Speaking is hands down my weakest part of learning Japanese, closely followed by listening. I’ve read and heard about iTalki. What can you tell me about it, and would you recommend a professional or community tutor? Thank you very much in advance!
I’ve used it for the language exchange aspect. So, while I haven’t used the tutors or any paid service, I can say that most members are fairly active in their messages. You can find some good connections on there with people who are willing to Skype or otherwise talk to you.
I actively use italki, and it’s been pretty helpful in my studies thus far. You can use it for a few different purposes.
Posting questions or journal entries to have them read and corrected as needed by native speakers. The questions feature is extremely helpful if there’s anything grammar-related that you’re having trouble understanding. Every time I’ve posted a question, I’ve received detailed responses and examples that not only answered my question, but also helped me wrap my head around an entirely new grammar point. And of course, there are plenty of native speakers who will correct any journal entries you post to help you improve your writing skills. In general, the community is very friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you learn your desired language.
Meeting people for a language exchange. There are plenty of native Japanese speakers on the site who are learning English and more than willing to practice conversation with you, whether it’s via PMs on the site, Skype, Hangouts, etc. Again, people are generally quite friendly, and if you’re learning one another’s languages, why not do an exchange? I’ve met a couple people who I eventually got to know better due to our back and forth chats and desire for more practice. You often meet people by asking questions or doing journal entries, like I mentioned above.
Community tutors. They’re required to have near native fluency with the language they tutor, and they’ll help you with whatever you want, language-wise. You want to improve your speaking skills? Find a community tutor and they’ll be glad to chat with you and help you with those skills in a fairly relaxed environment. It generally starts with a trial lesson to gauge your proficiency in the language, and then goes from there with helping improve your vocabulary and grammar by discussing whatever topics you wish, though often beginning with the typical self-introduction, hobbies, etc. If you want to do a combination of reading and speaking practice with them, you can always do something like read an NHK Easy article, then have a discussion in Japanese afterwards. Basically, community tutors are there to help you with what you want help with, and let you craft your lessons how you want.
Professional tutors. I personally have not used one, but it’s my understanding that they’re required to have certain teaching certifications, along with some amount of experience. They’re apt to have a more formal lesson structure and “curriculum”, so to speak, to help you improve your Japanese. I believe it’s more common to use a textbook with them, if that’s something you want to do.
Community tutors are obviously cheaper since they’re not required to have teaching credentials. I’ve only used community tutors thus far because I feel speaking practice (which is what I primarily use them for) is best in a more natural environment like that, where you can just have a conversation with them. I don’t feel the need to pay for a professional tutor to teach me how to speak, since speaking is more about practice than learning how to do it, if that makes sense.
Anyway, I hope that’s somewhat helpful. Italki’s definitely a great site and there’s no reason not to take advantage of the free aspects it offers, at the very least.
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