Author Archives: Kevin

Scheduled Maintenance: December 17 UTC 9:00

December 17th, 2009 | Posted by Kevin in announcement - (4 Comments)

italki is undergoing scheduled maintenance on December 17 UTC 9:00.  We’ll be back shortly with some improved features.

We apologize about any inconvenience we’ve caused.  The site should be back up shortly.

The italki team

Update: That took way longer than we expected. Sorry! We hope you like the improvements.

JCBカードがご利用いただけるようになりました! (italki now accepts JCB credit cards)

October 28th, 2009 | Posted by Kevin in marketplace - (Comments Off on JCBカードがご利用いただけるようになりました! (italki now accepts JCB credit cards))

メンバー様へのサービス向上を図るため、italkiでは JCBカード の取り扱いを開始しました。これまでのITCクレジットの購入ページからご利用頂けます。

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We just wanted to note that italki now accepts JCB credit cards. JCB (Japan Credit Bureau) is similar to Visa or Mastercard, and is widely used in Japan and other countries, including South Korea, China, Taiwan, and the United States. You’ll see the JCB option when you go to purchase italki Credits (ITC). We hope this makes it easier to purchase language products and services on italki.

Edukwest: Talking with Kirsten Winkler about italki

September 21st, 2009 | Posted by Kevin in media - (Comments Off on Edukwest: Talking with Kirsten Winkler about italki)

If you don’t know who Kirsten Winkler is, you really should. She is a professional language teacher who has become an expert in the field of online language education. Between her blog and her E-Teachers Academy and conferences, I think there are few people who understand the evolving space of online language education as well as she does. You could say Kirsten is the equivalent of techcrunch for online language learning.

One of her main projects is called Edukwest, and she has been interviewing a lot of inspiring people in the online language learning space. She asked to interview us at italki, and we gladly took the opportunity.

Here’s the direct page to the interview

And here’s that interview embedded (you’ll need a proxy to view it if you’re in China):

We covered a lot of topics in the interview, and one thing we hope that is clear is that it is an exciting time to be a startup in this area. The technology and the market is evolving very quickly, and we’re only just seeing the start of these new and potentially world-changing ideas. I believe everyone shares this core belief that technology can play a critical role in improving the old way of language learning. The impressive thing about Kirsten is that she has actually met and interviewed a lot of these people!

Again, if you want to know all the latest news, as well as engage in the latest debates about online language education, read Kirsten’s blog or follow her on twitter (@kirstenwinkler). And of course, you can also get involved and influence the shape of things to come just by commenting on a blog or sending emails!

September is the last month to purchase SpeakENG 1-Year Course for $16!

September 18th, 2009 | Posted by Kevin in announcement | marketplace - (Comments Off on September is the last month to purchase SpeakENG 1-Year Course for $16!)

We wanted to let everyone know that September will be the last chance to purchase the SpeakENG 1-Year Online Course for $16 USD. We’ve been offering the 1-year course at this very, very low price as a promotion. While we’re happy to say that it has generated a lot of interest, we’re sorry to say that this promotion is coming to an end!

So this is your last chance to purchase the 1-Year SpeakENG Online Course for $16 USD!

If you know anyone who is studying English, please tell them to join italki and purchase it soon! The price for the same package starting in October will be $40 USD! Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

If you don’t know much about the SpeakENG Online Course, you can read the description here. It’s important to remember that SpeakENG has two main parts:
1) Online Course: Multimedia lessons, English exercises, grammar explanations, roleplaying games, and much more. The courses run from beginner levels to advanced.
2) One-on-One Tutoring with a professional American teacher: Included with the 1-year online course is a 15 minute session with a professional US teacher. The teacher can answer any questions the student may have, in addition to structuring a one-on-one live teaching course. Students are encouraged to purchase additional teaching sessions.

Here is a sample video of what a SpeakENG online course looks like:

You can also view a short sample of a one-on-one tutoring session here.

We hope people studying English will take advantage of this promotional pricing! It is really a tremendous value that is hard to compare with.

Also, it’s the last chance to register for our sweepstakes the Great English Giveaway. We’re giving away 20 SpeakENG 1-month Online Courses, and all you have to do is post in that group. We’ll be choosing the winners on Monday. Go post now, and if you don’t win next week — make sure you purchase SpeakENG by the end of the month!

The italki team

Last night, we got the opportunity to present at the E-Teachers Academy Conference on Communities and the Power of Crowdsourcing, hosted by Kirsten Winkler (@KirstenWinkler). We’re always impressed with how Kirsten is able to organize these conferences with so many of the key players in our space. There were presentations from Languages Out There, Busuu, Wiziq and us.

Kirsten has written a more detailed review of the conference, and the presentations are all embedded on her blog. If you’re interested in the specific comments, you should definitely take a look.

Overall, we thought the attendees were positive on the value of communities for language learning, but much more skeptical about the potential in crowdsourcing. The sense was that people could rely on help from other members in a community, provided the community was well run and focused. However, the product of collaborative work from the community was generally lacking in creativity and often of very poor quality.

At italki, we have tried crowdsourcing in many areas of our site, and we are well aware of the difficulties in crowdsourcing. As we mentioned in our presentation, you don’t always get the perfect answer when you want it. However, we are definiely positive on its long-term potential. We have just updated our community-based site translation feature, for example.

In addition, we do think it is possible to collaboratively create language learning materials, particularly if the license for the content is under the Creative Commons. Our inspiration here remains Wikipedia. We agree that art and literature designed by committee sounds awful. However, we think it is too pessimistic to say that basic materials for language learning can not be created collaboratively. It seems to run contrary to experience of impressive resources being released for other academic subjects (see MIT Open Courseware, and Connexions).

It was an interesting conference, and the discussion gave us a lot to think about. We want to give special thanks to Kirsten again for organizing it, as well as Wiziq for hosting the event with their virtual classroom. We’re definitely looking forward to the next one!

Kevin and the italki team