adam-jackson-2009We’re excited to announce that italki has a new advisor — serial entrepreneur Adam Jackson (blog, twitter:@adamjacksonsf).  Jackson is the founder of venture-backed, as well as MarketSquare, which was eventually acquired by Intuit. Adam also invests in and advises other Silicon Valley startups.  Helping us will be his first overseas advisory role.

About Adam Jackson:

  • Adam specializes in consumer internet companies, and has founded three companies.
  • Founder of venture-backed Driverside helps people make better decisions about owning and maintaining their car.
  • Founder of MarketSquare, a company to help consumers find locally produced products. Acquired by StepUp Commerce, which in turn was acquired by Intuit (INTU) in 2006.
  • Advises Incentalign, Inc., a company which supports sales team optimization.
  • Adam graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Computer Science and Economics.

We’re excited to have Adam on our board of advisors, along with Porter Erisman and Tom Soohoo. We are a young company, and we really value the advice and help we get from these experienced entrepreneurs.

The italki Team


Get an italki T-shirt!

August 31st, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in announcement - (0 Comments)

zazzle tshirtHave you ever wanted a shirt featuring the italki pink?  Problem solved!

italki has a store at where you can customize tees and other products with the italki logo and the language you’re studying.  You can tell the world how much you love italki and what language you’re learning.  For example, one of our shirts says 我学习中文在 italki (which means “I’m studying Chinese at italki”).

Check out our storefront and start shopping now!  In fact, I think its time I start stocking up for winter and I really like the black italki sweatshirt…


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


Today we updated our social translation system to make it easier for members to help translate italki into other languages.  The new system handles translation on a page-by-page basis. This way, if you see a bad translation, you can click the “Translate this page” button, and immediately submit a correction.


The “Translate this page” link is located in the upper right-hand corner. When you click on it, it will open a new window or tab.  By opening the translate page side-by-side with the original site, you can refer back to the original page to get better understanding of the context.


The translate page is broken into three sections.
1. Phrases that haven’t been translated yet
2. Phrases that have translations submitted
3. Phrases that have been locked.
If you start at the top, you can start translating by just typing in the box and hitting enter or by clicking “Submit”. Don’t worry if you see phrases that don’t seem to be on the page — those are phrases that might be useful for other users.


All the phrases that have at least one translation are listed in the second section. If you see a translation that could be improved, you can click on “vote / fix”. You should be able to see a list of submitted translations. You can vote on the submitted translations or submit a translation of your own.

One thing about crowdsourcing changes to a website is that there is a time delay before having a fully translated site. This is particularly true as we’ve made a lot of changes to the site in the past few months. As new features come online, more and more translations need to be updated. We realize that it is inconvenient to deal with a site that isn’t fully translated (or translated well), and we hope you’ll help us get the site ready in your language. We will periodically merge the changes to the main site.

Finally, since we are using English as the base language for the website, if you run into bad English on the site, please let us know through our feedback or through email (feedback at italki). We want to avoid having errors translated throughout the site.

Thanks again! We really believe that italki is a product of our community, so we want to thank you in advance for all of your help.

The italki team


cashU from Maktoob

We’re excited to announce that we’ve now started accepting payments through cashU. cashU is a popular payment service that is used in many countries where credit card payments are not accepted. In the Middle East, for example, credit cards are not often used online due to fraud and security concerns. However, cashU has payment options such as prepaid scratch cards that are a secure method for handling online payments.

Roughly 15% of italki users come from the Middle East, and we hope that by expanding their payment options that more users will be able to participate in the language marketplace.

Prepaid Cards

Prepaid Cards

We believe that the potential market is all of these regions is immense, especially when compared with offline learning options. For example, we believe being able to learn English with online courses for $16 USD / year, and with professional online teachers, could radically change the language education market.

cashU is part of the Maktoob Group, which operates one of the Arabic region’s leading portals ( cashU is offered in 28 countries around the world, including the Middle East, China and some European countries.

We’re planning to add more payment options in the near future, and we’ll let you know about those here on the blog.

Arabic Press Release (PDF)

The italki team