A couple of other things about italki that I can share…it is free! The free account limits…friend requests, notebook entries, discussion, entries and question entries to 2 per day each. Not that big of a deal. The other thing is they give you highlighting for questions and notebook for premium. But to get premium all you have to do is buy credits and the premium is built in. Also, once you do get credits, there are no limits, so trying italki for free is certainly a worthwhile adventure. Looking for language partners is totally free, so you technically never have to spend any money if you don’t want to. I think a lot of people use italki for that very reason, also might be why there are some flaky people. If you can speak somewhat and can find a native speaker that speaks your language (doesn’t have to be English) and just want to practice talking, that’s easy and simple to coordinate…email/link/friend and done then you can skype whenever.
A couple of things of other possibly useful things…italki passes the cc/paypal fees back onto you. They have various ways to pay but all of them do this. It is a minor annoyance and reminds me of the 80s when there were different prices for cc / cash, which seems to be what we have gone back to…ugh! … Anyway, typically this is about 3-5% of the transaction. It will depend on the payment method and amount of credits you buy. If you do sign up for an account, you can check all this before making a purchase to see what it will cost ahead of time. They do have gift cards so if you have family friends that want to donate to help you out that can also offset any costs. The fee is on top of the credit so if you need $50 for lessons, they will charge say $53 and you keep the 50 for lessons.
The more you buy the less the fees, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay for a single $10 lesson as you might pay 5% vs about 3-4% if you do $100. One other thing that worried me a bit is that italki isn’t refundable. This was a big concern when I started because I thought if I hate this, I’m stuck. I think for the most part, you’ll find that isn’t that big of an issue to worry about. Just find an instructor that works for you. You can contact them for free before buying any credits at all! I highly recommend contacting them and see how they respond to you. To this day there is one person I wanted to take lessons with, but our schedules didn’t match. She seemed friendly patient and all around like a good teacher. Doing the trial lessons is a must really. Find an instructor you like with a small first time (maybe $30) to cover the trial lessons. They aren’t free, but they are very inexpensive usually about 50% of the regular prices. I guess too many people took advantage of the free lessons and would flake on the instructors taking up time slots.
Anyway, once you find an instructor you like, then see if they have a bulk lesson purchase option. E.g…I can buy several lessons at a small discount about 5% of the cost of several lessons helps a bit. Also, that offsets the cc/paypal fees. Personally, I have been doing about 150 at a time and then buy a block of 5 lessons. 150 covers 2 blocks for me. That ends up being 10 hours of lessons about 15 bucks an hour…not bad right? There is a time limit of 6 months or so that you have to use them by but that’s not really a restriction, especially if you use them once a week. For me personally this works out well. I figure I spend no more than 60-75/mo on tutoring and it give me all the time I want to talk and work on whatever. Plus, it left money over for the lifetime WK lol. If choose to use a professional teacher, say you spend 25/lesson that’s still only about 100 a month. A semester in college/school is more than 400-500 for 4-5 months, right? Also, you are not limited to a single instructor. You can certainly mix/match as much as you want. If you do go with a professional instructor wait to buy books until you decide who you will use. With amazon you can get whatever book you need in day or two anyway.
I might move up to 2x a week for speaking practice, but work and life just doesn’t give me quite that level of time to study and prepare for a lesson every 3-4 days. I did try this in 2x 30min per week in the beginning but when I first started it was a tad overwhelming and especially not having any real vocabulary. My tutor just started with very basic stuff and some cards for simple reading and speaking. Something a 1st grader might use but it was a good place for a beginner. Now 5 months later I can speak (slowly) 80% of the time mostly. I think you have to remember no matter how bad you think you are, look at where you came from and how much you have improved over the little time you have put in. Try to be reasonable with your expectations. I want to be fluent, and I know it won’t happen overnight, but that sometimes can be discouraging. Just keep swimming …
As with most people, I feel listening is a hurdle. Passive listening (tv/media) vs active listening (someone asking you a direct question) when you need to focus on what’s being said, understand and respond is certainly more challenging. Following a textbook is fine but going outside those bounds is when I find it more difficult. I listen to as much as I can, but even still that’s something that I think I find the most challenging. It is improving though. I get excited when I get a whole sentence from tv or something. The easy ones are simple, but sometimes I’ll hear a something said, and they will start on the next thing and I have to stop it and go wait a minute I understood all of that! It’s really great when I get 2-3 in a row. I know that seems silly, but that always makes me happy.
If you do have time and the vocab for 2x a week I would recommend it. When I first started this, I asked my instructor/tutor for her suggestions. She said to do a speaking lesson at least 1x a week. Her personal feelings are that 2x a week is much better for retention. She recommended avoiding every other week unless it was absolutely necessary. She said most of the students that do a lesson every other week end up forgetting what they learned 2 weeks prior. Knowing what I know now I do tend to agree with this. I still forget some stuff after a week, 2 weeks would be worse. She said that she ends up using most of the time to review what was forgotten from 2 weeks prior. She says it is hard to make forward progress and can be frustrating for both the tutor and student.
Also, I did a quick check this morning for you…average costs for a Native Japanese Speaker that speaks English for a professional teacher is about 20-25/hr and a community tutor is about 10-15/hr. These are averages. But you can check all this out for yourself. It isn’t a bad way to go to get started. Off to do my WK reviews!