iTalki general speaking practice thread

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This is the general iTalki thread where you can discuss various small issues that you feel doesn’t deserve separate thread. Feel free to post your experience, request support, encourage each other, etc. Thread is rather iTalki-focused (as it become de facto standard in speaking practice, like WK is one for kanji drilling), but don’t hesitate to discuss/share your thoughts/questions about any other speaking experience. It’s intended to pursue the same goal as Short Grammar Questions , but for Speaking subforum.
Also, since italki features essay corrections, guess it’s fine to discuss them here too. Maybe we should reevaluate this thread as general expressing-yourself-in-Japanese one? In both text and spoken form.

To bring hesitating those of yous a bit of self-esteem and reasoning regarding why to talk at all, here are couple of speeches about importance of immersion and role of speaking in it:

How NOT to Fail in Japanese | Most fail. You don't have to. Super important video! - YouTube

How to TALK Japanese. Myths busted. The real deal. - YouTube

(not intended to force those of you who don’t want to talk and have different goals. Just want to bring a bit more encouragement for those who want, but hesitating)

Answer for the main question of how not to fear talk to native stranger teachers for the first/second/100th time:

Fear a lot.
Fear as much as your body feels like.
That’s totally normal body reaction for stressful condition everybody experience. Body is trying to activate itself to be prepared - yup, this is what is feels like. For most of us it’s irregular condition so we misestimate it as fear. Try to reevaluate it as excitement and use this adrenalin bust to help you and get prepared, make some topics to talk about, questions, etc.
Or, at least just think about every other single user of italki/whatever service feels the same at the beginning and know that your feelings are normal - it’s nothing weird/wrong with you.
This activation body reaction (I don’t like word “fear” in this context, since it’s not one) would eventually come off after enough of experience. Perhaps. Still, think less of it itself, and rather focus on tapping buttons, booking teachers, preparing questions, etc. All of us mostly operate under non-ideal conditions: we’re underslept, hungry, tired, stressed in other way - but still keep going. This one condition is the same. Perhaps it could take extra time to get used to it, though.

Credits for encouraging this thread goes to @RoseMuncher and @sushi-fish for paying attention to italki topic. Not sure if it would hype, but let’s give it a try those of you durtles who consider themselves more WK-community related, but still want to talk about italki/etc your JP self-expressing experience.

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To start something with, let me repost my own request from Let's climb Tokyo Skytree - level 60 in spring 2022 thread:

2 questions for those who are using italki for a while:

  • Do your teachers correct you when you’re speaking? If yes, how does it happen usually? I mean, I’ve asked mines directly to do so, but that didn’t help. Second time I was trying to put more spaces in my speech, so she could stick into - no use either.
  • Did you give a try to a community feature to write some essays and then community give you an edits? Does it work for you? From a brief survey I done just now, Japanese users there are quite active and responsive. Still would appreciate any experience fellow durtles had.
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I use the paid service and they correct me in real time in the chat and then have me repeat the correct sentence. Then I copy the chat so I’ve got all the notes so I can practice after the lesson and have it memorized by the next lesson.
I have tried 3 teachers so far and they were all amazing and helpful with corrections.
Maybe you should try a few different teachers.

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Thank you for pinging me and making this thread!

I am am still in the beginning stage of leraning Japanese and ultimately I want to get the basics down before I start using italki. Mostly because of the reason stated in the very first post: I fear it :joy:
It looks like an amazing way to study overall and I have checked the website out already. When I finished Genki I will have a go and take some sessions - it will take some time though.

My questions for you who have been using the service for a little while are:

  • How did you select your teacher? Did you have to take try-out sessions with a lot of different people or did you just pick one? And what did you check in the teachers description that made you pick them?
  • Do you prefer to take a native speaker or did you come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter, dependin on what your goals are?
  • How was your first experience with italki compared to how it is now?
  • How long did it take you to overcome the fear? Did you even have it in the first place, or do you still have it?
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I haven’t started iTalki yet because speaking isn’t that high on my list at the moment. But, when I will do it, I will pick a male person, because of the nuances I want to pick up, being male myself. You’d think that’s a no-brainer, but my landlord told me of a guy they had working at his company who’s married to a Japanese woman. When they were in business with a Japanese company, the guy was their first choice to use as their man for communication. He’s like N1 or some such. Until they were told by someone higher up at the Japanese company, they preferred someone else, even if that person didn’t have the same language skills. The reason: it was off-putting he sounded/used words a woman uses.

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I had over 160 italki lessons with 20+ tutors in the last 2 years. I usually have a single long-term tutor that helps me with grammar and general studies. And I also do conversations practice with other tutors on the side.

Generally yes. If they ask I tell them to correct me. Some will overlook minor mistakes and only correct something that was totally wrong.

I didn’t. I don’t have time and desire to interact with the community.

Available time slots are pretty important for me, so I filter by time first. Other then that I check the bio for common interests so that we have something to talk about.

When I find interesting profiles I book a lesson and see if I like their teaching/conversation style. If I’m unsure I book another lesson and if I like them I may get a package. Of course if felt like I didn’t get anything out of the lesson I don’t book another lesson and move on.

I only book native speakers. I want to listen to natural Japanese and I want them to help me sound natural. But if they grew up in Japan it doesn’t matter to me if they are Japanese ethnically or not.

Too embarrassing to remember. I couldn’t say anything even though I understood most of what the tutor was saying.

Now I can speak fine. Even when I don’t know how to say something I can find a way to explain myself and let the tutor help me find the right words. I only speak in Japanese for the last year or so.

A few months of regular lessons I guess. Now I can jump on call with a new tutor right after waking up and it wouldn’t bother me one bit.

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That’s exactly why I chose women teachers! So I sound like a girl. Also I skipped over the ones with strong accents trying to stick to Tokyo or what sounds familiar from anime.

The teachers with 80-100 lessons under their belt are all pros and can calm your nerves and get sentences out of an absolute beginner. Babies learn by conversation without knowing very much vocabulary. Every lesson I notice improvement and I can articulate my thoughts noticeably better.

I will probably try male teachers later on and some regional accents later on for some variety.

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Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks like this :slight_smile:

When I think of accents, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to pick that up when your on the ground and see what the person is talking about?

Oh, and I also would only book native speakers for the same reason. Later on, when fluency will be better, I’m sure it’s okay to converse with everybody, especially opposite sex and even non-native speakers alike, but the basics, I gotta have them first locked down.

My first few attempts at using iTalki were very awkward. I was unable to actually conjure up any Japanese, even though I (mostly) understood what was being said - a painful experience for both parties.

What helped me was typing out a cheat-sheet of questions and answers I expected to come up (where do you live, why are you studying Japanese, what are your plans for the weekend, etc) and having that to hand. That gave me a crutch to help keep conversation going whenever I struggled.

As I’ve become more confident, I’ve scaled this back so it’s just a few helpful Japanese words, and then prompts in English to remind myself what I had planned to talk about.

I disagree with you here. The tutors all use standard Japanese unless you specifically ask to practice a dialect or male/female speach.

Most of my tutors are female, including all of the long-term ones. I don’t think the tutor’s gender is that important. That example with a guy married to a Japanese woman sounding girly is a different case. A wife is a very close person, so she would use very casual language, which also tends to be more gender specific. And a tutor would be fairly formal (unless you ask to practice casual conversation).

And anyway you’re not too spoiled for choice as most of the italki tutors seem to be female.

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I had my first trial lesson last week. It was humbling, frustrating, and very exciting. There aren’t really any opportunities where I live to practice speaking with someone else, and I really feel like not doing so has hindered my development. In the end I really enjoyed it though. My teacher was very patient and kind, taking the time to help me break things down and putting them into chat so that I could read what I was hearing, as my reading skills are quite a bit better than my listening.

Speaking with a live tutor was and remains one of the most stressful experiences in learning a language for me. My education level and career have created a strong emphasis on being able to properly articulate my thoughts and ideas, so suddenly having to try and reduce my comments to the level my grammar and vocabulary support is frustrating. Which brings me from my observations to a question that I have: How did you know what to talk about, especially as a beginner? I have plenty to discuss on philosophical, political, or legal topics, but don’t even remotely have the ability to support such a conversation in Japanese. So what do we talk about? I have my first full hour lesson this Wednesday and topic choice is stressing me out almost as much as my lack of current ability.

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I feel you. It has been a challenge for me too. And it still is, frankly. But at least now I have a good foundation.

I am bad at picking topics myself. Which is why I prefer tutors who are a great at coming up with topics themselves. Usually every teacher will start from the same things: who you are, why you’re studying Japanese, where you live, what your job is etc. I am quite tired of these questions… Hence, I try to be brief and jump to another topic.

Often we discuss recent news, for example one of the tutors suggested to talk about the Gamestop stocks situation. And of course corona, vaccination, surviving the lockdown are common topics.

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I’ve been using italki since january, 1st teacher was nice but his english wasn’t as advanced as he said it was, it was my first time speaking Japanese and i was really worried about saying anything. It seemed to frustrate him so i looked elsewhere.
My 2nd teacher is a lot more easy going, she encourages me when i’m frustrated and is careful not to corrects me constantly as i’m just happy being able to speak the language a bit. Though she makes sure to correct anything i say that sounds werid outside of a Manga!
Lessons are based around an article, reading and discussing it and how the sentences are formed. Then at the end, any Grammar points we go indepth on that i struggled with or just informal conversation.

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I’m thinking of giving italki a go - have seen it mentioned a lot and it sounds like a good option for working on my listening/speaking. I previously went to evening classes in 2018 (back when you could ACTUALLY SEE PEOPLE), got derailed when some sh!t happened in my personal life, and haven’t spoken Japanese since.

Am absolutely bricking it so looking for some advice please…

  1. Any advice for picking the right teacher, apparently there are 634 available! Is it just trial and error? :grimacing:
  2. Is italki ok for beginners or do you need to be more advanced really? I worked through Genki 1 and 2 a few years back so I have this residual knowledge but it needs dredging up again!
  3. And how often do you do it? As parent of a toddler I’m not flush with time :joy:

Thankyouuuu

  1. Just have a look at a few of their introduction videos and pick one you think you would get a long with :slight_smile:

  2. I consider myself an advanced beginner and am really enjoying iTalki. I’m halfway through Genki 2.

  3. I do it every other week on sunday mornings. I wish I could do more but I think I’d burn out, to practice conversation skills inbetween my sessions I use Tandem to chat with people.

Hope this helps! And good luck with your first iTalki class.

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  • Use the time slot filter to find tutors in compatible time zones
  • When you see a teacher that looks interesting check their schedule first before reading more about them, because some teachers have very few slots and may be booked out for a month ahead.
  • Don’t pay too much attention to user ratings because they are often unrealistically high. But if a score is low that’s a red flag.
  • See if the teacher offers the type of lessons you need. Many community tutors will only have conversation lessons. But most professional and some community ones will create a complete study plan for you and will conduct structured long-term lessons using textbooks if requested.
  • Just try a bunch of teachers and go with one you liked best.
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Hello. My teacher generally corrects me after I’ve finished answering the question or telling something, much like I remember from university - feedback after the response.
It works just fine for me. Before that I had another teacher, who was more laid-back, I suppose. No correction happened, only when I was lost of words he gave me some hints.

And about writing…
Yeah, there’s a lot of feedback, but it’s super incostintent. Like I wrote a small paragraph and two different people corrected. One was… hopeless, to say the least. Everything I wrote was corrected. The other was more understanding. There were some mistakes here and there, but I didn’t feel as if I shoud give up on writing, hehehe.

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Yeah, I had a teacher from Kansai when I lived in the US, and she used standard Japanese. She was certified, and knowledge of the pitch accent of standard Japanese is a typical thing that they get tested on for certification. And, yes, no teacher would use dialectal expressions without being asked about them.

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The best teachers’ i find is one who understands English but isn’t fluent, reason being that i can understand better where they are coming from.
For instance, they would say “i want to become order food”.
I never looked at it that way before. :grinning:

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Uh, well, so it’s actually case by case issue and not something fundamental of “Japanese people being too shy to correct”-like. Thank you for your feedback, guess I’m actually have to keep trying different tutors on.