italki Team Language Challenge – Week 2 Update

January 29th, 2015 | Posted by Aimé in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off)

The italki team is taking the 2015 New Year’s Language Challenge

How much Chinese can they learn in 20 hours?

3 members of the team at italki are taking the language challenge to improve their skill in Mandarin. Each of them will have 20 hours of lessons between January and February. Can you do better than them?  Check out their original Public Video Pledges that they made at the beginning of the Challenge here.

Week 2 Updates


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Italki Challenge: The Game Is On

January 28th, 2015 | Posted by Jim in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off)

Teddy Nee runs a popular language learning blog called Nee’s Language Blog. He’s also taking the 2015 New Year’s Language Challenge and is making regular updates on goal to learn Portuguese for the Challenge. Reposted with permission. Original post here.

Italki Challenge: The Game Is On

English: Flag of Portuguese language of Portug...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been one week after the challenge started and I have taken four classes so far. It was a bit off schedule but hopefully, I can manage to do more classes on the following weeks.

My target language in this challenge is Portuguese, just general Portuguese, means that I do not specify the target for any certain kind of Portuguese (as what we have known, there are Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese from Portugal)

My reason is that because I have known Spanish and I have actually started reading about Portuguese before Italki Challenge. In that case, I thought it might be better to learn another Romance language since I have known one of them.

Quick tips:
As a rule of thumb, learning a language from the same language family with the language(s) that you have known saves much time and effort, since you might have known a large amount of the language traits even before learning it.

Class Tutor and Learning Material

I plan to have as minimum as four classes per week, with one hour per class session, in order to reach the target of 20 hours between January 15th and February 28th. I have an 8-5 job from Monday to Friday, so the only time I have for learning language is after dinner.

I found a tutor from Portugal named Sophia, who I have known before Italki Challenge. She has taught 85 students from around the world and has completed more than 190 class sessions. Apart from Portuguese, she is also teaching Spanish, Galician, andMirandese.

We talk only in Portuguese during the class although it is not that easy to understand even though I have known Spanish, due to its pronunciation. However, I find it easier to understand written text, sometimes with the help of dictionary.

My main goal is to improve grammatical and conversational skill, as well as to learn about the differences among different kinds of Portuguese language. And since my tutor is from Portugal, I am also interested to know more about the country and its culture.

English: map showing CPLP member countries. Es...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Final Thoughts

Learning is a lifetime process, one cannot excel in only a fortnight. Thus, I also practice the language by myself outside of the class continuously.

Most of the time, I listen to Portuguese songs or radio broadcasts while doing things, or even working. My job requires me to sit in front of computer the whole day, so I am much benefited by this condition.

Other than that, I also like to read articles about language learning, business, technology, or sociocultural related topics and I try my best to also read in Portuguese. Basically, I am including foreign language into my daily chores.

Are you also participating Italki Challenge? Share your progress with me in the comment.


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How to take your italki tutoring to the next level

January 26th, 2015 | Posted by Jim in feature | Language Challenge | Motivation - (Comments Off)

Chris Broholm runs a great blog called Actual Fluency. It’s his way to research language learning but most importantly it is a way to tell the world that ANYONE CAN LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE. He’s currently taking the italki 2015 New Year’s Language Challenge to learn Russian and shared this great post that will help anyone taking the challenge or learning a new language. Original post here.

How to take your iTalki tutoring to the next level

In this post I’ll share a few ways you can take your iTalki tutoring to the next level, as well as give you an update on my Russian mission and iTalki New Year’s challenge.

I’m currently 2.5 hours into my iTalki New Year’s Challenge to complete 20 hours of language tutoring in just 45 days. You can still join the challenge, but be quick as registration ends January 31st.

The iTalki New Year’s challenge is going strong, and I’m really enjoying getting daily lessons. In today’s post I thought I’d give you an idea how my tutoring experience has evolved and also share some of the things I have found to be working really great. I’ll also share an actual recording from a recent session. You can hear me struggle, stumble and pause as I desperately try to speak Russian.

In the second section of the post I will answer some questions that was written to me using the contact page. If you have any question about language learning, you are more than welcome to do the same!

What’s changed in my tutoring

Lenght of sessions

A lot has changed in my tutoring since I began in autumn last year. First I discovered that 60 minute lessons were simply too long. After just 40 minutes my brain would begin to feel ready to explode, after having frantically searched every available cell for Russian words. By 50 minutes I could hardly say a thing, and by 60 minutes I was fried.

I’m sure this is different from person to person, but after I switched to half-sessions twice as often I feel way better. 30 minutes seems like a perfect length for me but also for the kind of discussion I usually have with my teacher.

Speed of the language

After my extended break from Russian studies over the Christmas period I told my tutor that my goals for the iTalki Challenge would be to speak better and also be able to understand radio and television. I also asked if we could speed up the language a bit. Up until now she had been speaking very slowly, which was fantastic when I just started, but as I grew stronger in the language it was time to let go of the crutches!

Now she speaks a lot faster. Nowhere near native-like speed, but a lot faster than last year. I can only recommend that you re-evaluate your goals with your tutor on a frequent basis. Also make sure to let him/her know if you have specific goals, so he/she can plan the sessions.

A clearer goal

My tutoring sessions last year were great, don’t get me wrong. But they lacked the direction I was looking for, simply because I hadn’t told my tutor exactly what I wanted. I was being lazy and simply left it to her to plan each lesson.

Since I stepped up and asked my tutor to focus on the spoken language we’ve started working with Russian tv-shows. And man, is it challenging. They speak SO fast! The first show she had me watch, I literally struggled to understand 1 in 10 words. It’s getting better now with more and more exposure, but most importantly is that we work based on the episodes.

She gives me questions for a section of an episode and because this is my chosen goal, I work much harder to prepare for each session. Looking up words and preparing sentences. I didn’t do this last year.

Often we don’t quite cover the questions because we often go off on tangents related to culture and other normal conversation topics. This makes me extremely confident that I’m on the right path towards conversational fluency.

Listen to me in action!

Here’s a brand-new tutoring session I had with my tutor this week.

We were discussing this episode:

Reader questions about tutoring

These came in recently from a user, submitted via the contact page. You are always welcome to send me a message as well! I read every one of them.

Do you recommend your tutor?

My tutor Anastasia is fantastic. She has endless amounts of patience and has a lot of experience in tutoring on iTalki. You can count on her to prepare interesting materials before every lesson, and she always replied to my questions over Skype outside of lessons as well.

She’s also great at adapting the lessons for my needs, as I explained above. On top of all her fee is very reasonable.

What do you look for, when choosing a tutor on iTalki?

The best indicator for me would be the user reviews tied to the teacher profile. Go in there and see the scores and also if students left actual text reviews. Although iTalki gives the students the option to leave a written review at the end of a session, most are too lazy to do it. So if you see good reviews across the board, it usually means the teacher is doing well.

Experience with other languages, amount of lessons he/she has taught as well as diplomas are other indicators to look for when making your decision. Ultimately though it comes down to trial and error. Just because Anastasia works great for me, doesn’t mean that she is the best fit for you. iTalki offers you 3 trial lessons, which are discounted lessons so you can try out different tutors before you hire one for real.

How often (and for how long) do you think one should take lessons there?

As often as possible! Depending on your budget, schedule and goals in the language. I would just go for as many as that combination allows. My feeling is that you should aim to get at the VERY least a lesson per fortnight, but the more the better.

You can’t take too many lessons. But I believe there is definitely a correlation between the quality of tutoring related to how far apart the lessons are, meaning that the longer you wait in between lessons, the more likely it is that you have forgotten things that you could have potentially refreshed, had you had a tutoring session earlier.

Also by having more frequent lessons your general language learning is more focused, and you are more motivated because you are working towards a tangiable, upcoming goal.

That’s it! 2.5 hours down, 17.5 hours to go!

I hope you enjoyed my post on tutoring. For more information on the topic I highly suggest Benny Lewis’ extensive article on it here: How to find the right teacher for online language lessons.

How is your iTalki challenge going? Let me know in the comments below!

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The italki team is taking the 2015 New Year’s Language Challenge

How much Chinese can they learn in 20 hours?

3 members of the team at italki are taking the language challenge to improve their skill in Mandarin. Each of them will have 20 hours of lessons between January and February. Can you do better than them?  Check out their original Public Video Pledges that they made at the beginning of the Challenge here.

aime_circleAimé, Intern

Week 1

In this first week I’ve managed to complete 3 hours of lessons with my teacher Lea. I’m still feeling pretty confident about the challenge and the goals that I set out for myself, although it is a lot harder than I anticipated.

I’m having the most trouble with my pronunciation but my teacher assures me that with lots of practice outside our lessons I will start to see improvements. Before we started the challenge I had a talk with my teacher about my Language challenge goals and she believes its doable if I commit myself and trust myself for the next six weeks and she assured me she will do everything possible to help me achieve my goals.

My goal for the first week was to memorize about 4-5 sentences but unfortunately I came a little short, as I’ve been able to only memorize 3. Going into the second week I am a lot more determined to practicing by myself and working on my pronunciation. My goal this week is to learn 5 new sentences and to start using them around the office.


josie_circleJosie, Services

Week 1

After the first of the language challenge I unfortunately have not been able to take any lessons yet. I’m feeling a little nervous as my schedule has all of a sudden gotten fuller, so taking lessons after work isn’t as easy I thought it would. Also my Internet connection has been bad lately so that doesn’t help much.

Fortunately I have my teacher on WeChat now so it’s a lot easier for us to communicate. We have not talked much about the challenge yet but she is aware that I am taking the challenge and would like to use have as my teacher. I told her what my goals were for this language challenge and she was able to send me an online book to help me get started, which I have found to be very helpful. I also asked her to give me some homework because otherwise I won’t work as hard.

My goals for this next week is to get at least 2 lessons and sit down and study for at least 3 hours. I want to be able to put my notes on flashcards to help with my vocabulary but I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I’m really hoping my second week of the challenge goes better than my first week but I’m still very confident I am going to kick Kartick and Aimé’s butts in this challenge.



Karthik, Data Scientist

Week 1

After the first week of the challenge I have been able to get 1 hour of lessons under my belt. I’m starting to feel a little anxious, 20 hours is a lot! I thought taking 1 lesson every other day would be easy but in the evenings after work, its usually hard for me to focus on much.

My teacher and I have discussed my goals for this language challenge and she assured me she would make lessons geared towards a more conversational focus that are appropriate for my level, context, and needs.

My goals for this upcoming week are to be able to introduce myself, memorize 20 words of fruits and vegetables and have a 30 seconds conversation. I think I will be able to meet my learning goals for week 2 but I’m afraid I might now meet my session goals once again.

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One of our italki Language Challengers, Anil Polat runs a self-travel blog called foXnoMad.  He’s been taking sessions even before the Challenge and is already at 6 weeks where he began Arabic with absolutely no ability.  For our Challengers, this is something that you can expect after you complete the Challenge!  He only did 19 hours so far (at 6 weeks) but it’s pretty close.  Reprinted with permission. Original article here.

By The Numbers: What My Arabic Lessons With italki Look Like After 6 Weeks

craiova romania

At the beginning of December, I began a 3 month project with the language learning site italki with the goal to be conversationally fluent in Arabic. Having now completed a third of the way, here are the raw numbers on my progress and what I’ve learned so far.

19: Number Of Course Hours

I’m taking roughly 5 hours of lessons a week, once per weekday. (I’ve tried two hours sessions but after 60 minutes I begin to lose focus.)

100%: Percentage Of Arabic Script I Can Read And Write

Although it was intimidating at first, I can comfortably read Arabic script as well as write by phonetically sounding out words.

nick miller

2: Number Of Instructors

I spent some time trying out several teachers to get an idea of styles as well as evaluate which might be the best fit for me personally. I eventually fell into a good routine with two particular instructors whose structured lesson plans I’m benefiting from greatly.

1910: italki Credits Used

That would be the equivalent of about $190 for courses so far. Although every instructor sets their own rates, almost all seem to fall into the 120 italki credit (~$12 USD) range. Here’s a bit more on how italki works exactly.

university hall

At Least 100: Words Learned

This one’s hard to quantify but it has to be at least one hundred, not including various common phrases as well.

Where I’m At Right Now

At this point I can conjugate verbs in the past tense from memory and know many of these essential travel word combinations. In a relatively short time, I’ve picked up the structure of Arabic: the rules and grammar which make the language work. Early on I wasn’t sure if laying down this foundation first (prior to speaking skills) would be efficient but the thorough italki instructors have proved me otherwise.

I’ll keep you updated with my weekly progress. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below about the italki process, specifics of what I’m learning, or any tips you might have to make me a better student!

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