As we’ve said many times on the MosaLingua blog, the best method for learning another language is speaking it as soon as possible. Of course, not all of us have the opportunity to travel to Mexico or Paris for the weekend and practice with native speakers. If this is your reality, like mine, your best bet for finding native speakers lies with the Internet.
Get the Most Out of Your Online Conversation Courses
The quality and effectiveness of online conversation courses are something everyone MosaLingua user can take advantage of. Personally, out of the many platforms you have available online, my favorite is Italki. This platform allows you to sign up for online conversation courses with a teacher or tutor (somebody who may not have a career in language instruction).
MosaLingua is very helpful, but it isn’t the sole solution for learning a language. Nothing can compare to relaxing around the pool and beginning to speak with natives of the language you’re learning. You cannot expect to all of a sudden be ready to begin speaking your target language — nobody is 100% ready at first! I certainly was not ready to begin speaking Russian with natives, even after studying it for years!
It’s been six months since I began using Italki for online conversation courses in Turkish, Russian and German. I’m evening teaching a French course to ten people from all over the world (always from my computer). I’m starting to figure out this platform, so I thought it’d be helpful to elaborate on the three most important things I’ve learned from these pasts months using it. My experience is similar to many users, so what follows are the aspects I’ve found to be key in getting the most out of online conversation courses.
1) Scheduling and paying for a conversation course is great for motivation
I spent many years testing out different language learning methods, and most of the time I lost motivation very quickly. Why? In the end there was nothing really “forcing me” me to stick with what I set out to do. Motivation is a rare resource, and it’s hard to keep a hold of. Beginning an online conversation course (meeting in person or online) is an activity that “forces” you to commit. If you schedule a meeting with a speaking partner, you have the driving force of not wasting their time and embarrassing yourself by not showing up.
I’ve been teaching French courses on Italki for four months now, and I’ve had students who seriously knew their French when we practiced speaking. It made me wonder: Why were they even paying for my courses when they could trade their skills in their native language with French natives for free? Most all resounded quite quickly that had they not paid for the course and made plans to meet with an actual person, they never would have “showed up” for our session. Thus, most of them hadn’t really practiced speaking at all.
I started on Italki by searching for natives who were looking for these types of trades and found many super motivated people. It seemed great. I scheduled a good number of conversation sessions for my weekend. However, every time the weekend came, nobody could make it. Neither could I! I just didn’t have the motivation, even after scheduling with somebody. At that point, I wasted a lot of my time, save for a few classes I had taken with teachers who were a bit more professional.
Another reason this works is because Italki’s prices are on average two to three times cheaper than a course you can find with somebody perhaps more qualified in the US.
I have never regretted paying for an online conversation course!
2) Choose a tutor based on the level you need and on how your initial conversation goes
This is an essential point. If you want to start conversation courses online, your rapport with your tutor is very important. I’ve met many highly qualified tutors with low prices, but a lot of those meetings often lead to nowhere. It’s nothing accusatory, but the lessons just didn’t entertain me. Having a great conversation tutor made all the difference (even in languages I thought would be impossible like Russian). Engaging in an interesting conversation and actually enjoying learning from them is how I kept focused on my goals. It’s a powerful thing having a real person on screen teaching you something.
I know people link Russian with boring exercises and complex grammar rules you need to learn by heart. For me, learning Russian was a pleasure because I could learn it how I wanted! While you can’t lose sight of the fact that you’re involving yourself with a language for the long term, in the short term you need to focus on having fun while you study — that’s the key to learning a language.
Italki lets you meet tutors who are suited to your needs. You can even try 30 minutes trial sessions with tutors for anywhere from 1 to 8 dollars. Of course, you should use this option with each new tutor you have.
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3) For best results, mix Italki with MosaLingua
Before working for MosaLingua, I was a fan of the apps. I used MosaLingua for practicing business Spanish and German. I also downloaded the Brazilian Portuguese version to amuse myself a little.
Out of all the instruments for learning languages, MosaLingua and Italki stand out from the crowd. Why? Because MosaLingua allows you to learn useful vocabulary and remember it for the long term. On the other hand, Italki picks up the crucial element of speaking. This means that you can learn vocabulary and then put it into practice! I always suggest my students use the MosaLingua method (for learning Italian and French), and nearly every one of them is amazed at how it helps them memorize the vocabulary we went over in our sessions.
Personally, I create flashcards for every word I use in sessions. By doing this, we optimize our time since we study for one to two hours each week and short sessions to revise our flashcards with MosaLingua. It doesn’t take much time, and you learn quickly.
Have you tried mixing MosaLingua with online conversation courses? What do you think of Italki? We’d love to read about your experiences and opinions in the comments section!