“A different language is a different vision of life.” – Federico Felini
An Inspirational Trip to Italy
A while ago, I visited Italy and met someone who spoke 4 languages. It was amazing to me to think that someone could do this. Were they a genius? Or, is the human brain simply wired to adapt to multiple means of communication? Most likely, they were pretty much just like me.
Inspired, I decided to dust off the German from High School and to start learning Italian from scratch. I had complete faith in being capable of doing this if I were willing to put in the work.
After starting with a couple basic sites (Duolingo, Mosalingua, Mango and Babel) and feeling a reasonable grasp on basic grammar and vocabulary, I felt ready to try speaking with someone.
The toughest part of learning a language is building up the confidence that you can communicate successfully with someone and not be embarrased. That wasn’t going to happen on the basic learning apps I’d been using up to this point. I tried to rope in a couple coworkers who spoke my target languages, but some didn’t want to speak their native languages anymore – only English. Also, there was something even more frightening about failing while trying to speak with someone I knew professionally.
A Desire to Communicate
I needed to find an outlet, a safe space to try speaking. It needed to be somewhere that I’d feel comfortable to learn, make mistakes, and build up my confidence.
What I needed was a language exchange site. These are places where people meet other people who have the same curious passion for learning other languages. I saw an add for Italki. It offers the opportunity to meet people who want to learn your native language. And in trade, they will help you learn their native language.
How Italki Works
I created an online account, and looked for people who were native speakers in German and Italian, who were looking to learn English. The site is really well organized and sorts people based on their Native Language and Goal Languages. Trading support and guidance is a wonderful experience, and the bond formed in sharing that learning is priceless. Somehow this sort of exchange make it okay to be vulnerable and make those mistakes necessary to have the major language breakthroughs.
Italki is incredibly convenient. People who know your target language live all over the planet, so this makes it easy to meet people who want to talk with you at almost any time of day. You can also leave people messages so that they can reach back out to you when it is convenient for them. It provides a safe fun space to meet other people who are just as anxious about speaking a new language. I have never felt unsafe speaking and making mistakes with anyone that I have met here.
I had looked into finding Live Classes or Private Tutors here in Los Angeles, and it was extremely expensive to take a class beyond the basic Italian Introductory Class. Italki is by far the most affordable way to find one-on-one assistance. There are professional tutors who are willing to teach you your target language.
I started by buying 100 Italki Points ($100) that I could use for tutors and teachers to help clarify elements of Grammar that I was confused by. My first Italian tutor lived in Singapore. And the first German I spoke with lived in Argentina. A true testament as to how flat this world has become. Best of all, the $100 turned out to be reimbursable through the Educational Enhancement Program at my work!
Even better, if you are doing a language exchange conversation, it’s FREE!
Conversations can be done through any streaming service you would like. Facetime and Skype are the ones I have used.
Besides building up my confidence to better understand and speak my target languages, there are many additional benefits to using iTalki. I now have passionate language learning friends all over the world – some of whom I have actually traveled to their country and met. Using iTalki and speaking safely with people in English, German, and Italian, I have improved my confidence to communicate immeasurably. I have also learned so much about other cultures directly from people who live there. It has been a wonderfully rewarding experience. I highly recommend iTalki to anyone interested in learning a new language.
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