Author Archives: Ivan

italki receives Series A funding!

June 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Ivan in announcement | feature - (Comments Off on italki receives Series A funding!)

Thank you, readers and followers.

Today we are very proud to announce some big news. italki is announcing its Series A funding, with China’s leader in online education, Hujiang, having invested $3 Million USD on June 21, 2016. We are very excited about developing new features, expanding our reach to mobile customers, and helping many more people become fluent in any language. Thank you all for your continued support.

Please find the press release below:

italki, a marketplace for online language teachers, announced a $3 million USD Series A funding from Hujiang, China’s largest e-learning platform.

The funding will be used to expand italki’s marketplace, which connects learners with online language teachers for 1-on-1 language lessons. The company states it has over 3000 active language teachers, and thousands of paid online lessons take place daily.

Hujiang has been expanding internationally, and has made partnerships with the world’s largest education companies, including McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and HarperCollins. Hujiang’s latest funding was for $157 million USD, and its investor list includes China Minsheng Investment, and Chinese tech giant Baidu.

The investment by Hujiang highlights the growth potential in education technology, which is estimated as over $20 billion USD in China alone. It also shows Hujiang’s interest in expanding into markets outside of China; notably, italki’s largest markets are the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, and Brazil. Both companies plan to expand their services in China, where Hujiang already has over 100 million users.

About italki
Drawing on his own personal experiences learning French and Chinese, Kevin Chen, co-founded italki with Yongyue Jiang in order to help people learn a foreign language by connecting them to native speakers.

“When I studied Chinese in Shanghai, my progress was a lot faster than when I learned French in high school. It wasn’t because the textbooks or teachers were better. The difference was that I had many opportunities to meet native speakers and to use the language for real communication. We’re trying to give learners everywhere that same opportunity by connecting them to native teachers online,” said Kevin Chen.

Finding online language teachers and language partners is becoming a popular way to learn a language. Many “polyglots” or “language hackers” like Tim Ferriss, Benny Lewis, Richard Simcott, and Olly Richards, believe that communication with native speakers is the key to language acquisition.

Teachers on italki set their own prices, and italki generates a 15% commission from the lessons transacted on the platform. The average price for an hour of personal lessons on italki is $10-15 per hour, which can be significantly more affordable than traditional language schools and tutoring.

italki started in 2007 as a social network for language exchange, and in 2009, it launched its teacher marketplace. italki has grown to over 3000 active teachers giving language lessons in over 70 languages. The most popular language to learn is English, which accounts for roughly 50% of the lessons transacted on the site, followed by Spanish, French, Chinese, and Japanese. The site even offers endangered languages such as Native American Blackfoot, and South African Xhosa.

About Hujiang
Hujiang is China’s largest e-learning platform, aiming to provide users with convenient, high quality and comprehensive online learning products and services. Since its establishment, Hujiang has built four business units: learning news, learning community, learning tools and learning platforms, covering various content including higher-education entrance examinations, examinations for studying abroad, languages, careers and hobbies.

In recent years, Hujiang has strongly supported start-ups in online education and actively built an online education ecosystem to achieve a win-win situation. In the meantime, Hujiang has collaborated with traditional schools to narrow the educational gap and promote the educational equity, bringing high quality educational resources to every corner in the world through Internet. Now, as the leader in online education, Hujiang has over 100 million users and has influenced 200 million learners.

italki 2016 New Year Language Challenge Wrap-up

March 29th, 2016 | Posted by Ivan in event | italki Team | Language Challenge - (Comments Off on italki 2016 New Year Language Challenge Wrap-up)

The 2016 New Year Language Challenged has come to a close, and the experience was and inspiring and productive one.

This has been by far the largest language challenge in the history of italki, and we are deeply grateful to our students and teachers for inspiring us with your passion for language learning.

Thousands of italki learners have completed tens of thousands of hours of lessons, and the language challenge videos that you have submitted are truly inspiring!

As many of you noticed, we have changed the format of the challenge, adding intermediate rewards, while also making entry into the challenge free. Among these intermediate rewards was the chance to win $500 towards a trip to a destination of your choice. We’re very excited to congratulate Cyd, a student of French from the UK!

As is italki tradition, several of our own team members have participated in the challenge. Check out the “after” video of our very own designer, Andrey, who has taken more than 30 lessons in Portuguese, to prepare for his visit to Brazil. Congratulations, Andrey, on becoming a language Captain!

Thank you very much. We are already looking forward to the next one!

italki is migrating our data to a new system! What it means for you…

January 15th, 2016 | Posted by Ivan in announcement | italki Team - (Comments Off on italki is migrating our data to a new system! What it means for you…)

On Monday, January 18th, the italki website will be undergoing maintenance approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes (From UTC 00:40 to UTC 06:00).

We apologize for the inconvenience, and want you to know that this interruption is necessary to implement several important changes to our data infrastructure. As we make changes to make our site function better and faster (as well as making it prettier and more user-friendly) we are also improving the infrastructure behind the site.

After this change, you can look forward to the following enhancements to the site:

  1. Our database infrastructure will be improved, meaning faster and more reliable performance from the site.
  2. Future maintenance and changes to the database infrastructure will not interrupt your access to the site.
  3. Overall, the system will be more resilient, meaning the site will be significantly less likely to experience interruptions.

Our data will now be housed in two separate places, allowing us to continually improve the performance of the site and service without interrupting your ability to schedule sessions and access your data. This will translate into faster implementation of the changes and improvements to the site, and should make your italki experience faster and easier.

We are constantly trying to improve the system, and there are loads of cool new things coming italki that will make your learning easier and more fun (at least from the technical side, as we haven’t discovered technology to download vocabulary and speaking practice directly into your brain… yet).

Thank you for bearing with us, and if you have any concerns or questions during this maintenance period, our support staff are standing by to help. Please use this form to create a service request, or write to our support staff directly: support@italki.com.

 

Learning a Language: It Takes a Village

December 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Ivan in Motivation | tips - (Comments Off on Learning a Language: It Takes a Village)

We live in an age of “being connected”. The number of smartphone users connected to the internet is expected to reach 6.1 Billion in the next 5 years. By this point in time, around 70% of the world’s population will have access to the internet (and the vast majority of human knowledge) in their pocket.

This constant connection is incredibly useful. From buying groceries, looking up a quick fact, getting directions, or speaking to someone on the other side of the world, this connectedness is convenient.

The convenience of online solutions to life’s problems necessarily touch language learning as well. Learning a language on your own can be a rewarding hobby, and there are plenty of tools to help you along. From learning vocabulary on Memrise to watching video lessons on Youtube, to using Anki flashcards and reading blogs about language education, the internet is a great place to find resources. Even italki has advice for how to move your language learning forward by yourself.

Unfortunately, there is often a temptation to limit one’s education to just these solitary activities. It is understandable why: we like activities in which we can easily see our progress. Memorizing a hundred words using flashcards is a rewarding activity. It creates the experience of progress. The experience of memorization gives us immediate feedback, and because of this it is easy to get caught-up in the exercises, and forget that language is inherently a social activity. In fact, there are theories of language development that explain the evolution of language as a way to expand our social groups. (This theory also thinks of language as a form of grooming, as seen ape societies.)

Though it is possible, and often makes sense to practice individual language skills alone (for example, building up vocabulary), it is through integration of these individual skills that we get the practice which will help us approach fluency.

Moreover, the rewards of learning are not the numbers of memorized words or the efficiency with which you construct sentences. The fundamental reward of speaking a foreign language is gaining perspective, understanding someone from a different culture and world, and being understood by them. Experiencing the social rewards of the work you are doing by learning a foreign language will encourage you to keep going. That magical moment of understanding and being understood makes the process of studying and practicing worthwhile.

As we enter the holiday season, a time many countries and societies celebrate togetherness, family, and connection to their communities, we hope you take the opportunity to practice your language skills, and share your excitement about learning languages with those close to you, perhaps even by speaking to them in their own languages! Don’t get lost in solo practice, but reward yourself and connect with others by sharing the wonder and excitement of language learning.

 

 

 

 

This is your brain on “Thank You”

November 26th, 2015 | Posted by Ivan in tips | Writing - (Comments Off on This is your brain on “Thank You”)

This is not a post about Thanksgiving, it is about Giving Thanks. 

Though the Thanksgiving holiday itself is very U.S.-centric, the concept of the importance of gratitude is universal. Since the mid 90s, the concept of gratitude has captured the attention of researchers in the fields of psychology, especially positive psychology, and neuroscience.

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The strongest pattern emerging from the study of gratitude is somewhat surprising: although expressing gratitude often means thanking someone else, the real benefit of feeling and expressing gratitude is gained by the person expressing gratitude. Even when expressed to no one in particular, expression of gratitude has some real and measurable benefits.

Among the benefits described by academic studies of the subject are increased happiness, better connections with others, and general improvement of one’s relationships.

Expressing gratitude routinely trains the brain to find reasons to be grateful, and trains the brain to feel happy about positive experiences. In fact, the field of neuroscience generally sees habitual practice of feeling, acknowledging, and expressing gratitude as a great shortcut to happiness, productivity, and connectedness.

As a company that is based almost entirely on connecting people, we believe strongly that the practice of gratitude, and the benefits of expressing gratitude in everyday life are worth celebrating.

So, we would like to say:

Thank You

To all our wonderful users, students, teachers, and tutors: we want to express the immense amount of gratitude we feel seeing the development of our community. This Thanksgiving, we are deeply grateful for all the people donating their time to others by correcting notebooks, writing articles, sharing their experiences in the community discussions, and dedicating the time and effort for learning foreign language from each other, often from opposite sides of the world. We are grateful to see the meaning our effort can take on for those who want to understand speakers of other languages, and willing to dedicate their time and energy to help the online language-learning ecosystem grow and develop.

We are glad to express this idea, and hope that you will find many ways to express it, and many people to whom you want to show your gratitude.

A common practice recommended by positive psychology is of gratitude journaling. Picking a certain time of the day to do a simple mindful practice of finding reasons to be grateful helps make the habit part of one’s life. This kind of continuous practice is familiar to all language-learners.

Imagine how hard it would be to learn a language if you simply spent one day each year binging on foreign-language material, and lived the rest of the year unconcerned with your practice. As with gratitude, language learning is a continuous practice of small, but intentional steps towards a goal, a better understanding, and better connection to others.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, and in light of this idea of continuous improvement and practice, we would like to share this article about Thanksgiving written by a Lakota columnist for the Guardian.

And, of course, we’d like to encourage you to say “thank you” to someone today, in whatever language you want to pick.

 

Works Cited:

Harvard Medical School: Harvard Mental Health Letter

Psychology Today: The Grateful Brain

US National Library Of Medicine: Gratitude and Well Being