peter

    Hi Stephanie

    Thanks very much for your detailed post. I’m intend to start using Italki this year to improve my Italian conversation but wasn’t quite sure how or where to start. I really appreciate the time and thought that you put into this.

    Many thanks


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