2016 New Year’s italki Language Challengers- Make a Public Video Pledge!

December 28th, 2015 | Posted by Iker in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on 2016 New Year’s italki Language Challengers- Make a Public Video Pledge!)

If you’ve signed up for the italki Language Challenge , here is a trick to motivate you to succeed!  Do you really want to complete the challenge?  Use peer pressure (in a good way) to help yourself achieve your language learning goal! Research has shown that if you put yourself up to something by doing it in public, you follow through because others are watching. Things that you put on the Web have a better chance of getting done!

How to Upload your Language Challenge Public Video Pledge

Make a Public Video Pledge by uploading a video to YouTube or Youku before you begin your first session (or your first few sessions).

Youtube video example:

Youku video example:


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.


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


The Hyperglot and “Hakuna Matata” 

November 19th, 2015 | Posted by Ivan in italki Team | tips - (Comments Off on The Hyperglot and “Hakuna Matata” )

There are many movies celebrating very particular hobbies. From surfing to stamp collecting, cinema illustrates the thrill of hobbies that capture our obsessions and imaginations.

What, then, about our favorite obsession: learning languages? Though there are plenty of actors who speak multiple languages, and quite a few movies where they switch fluidly among and between spoken languages, it is hard to identify a film that is about language-learning as a hobby.

Enter “The Hyperglot”, a 2013 short film celebrating the self-directed language learner. The story is simple: a talented, self-directed learner of languages in New York City is looking for connection. Switching fluidly among languages, he actually finds a greater degree of understanding from those UN-like him in speakers of languages from all corners of the world.

All of his interactions are with people who would otherwise be passers-by. Instead of leading separate lives intersecting only in time and space, our hero finds real connection with the people and linguistic worlds around him.

After the screening of this film at the NY Polyglot Conference 2015, the italki team decided to get together on a Thursday night, and watch it with a few friends. After the 25 minutes it took to watch the film, the mood of the room had changed. There is something magical about seeing one’s obsession affirmed in a work of art. The conversation among us became lively, excited. Various hidden language talents of the room burst forth and bloomed among us. We even decided to have a small language challenge of our own, to memorize “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King in a language we have not studied before. The choices ranged from Chinese to Icelandic, and we are sure to see some hilarious renditions of this song by italki staff on our instagram feed soon.

The bigger insight from this italki activity is this: language learning is a fundamentally community-oriented exercise. In the same way that we we build community around our passions in a local context, creation of art and media like “The Hyperglot” film provides additional motivation from inspiration and a feeling of partaking in a larger, more global experience. Learning foreign languages in isolation is self-contradictory, as language is the medium of connection and interaction.

Having our passions affirmed by our own “tribes” and communities helps us stick to the work involved in achieving our language goals, not just because of accountability, but because of the real rewards that come from interacting within and belonging to a group of friends. The presence of media dedicated to our passions helps us feel this on an even greater scale, and inspires us to dream and to succeed.

The trick to staying motivated, then, is surrounding ourselves with those who share our passion, as well as seeking out those inspiring works of art that celebrate and affirm our belief that our passion is worth pursuing.

italki October 2015 Language Challenge BEFORE and AFTER videos !

November 17th, 2015 | Posted by Nicolò Talignani in feature | Language Challenge | Learning English | members | Motivation - (Comments Off on italki October 2015 Language Challenge BEFORE and AFTER videos !)

Check out Videos of Students Who Completed the October 2015 Language Challenge!

So, first of all we would like to thank everyone of you who have joined the October 2015 Language Challenge. Whatever your reasons of learning languages, we hope that by doing this challenge you will have a consistent language learning habit throughout 2015!

Here are some of the best videos that we received for this challenge:

Alex Barnes from United Kingdom completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning German!

In July Alex already did italki language challenge in Chinese and this time he would like to do it in German. He studied Chinese and German at University in England but last year he was in China, so he has forgotten a lot of German. Alex has no particular goals but he wants to improve his pronunciation and accent and to be a bit more fluent when he talks. He has finished his October Language Challenge.

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Alex Gureev from Russia completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning English!

He decided for this Language Challenge to improve his English skills.

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Blair from the United States completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Dutch!

Blair wants to improve his target language that is Dutch.

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Israel from China completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Swedish!

Israel decided to learn Swedish because he is leaving in Sweden right now! He has finished his italki October Language Challenge!

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Helga from Russia completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Italian!

Helga was going to learn Italian. She speaks Italian quiet well but she was so struggle with propositions, articles and talking about the past.

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Jesper from Denmark completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Japanese!

Jesper has just completed the italki October Language Challenge where he was studying Japanese!

And here is the video after challenge:


Pierre Bredel from Brazil completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning English!

Pierre is learning English. This was his fifth italki Language Challenge.

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Zeeshan from the United States completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Spanish!

Zeeshan is learning Spanish. This time he was going to a continue practice in his Spanish because he wanted to achieve a really high level. His goal is to able to sustain high level conversations and more advanced topics such as global warming or alternative energies.

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Ric from the United States completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Spanish!

The main goal for Ric was to be able to speak Spanish faster!

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


Jonathan from the United States completed October 2015 Language Challenge learning Spanish and Italian!

Jonathan is learning Spanish and Italian. He wanted to improve his Spanish also because his family speak Spanish. Moreover Jonathan wanted to improve his Italian because he travels frequently for work in Italy!

Here is the public video pledge that he made before the challenge:

And here is the video after challenge:


We really do hope that after the challenge you will not stop learning languages. We hope that this challenge gives you that extra push to keep learning languages throughout the year!