If you want to practice your spoken English with a native speaker or near-native speaker teacher, there has never been a better time to try online English lessons than right now in 2020. The dark cloud of the pandemic has a massive silver lining for English learners: there are far more English teachers and tutors available on online language learning sites than ever before.
There are many such sites, but italki in my opinion offers the best value and a great user experience (I use it myself). The law of supply and demand has brought lesson prices to an all-time low, too. For example, right now on italki there are teachers offering demo lessons for as low 89 cents (!). And there are many English teachers and tutors offering regular lessons for 4 to 10 dollars per hour.
Full disclosure: I am a proud italki affiliate and if you sign up for italki via my links, I make a small commission but you don’t pay anything extra — in fact, you get 10 USD worth of credit when you book your first lesson. I only recommend italki because I use it myself and think it’s awesome.
Is italki right for you?
How do you know if you will benefit from taking conversation lessons on italki? Will you just be wasting your money? Here are some learner types who I think can really benefit.
Strong listening and reading, but weak speaking and writing
One type of learner who will make great progress is someone with strong listening and reading but very weak speaking or writing skills. So if you feel that your listening and reading are quite good but you still have a lot of trouble speaking and writing, then you can dramatically improve these skills with just a few lessons on italki.
Here is why: if you strong reading and listening skills, then you have a lot of English knowledge already. You just need to activate the neural pathways that are responsible for actively producing language. For example, sometimes all it takes is a few sessions of intense effort and suddenly you feel that “click,” and speaking is suddenly much easier. Of course, you don’t need to take formal lessons for this, but most learners don’t have the discipline to force themselves to try to speak English on their own, or with a friend, until they are at least over that first threshold of difficulty. There is nothing like having paid lessons booked with a real teacher to force you to work hard to push yourself over the threshold.
Learners with specific needs or goals
One great thing about italki is that you decide what and how you will study. So if you are studying English for a specific purpose, or want to improve in something very particular, then you can ask your teacher for help with just that. Whether it’s test preparation, grammar, special vocabulary, or writing sales copy, you can find a teacher on italki who has the expertise to help you make progress in your chosen area.
Highly motivated advanced learners who need feedback
If you have plenty of motivation to study and practice, but don’t have anyone to give you feedback, then you can really benefit from targeted lessons from a professional teacher on italki. Of course it is possible to correct yourself if you know you are making a mistake, at least to some extent. But what about mistakes you aren’t aware you are making? For that you need a competent teacher who can help you fine tune your English and break bad habits that you don’t even know you have. If you’re a self-directed learner and know what you want to improve, then finding a teacher to give you feedback on your self-assignments is a perfect reason to use italki.
The top 7 general benefits of learning English online in 2020
Many people think that learning face-to-face with either a private tutor or in an English class is somehow better than learning online. But learning English online has many clear benefits over face-to-face learning; here are the top 7 that I can think of.
- Price and value. Regular face-to-face English courses are usually expensive compared online English lessons, and the teachers are not necessarily better.
- Efficiency. Learning English online is time-efficient. You don’t waste time and money traveling.
- Individual attention. Paying an English teacher for one-to-one lessons in person is very expensive. You can get the same attention for far less money on italki.
- Flexibility. The timing of online English lessons is usually extremely flexible compared to face-to-face lessons.
- Location independent. It doesn’t matter where you live or if there are good English teachers in your area. On italki you have access to teachers all over the world.
- You are the boss. You can have as much or as little control over your learning as you want. If you want the teacher to decide what to teach you, that’s fine. If you want to request special topics or things to practice, that’s fine too.
- No stupid exams. You don’t have to worry about passing tests or exams. You measure your own progress in the way that is most meaningful to you. And if you need “tests” to feel like you’re making progress, then your teacher can create tests for you.
Those are just some of the benefits that I can come up with off the top of my head. Seriously, after trying italki for my own language learning, I can’t imagine going through the hassle of finding a good language course in my area, with a teacher I click with, and at a time that is convenient. Online learning is the way to go!
Yes, the Coronavirus is awful and has brought so much misery…something tells me that it’s also just getting started. So it’s important for us to look for the positive aspects of the situation and not get bogged down in all the things we can’t do, or all the ways things are worse than before. Lockdowns and other measures to limit infection have given an unprecedented boost to online learning, not just for English and other languages but for almost anything you can think of.