We want you to get the most out of italki, and so we’re planning to write a series of blog posts for how you can improve your experience.

General tips for finding good language partners

1. First, offer to help other users

Many users ask other users to become friends by demanding that they help them learn a language.  This isn’t wrong exactly, but it’s always important to think from the other person’s perspective.  Ask yourself why this person would want to become your italki friend?

* Person A:  Hi

* Person B:  Teach me English I wan learn English very mch

* Person C:  Salut, I see that you are learning French.   I was born in Paris, and I am native speaker of French.   I was wondering if you could help me with English for practice in French?

bad introduction

bad introduction

In order to receive help, you must be willing to give it. Especially at the start, it’s important to let other users know that you’re interested in helping them too.

2. Show something real about yourself

Profile pictures
When you’re online, it is harder to build trust, so it’s important to try to be real. Not having a picture or using fake pictures makes it harder to connect with other users.

Which one of these is a real person?

Audrey Hepburn did not join italki

Audrey Hepburn did not join italki

Profile information

Likewise, profiles with no information makes it harder for other users to know if they should be friends with you. The more you’re willing to share about yourself, the more likely other people will be willing to share their time with you.  Again, always offer to help people in your profile.

3. Answer questions, ask questions

Answering questions is a great way to show other people that you are interested in sharing your knowledge. In addition, other users who have similar questions may view your answer and find you that way.

Asking good questions also shows potential language partners that you’re serious about learning a language. Some users are looking for longer-term study partners, and showing that you know something about the language helps the community understand who you are.

4. Having discussions in groups

Groups is another place to be seen and to participate in a dialogue.

In particular, if you are a teacher or tutor and want to let other language learners know that you are available to teach, definitely go to the help offered / schools and teachers group to post an introduction. If you are student looking for help, you should post here.

Likewise, if you’re a student, go post in a group like learning the language or in the help wanted / tests and exams area.

5. Don’t give up

It isn’t easy to find good long-term language partners, so don’t assume after sending five invitations that there is nobody who wants to work with you. It’s also important to know there are many reasons why people don’t reply or aren’t interested. Some users already have many friends, and don’t want to add new ones. Some users are just too busy.

Our main recommendation is just to keep on trying, and keep on coming back to the site. The language partner search results are generally filtered by who was last online — so don’t wait to be found. Stay online, and get involved!

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If you have other suggestions or ideas about how to get the most out of italki, please let us know in the comments below! You can also always send us feedback or email at feedback at italki dot com.

The italki team

Free Online Tools for Teachers

June 21st, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in tips - (2 Comments)

It’s been almost three months since we announced the launch of our Language Marketplace, and we’ve seen thousands of teachers register to teach on italki.  So far, most of our teachers have only been using software like Skype to teach online.  However, many teachers have asked us if there were other free tools that they could use to help them teach online.  Here are some of our favorites:

twiddla

Whiteboard – twiddla.com

  • Twiddla has a great whiteboard that lets you write and share ideas with multiple participants.  It is free, and incredibly easy to use.  You can start typing or drawing on it immediately, and all you need to do to share is to send someone a URL.  The whiteboard also comes with a text and audio chat, and you can also import pictures and documents .
  • You can try marking up this page right here:
    Twiddle this page!

Documents – scribd.comscribd

  • We’ve been long-time fans of Scribd.  With Scribd, you can upload and share word documents, powerpoints, PDF, and other types of files with students and other italki users.  We’ve integrated Scribd into the italki Resources section, so when you upload files to italki, all your students need to view it is just a link.  This avoids clogging up everyone’s mailboxes, and is a great way to spread the word about your services.
  • Note:  scribd.com has been blocked in mainland China.

Powerpoint / Slideshows – slideshare.comslideshare

  • Slideshows or powerpoints can be great tools for teaching or sharing information.  Slideshare has a nice way interface for flipping through different pictures and for full screen views.  If you like to teach with powerpoints, uploading to slideshare might be a nice option to have.

(more…)

Geeks on a Plane and BarCamp Shanghai

June 16th, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in event - (9 Comments)

This past week has been a really interesting for the startup scene in Shanghai.  The big catalyst was the Geeks on a Plane tour organized by Dave McClure of the FoundersFund and George Godula of Web2Asia.  This trip brought a number of entrepreneurs, bloggers, and venture capitalists from the US and Europe to Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai to learn about the tech scene in Asia.  The Geeks on a Plane tour also led into two other events:  TEDx Shanghai and BarCamp Shanghai.

Barcamp Shanghai was on Sunday, and about 120 people attended this un-conference for presentations and networking.  We even got a chance to do a short presentation about how we think connecting people over the internet is leading to major changes in language learning.  Many thanks to the organizers, which includes one of our team members (Toffler).  We had a great time and met a lot of interesting people.

On Monday, the Geeks tour was present at TEDx Shanghai, where there was a full day of presentations (you can catch the videos here).  We managed to meet a few of the Geeks after the presentations and also at the Geeks and Glamour after party.  Here are just a few of the people we wanted to give a mention to:

goapDave McClure
Mark Hendrickson
Benjamin Joffe
Dan Martell
Dug Song
Adriana Gasciogne
Larry Chiang
Marcus Nelson

Overall it was a really exciting time to be in Shanghai and in the technology space.  Hopefully, it won’t be another year before we see an event like this again!

The italki team

One important aspect of learning a language is getting connected into a community of students and teachers.  That’s why we revised our Groups function on italki.  We wanted to make it easier to have discussions about every aspect of learning a language.  

What we’ve done is create official italki Groups for every languageEach language now has five official groups called:

  • Learning the language
  • Teachers and Schools
  • Tests and Exams
  • Culture and Society
  • Travel, Living Abroad and Study Abroad

We made this change in order to consolidate discussions in each language.  All of the previous user-created groups still exist, and you can still create your own group.  As with before, each group is basically a forum where members of the group can create a topic and start a discussions with other group members. 

We also wanted to highlight a few interesting ways you could use groups.

Many teachers have asked us how they can reach students who are interested in paid tutoring sessions.  Teachers can now post information about themselves in the Teachers and Schools Group (example: Teachers and Schools for learning English).  We think this could be a great place for teachers to market to students, and for students to learn more about a teacher’s background and teaching style.

Another interesting use of groups could be for sharing test knowledge (example: Tests and Exams for learning English.   Now if you are taking a language test such as the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foriegn Language), the HSK (the main test for Chinese proficiency), or the AP Spanish test (US College Board’s test of Spanish competency) — you should be able to find discussions about how to prepare for them in the Tests and Exams group for that language.  

groups

In general, we just wanted to make it easier for the italki community to connect and communicate with each other.  If you have any questions about how to use groups or want to send us any feedback on the site changes, please click on our feedback link or send us an email (feedback at italki dot com). Your opinions really help us understand where we need to improve the site. And keep reading our blog – we’ll be letting you know about our future updates here.