Want to start using italki and am scared (of course): encouraging stories are welcome!

As the title says: I’d like to start practicing speaking Japanese, as one of my goals is to visit Japan and use Japanese there. In addition, I think that one does not master a language without being able to speak it (this is only my opinion and I’m not trying to impose it on others :bowing_woman: )

I have never spoken Japanese before (even though when reading I mumble the words as I read them with my probably incorrect pronounciation). Also, when I tell people I’m learning Japanese and they ask me to say something, I always refuse, being embarassed of my pronounciation.

iTalki seems to be the go-to platform when it comes to speaking practice and learning sessions over webcam, so that’s what I plan to use.

I’m currently looking at available teachers to chose one. Some of the criteria I set are: someone who

  • is a native Japanese speaker
  • is of the same gender as me
  • also speaks one of the languages I speak to ease explanations and so that they are aware of the difficulties that arise when learning a 2+nd language
  • lives in Europe, so that we have some common ground
  • general feeling of the person based on the self-presentation video, to be comfortable around them
  • price, somewhat

I’d like to get your opinion or personal experience on the following questions (in addition to anything to anything else you would decide to share):

  • How did you handle the stress of your first one-on-one lessons in Japanese? How did you prepare for it? What I plan for now is to contact the teacher of my choice in writing to present myself and ask for their advice regarding first lesson. Anything else one should do to be properly prepared?
  • What criteria make sense when looking for a teacher?
  • iTtalki-specific: community tutor or professional teacher?
  • Related to the above: does hour rate matter? I see teachers that charge 18 or 30€ per hour, are the latter necessarily better teachers?
  • More of a meta question: how do you justify to yourself (if you need to) having a private tutor instead of a group setting or a 100% self study?

Regarding the “just book a trial lesson and try several tutors/teachers” advice: I hear it, but as even the trial lessons can be somewhat costly, I’d like to avoid using the “trial and error” method too much.

Thank you in advance for your advice :bowing_woman:

  • How did you handle the stress of your first one-on-one lessons in Japanese?
    Remember that for them they’ve done this dozens if not hundreds of times. First time meeting is much scarier for you than it is for them, and they’ve seen all sorts of lost and confused beginners as well as more advanced students. They’ll also (likely) be somewhat concerned with impressing you to keep you as a regular student.

  • How did you prepare for it? What I plan for now is to contact the teacher of my choice in writing to present myself and ask for their advice regarding first lesson. Anything else one should do to be properly prepared?
    I watch their intro video, read their descriptions, and book a trial lesson if I feel at all unsure. I only use tutors for free talk and writing correction, though. If you’re looking for more structure your approach may differ.

  • What criteria make sense when looking for a teacher?
    Friendly, easy to talk to, hopefully some kind of common ground for interests, within my price range, and consistently available during the hours I’d want to book.

  • iTtalki-specific: community tutor or professional teacher?
    I prefer community tutors at this point, but when I was starting out I went with a professional teacher.

  • Related to the above: does hour rate matter? I see teachers that charge 18 or 30€ per hour, are the latter necessarily better teachers?
    Price vaguely correlates with the quality of lesson you will receive, but it’s not a guarantee. This applies more to the professional teachers re: quality of their lesson plans; with tutors it seems more just how popular they are.

  • More of a meta question: how do you justify to yourself (if you need to) having a private tutor instead of a group setting or a 100% self study?
    I don’t learn as well in a group setting and talking to myself has its limits. While language exchange apps can be handy as a free option, I’m spending at least half my time in English. If I pay for a conversation lesson in Japanese I know I’m getting an hour of pure Japanese conversation.


You are definitely not alone when it comes to anxiety. I made my own thread years back xD

So if you want an encouraging story: Hi, hello, I was very anxious when booking my first lesson, and while there were some technical issues, the tutor was super patient, and I’ve been using her ever since. :slight_smile: Thanks to the tutors I’ve used, I managed to pass the N4, N3, and N2, and my conversation and listening level have skyrocketed so much more and faster than I could’ve ever done by myself. Super super thankful I took the plunge.

I think you’re on the right track of finding someone who you click with. I found I was more comfortable aiming for someone who seemed to have a lot of teaching experience on the platform, good reviews, and generally knowledgeable of Japanese (with some English to help me out). (Also kind and patient! Definitely watch the videos + read the descriptions.) I think I aimed for a professional teacher at first for those reasons. But don’t underestimate the power of community tutors. I definitely found ones I LOVE, who may not be ideal in teaching the nitty gritty, but are great for other factors.

I also found that as my level grows, I realize that having a common language isn’t as important to me, to the point where I booked my first Russian lesson (happening today, oh boy!), where I requested full immersion…and I do not know Russian, haha. But that’s my adventure, I know it’s not for everyone. But mentioning it so you know to feel open to your changing tastes and preferences. :slight_smile:

I’ve never found price to be a factor in teaching quality. It mostly seems to be professional vs community tutor. Professional tutors, from my experience, are usually more knowledgeable of the language, all the fancy grammar terms like direct object, syntax, passive, causative, etc. and can explain the differences in similar grammar/vocab more easily. They’re usually more expensive for this reason.

For justifying a private tutor: spending money is an amazing motivator, haha. I KNOW I’ll do the homework they give, I KNOW I’ll be studying in between and practicing a lot, because I’m not only paying my hard-earned money for it, but also because I’m spending their time. And the one-on-one aspect means I get 100% of the attention and specific help I need. If I want to group study, I can always do that on the side. And like I mentioned, the speed at which I was learning was nothing like what I was getting before I started using tutors. I know everyone is different, but it was really life-changing for me.

Good luck, you got this! <3


Thank you for your response! Your story is motivating.
Also, удачи в изучении Русского языка! (Good luck in your Russian studies. That’s my native language :smiley: )


Thank you for your responses!
I took the plunge and will have my first conversation/lesson with a native Japanese tutor in about 12 hours. No turning back now. I’m trying to come up with some phrases to introduce myself. Trying to recall japanese terms for english words makes the difference between recall and recognition obvious :smiley:
I’ll post an update on how the lesson went and maybe continue to post updates untill I settle in my one-on-one tutor routine, so anyone else interested in taking the same path could have a reference.


Had my first 30 minutes lesson on iTalki this morning, with a Japanese “community tutor” who lives in the same country as me and is maybe 20 years older than me. We started with me talking about myself (basic phrases I practised before, but didn’t learn by heart), then she went on to correct some of the grammar I used incorrectly and asked a bit about what textbooks I used, even though she doesn’t stick to a textbook for her lessons and only uses it from time to time. We ended the lesson with exercises on て-form where I had to fill in the gap in a sentence with appropriate verb. She didn’t correct any of my pronounciation, maybe it’s too early to pay attention to this?

Of course I was nervous before the lessons and self-conscious about my level of Japanese, and during the lesson I often didn’t know what word or grammar to use, in which case I switched to another language. And of course the teacher didn’t make me feel bad about it.

To calm myself a bit before the lesson, I tried imagining the inverse situation: someone learning my native language and wanting to practice speaking.

I plan to take more lessons with this tutor and also to try out a “professional teacher” who lives in Japan, is a bit younger than me and offers grammar lessons with Genki or みんなの日本語.

All in all, I’m happy with this experience and would recommend it to other learners! I don’t know how effective such lessons would be, but given my beginner lever, speaking practice can only be beneficial and hold me accountable, as I don’t want to waste my money.


Hey, that sounds like a great start! :tada:

Just in case: If you ever feel that a teacher you picked is not a good fit for whatever reason, don’t feel bad about dropping them! Because like you said, it’s your money in the end.


This thread is a good prompt to make me look into italki. I’ve thought about it in the past but never taken the plunge. But a few days ago I booked a RTW ticket which includes 10 days in Japan so I think I need to start working on my speaking! I’ve got time, I won’t be there till January.


It’s good that you had your first lesson already ! But I still want to add : if you just want free talk, maybe you should consider trying Asao Language school. For 35€/month you can have 4 lessons a month with a teacher of your choice and as many lessons as you want with"learning teachers". You may not be able to find easily a teacher located in Europe though, but many seems to have traveled/lived abroad. My Asao teacher lived in Singapor for example and even my Italki who is in Japan and never lived outside of Japan knows a lot about Europe and is super open minded :slight_smile: Yep, I use both Italki and Asao and love both of them. For formal teaching, Italki is good. For practice, I like Asao (we listen to an audio book these days), it’s a good extra study that’s worth the price I pay for.

Well, I tried both. I studied in Japan for 2 years and had lessons there with other students. Didn’t progress that much and very few opportunities to speak. Since I decided to pay for a private tutor (and how long it took me to take that decision cause I didn’t want to be the spoiled brat who pays for private lessons) I made much more progress. Even if I mostly take grammar lessons, my teacher speaks only Japanese. And Japanese adapted to my level, so I made incredible progress. I will never regret the money I am spending there.

I think that might be the case. This will just be my personal opinion, but I don’t think pronunciation impact comprehension THAT much for languages like Japanese (or French) that are considered to be flat (compared to Chinese where pronunciations can fuck the whole thing). As long as you use the good words at the right place (ie, good grammar) then it will make sense for them and they will understand you. So I think you can work on Japanese pronunciations later. But if that really is a problem for you, you can ask your teacher to correct you. And you can practice that by shadowing.

Moreover, don’t feel bad for your teacher. They know what they get into, you are not the only one starting Japanese. And I would even say most teachers are actually super happy to teach you because they will see you progress with time. My German teacher was always so happy whenever one of her student would make a whole sentence that made sense :joy:

I do too ! It is super effective as long as you work on the side as well. And I was also super scared to lose my money, but when I see what I have done so far I can confidentely say that I didn’t waste any of my money.
Don’t hesitate to go for a professionnal teacher and it’s okay if they live in Japan, many of them know a lot about other countries or, at least, are very interested to learn about it.


Thank you! I’m happy I did it. I was stressed but also had this feeling of excitement when you’re about to do something oustide your comfort zone that will take you in the right direction

Glad this thread could be of help! If you plan on speaking Japanase when you’re in Japan next year, practicing beforehand could be usefull, even though you’re probably quite knowledgeable, given you reached level 60.

Thank you for the suggestion! At the moment, focusing on grammar while also mixing in speaking (at least when reading exercice phrases) should be optimal for me, as I don’t yet have a lot of vocab to have a somewhat fluid conversation.

Great that it worked for you! I’m going to definitely will work on the side too, to learn faster and also maybe impress my teacher :sweat_smile:


I should be fine at recognising Kanji! But I’ve never done formal study or speaking practice.

I’m so excited for you! I’ve been using italki for about six months now, and I have three tutors that I work with for different kinds of support in my learning.

I’m a language teacher by profession (I teach English to non-native speakers), so I empathize with your hesitation in your original post, but I am delighted that you took a leap and had a good lesson. Be sure to ask for what you need and/or talk with your tutor about things that have worked for you when learning languages in the past.

I feel like I lucked out with my amazing tutors, and I hope you found a great one, too! I’m rooting for you, and hoping you feel more confident with each lesson! 頑張って!:blush:


Happy to start a new thread, but could you offer any advice on getting into language teaching?

Hey there. What would you like to know? (And where are you located? That information will help me to answer.) Maybe a new thread is best to avoid taking over the OP’s topic.

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I was just going to post a thread about this! I can fake extroversion at work, but even though I’m a teacher, ironically, my “real” personality is extremely shy. I’m thinking about taking the plunge and starting with iTalki myself. I was going to buy a webcam and a mic, but I just realized it’s probably more pragmatic to just use a smart device.

The main thing that worries me is a potential age difference. I’m 40 and I’m self-conscious about having a tutor who’s much younger than me. But at the same time, I feel shallow scanning teachers looking for someone who looks around my age! I regret that I was stuck on a late-beginner/early-intermediate plateau for over a decade, but, well, しょうがない。

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Based on what I saw when looking for a teacher, there are quite a lot of teachers how are 40 years old or older. I think you’ll find a teacher with the age that suits you.
However, if I may, I advice you to think about why having a younger tutor bothers you. Maybe you’ll be able to sort this out and unlock even bigger pool of potential tutors. Good luck!

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I’ll be the first to admit that I should know better. When I started teaching, I was younger than almost all of my students. I still get several students a year who are older than me. I’ve always just been happy that they’re there and want to learn. In fact, diversity in age often makes a class more dynamic and interesting. I don’t have data to prove it but I believe students learn more in heterogeneous groups.

I know it’s irrational, but I worry about how I look as a 40-year-old who still isn’t “fluent” (even though I have enough life experience to recognize the absurdity of such a nebulous benchmark). Even almost a decade ago, when I was in my early thirties, I would already feel out of place in rooms full of twentysomethings. Our priorities and sensibilities were too different.

I think I’m just hoping to start with teachers whom I have a lot in common with so that the barrier of my own shyness doesn’t loom so large. I did just book an appointment with one just a few minutes ago. I’m nervous but looking forward to it!


Hurrah! Good for you booking a lesson! I had my first iTalki lesson in 2020 and was terrified. I was only 2 months into studying Japanese after a 30 year break. After weekly lessons for two years, I can talk more comfortably then I ever expected. Yeah, I make a lot of errors-- sometimes epic ones-- but I can communicate now, even though I’ve never been to Japan.

The best advice I can give is “communicate by any means necessary.” Gesture. Imagine it’s a game where you try to avoid using English as much as possible. String words together. Don’t even try to avoid making mistakes. Don’t try to talk like an educated adult. Paraphrase. Say it more simply. Just talk and talk and laugh. The teachers are kind and expect you to struggle. The more mistakes you make now, the more awesome you’ll get at talking.

Be brave. This might be the first step to really achieving your dream.


This is great advice that I fully intend to use! The appointment’s in 5 hours, so if anyone has any other advice, I’m open to it!

When I was a kid, I was so shy that I physically had trouble speaking. How I became a teacher, even I don’t understand!