Here is an age-old language learning problem: “I can’t find someone to practice with!”
This problem was valid BEFORE the internet came into our lives.
With so many language exchange sites, you can always find someone to practice your target language. “I can’t find someone to practice with” is now only an excuse.
I personally have tried many of these language exchange sites (both paid and free), and paying for a tutor from italki beats everything else in terms of the time, energy, and effort that it saves me.
“But, but, but, I don’t want to pay for a tutor!”
This is the first thing that many people think of when they are suggested with the idea of paying for a tutor.
I know, because I used to be one of them. So let me tell you what made me change my mind.
Free vs Paid
I started off using free language exchange partners (as many as four different language partners each week) but…
Nothing is truly “free.”
The cost of “free” could come in the form of taking away your valuable time, quality of service, relationship (will explain in #1 below), or distracting you from what you want to achieve (ads, facebook).
So here are the 5 cost that made me switch from free language exchange partner to paying for a tutor on italki.com.
1. “Friend” does not equal “language partner”
Practicing with existing friends or partner who speaks your target language is usually the first thing that comes to mind for speaking practice. However, your friends will eventually be tire of practicing with you. The first few times are generally okay, but it takes time and energy to constantly be someone’s practice partner, especially if you and your friend are used to communicate with a common language.
To really become fluent, you need to consistently practice speaking the language. You need repetition. You need discipline. This is not so much fun for your friend, especially if you are talking like a baby in their native language.
Let your friend be your friend, and don’t expect them to be your language learning babysitter.
2. It Takes a Lot of Time and Effort to Find a Good Language Exchange Partner
I created a system that works beautifully for how to find a language exchange partner for free. I even made a step-by-step video on exactly how to do it.
Using my system, I could meet and practice with someone on the same day. At my best, I had four different language partners on rotation in one week.
Why don’t I just keep doing that?
Because it takes A LOT of hard work to find one free language exchange partner.
Every time I want a new language partner, I need to send out at least 20 requests. This means I need to search through a list, check a few people’s profile, pick one, and then write them a personal message. Wait for their reply. Then I have to do it again for another 20+ people.
This can be different depending on who you are. If you are a pretty girl, it might be a lot easier. If your native language is not English, you will probably need to send out even more requests to get a reply.
I estimated that about 20-30% will reply, depending on your introduction message, profile information, profile picture, and language. From there, you have to message them back, and decide on a time that works for both of you. This can also waste time since both of you are probably in two different time zones.
You can imagine that this takes a lot of time, energy and effort.
If you want a paid tutor, you’ll also have to try out a few different people before you find one that you really get along with. However, I guarantee that it will be a lot faster that trying to find a free language partner. I found that I generally tested three tutors on italki before I found one that I would use on a long-term basis.
Here is an example of how fun it can be when you found an easy going and an awesome italki teacher like Yuri.
3. “No Shows”
You thought of topics you wanted to talk about in your target language.
You practiced and spoke out loud what you wanted to say in your target language.
You were pumped up and ready to go to show off the stuff that you just learned.
You were staring at your Skype contact list and waiting for your language partner to sign on.
5 minutes passed….10 minutes passed….30 minutes passed….
“No shows” suck.
Stuff happens. It can even happen with a paid tutor, but I can tell you that it happens a lot more when it is “free”.
The effort of preparing beforehand is not wasted but that hour you scheduled to practice with a native speaker is.
4. Not As Excited As You
Let’s say you are fired up and ready to practice three hours a week. Great! But finding someone who is as fired up as you, and willing to practice with you on a consistent basis, is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Even if you manage to find one of these gems, you may also find that their goals may change. You may find out that your perfect language exchange partner, who you spent so much time and effort to find, wants to stop practicing with you. Maybe they got busy, their classes are over, or they’re just tired. This means you will have to go through the whole process to find someone who is as fired up as you again!
5. It Takes Twice as Long
Most language exchanges are 50/50 exchanges for time. For example, I get to practice for 30 minutes in Japanese, in return for helping my language partner with English for 30 minutes.
I really enjoy getting to know my language partners, and helping them learn English.
However, this 30 minutes is a time cost. It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up very quickly.
If I meet with my language partners four times a week, in reality, I only practiced two hours. The other two hours were just chatting in my native language.
That’s 8 hours a month.
I could have used those eight hours to practice more of my target language. I could have been working out or doing something fun with my family and friends. If just pay a small fee ($5 – $15 USD an hour) and not drink one or two cups of coffee, which is totally worth it for a tutor.
You should do what works best for you. Everyone’s life situation is different.
I am not saying that it is impossible to find a free language partner that works. I still keep in touch with some of them, and some have became great friends.
However, if I could do it all over again, I would have started using paid tutors earlier. For just the cost of two cups of coffee, I could have had a better experience.
– Learn a language with someone who is experienced and knows how to teach.
– Spend 100% of the time focused on my own language learning goals (I paid for the right to!)
– Make faster progress, and reach fluency more quickly
– Save myself time, energy, and effort.
I highly recommend that you give it a try because it just works.
If this sounds good to you, here is what to do next:
1. Go to italki.com
2. Choose a professional teacher (teaching) or a community tutor (speaking practice)
3. Choose your target language
4. Look at the list of tutors
5. Schedule 3 appointments with 3 different tutors.
– This is so you can find a tutor that fits your learning style. I promise it will make a world of difference when you are learning with someone you enjoy learning with like Yuri.
6. Have a blast and start practicing the language you’ve always wanted to speak!
I’ve found that my friends who started using a paid tutor say, “Why didn’t I do it earlier?”
Don’t wait any longer. Give italki.com a try and have a blast connecting with a tutor in your target language!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by italki. I am letting you know because I am committed to being 100% transparent. I promise that I will only recommend products or services that will genuinely help you become fluent in your target language.