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Preply vs. iTalki: A Brutally Honest Preply Review

I absolutely love taking language classes online, so of course, I’ve tried both of the most famous online platforms out there: Preply and iTalki. One of them I’ve sworn to never use again and one of them is literally the Bible of language learning for me… so let’s decide! Preply vs. iTalki.

What Are Preply & iTalki?

Preply and iTalki are both online language learning platforms where you can choose a language and find a native-speaking teacher to talk to you in that language for 30 minutes to an hour.

They both have the most affordable language classes that are available online. However, one blows the other out of the water (in my honest opinion).

online language class on a laptop with two people
Photo from Unsplash

Not only will I go over the flaws that each platform has, but I deep-dive into how their business is run (one of them is super shady!) and how they treat their customers and employees.

This Preply review started as an innocent blog post to talk about my experience with Preply and why I love iTalki, but it has turned into something much more intense as I looked more closely at each company and how they are run.

Preply vs. iTalki: Which Should You Use?

I’ll make this answer super easy: iTalki is a million times BETTER than Preply. Period. You should use iTalki and forget about Preply.

Okay, it’s a bit harsh. But I’ll explain why.

Why I’ll Never Go Back to Preply

I will probably never use Preply again. Not because anything terrible happened, but because nothing good happened either.

So here are my problems with Preply’s online language lessons(and stay tuned because I actually have told the company about these problems and they admitted them!)

1. Preply Online Language Tutors/Teachers Don’t Show Up to Classes

I signed up for Preply in 2018 to brush up on my Spanish. The classes were insanely cheap (like $3-4) but I took all my other classes (Italian and French) on iTalki.

I just wanted to try out Preply to see if it was better than iTalki (spoiler alert, it’s not).

Just like on iTalki, you buy credits that you then get to use to pay for classes. I bought some credits and started signing up for classes. Out of all the classes I booked, only one teacher showed up.

The rest of the teachers never came so I had to cancel the classes and get my credits back.

This seemed fine at first, but it kept happening to the point that it made it seem like I would never actually be able to SPEND the credits that I had bought.

I am really budget-conscious and didn’t want to leave the money there unspent, but I couldn’t keep signing up for classes and wasting my time waiting for teachers to show up to the class.

So I left the credits there and just went back to my usual iTalki classes.

2. Preply Credits Expire Too Quickly

I write a lot about iTalki on this blog, so I wanted to go back to Preply to give it another chance in 2020 so that I could compare them better.

I tried to log into my account and saw that my account had been suspended because I hadn’t used it. All my credits were gone.

To be fair, this happens on iTalki as well. If you don’t sign in for a year then you lose your credits. As long as you sign in, your credits remain.

However, my problem with Preply is that it seemed like I would need to waste a TON of hours before I could actually use their credits while on iTalki I could use them at any time.

So with the way that Preply is designed, it’s not fair to make the credits expire in the same way that iTalki’s do.

3. Teachers Don’t Show Up BECAUSE of Preply’s Flawed System

I put this one last because I actually didn’t have the answer to this question until recently.

In July 2021, someone from Preply reached out to me about my iTalki blog posts and asked if I could add a positive review about Preply.

Here are the receipts:

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email from Preply about Preply vs. Italki

I emailed her back and said that with my current experience, I wouldn’t be able to do that and explained why.

I spend a ton of time talking about services that I love on my blog because I love them, whether I make money or not. iTalki changed my life and allowed me to learn languages from home so I talk about it A TON.

So I told her the problems I had with Preply (with teachers not showing up and my credits disappearing) and she sent me this email:

email from Preply

The email states that teachers not showing up to their Skype classes on Preply is a big problem BECAUSE teachers do not have to confirm the classes before they are accepted.

When you sign up for a class on iTalki, it is pending until the teacher sees it and accepts it. Meaning that the teacher KNOWS that there was a sign-up so they will plan to be there.

Preply is saying that the classes are automatically accepted and therefore the teacher would need to just sign in to Preply or check their schedule constantly to be able to know.

I was pretty shocked at that answer. This platform that is trying to beat out iTalki (the best language learning platform hands down) is AWARE of this problem and still hasn’t fixed it?

I was using the Preply platform in 2018 and in 2021 they still haven’t fixed such a simple thing on their platform so that it would actually work?

This was giving me Booking.com vibes (they’re sketchy, here’s why).

Basically, Preply gets your money whether the teacher actually shows up or not. You already bought the credits.

I never responded to that last email because even if the credits to try Preply were free, if they haven’t fixed their platform, then why would I ever recommend them?

I’m not going to use them, so I’m not going to suggest that you use them. In fact, here’s iTalki! Don’t waste your time on Preply lol.

4. Teachers Are Getting Screwed Over by Preply, Which Makes Lessons Worse

After doing a ton more research for this post, I came across the pay structure for Preply teachers and was absolutely shocked (I go over it in detail a bit further down).

Preply teachers MAKE NO MONEY on the first free trial lesson with EVERY NEW STUDENT. Every. single. one.

So not only are they not coming to class because they might not even know that a class was booked, but they have no incentive to come to class because they aren’t even getting paid!

It is not the teacher’s fault at all, instead, it’s the system that doesn’t have teachers confirm their lessons and then DOESN’T PAY the teacher for the whole first lesson!

Imagine how many classes these poor teachers have had to teach FOR FREE.

Sorry, I’m getting a bit worked up while writing this, as a language teacher myself this whole system is wrong and takes advantage of language teachers.

Preply vs. iTalki: User-Friendliness

Both of the sites are clean and easy to use. They are both easy to figure out and have a similar system for finding teachers and tutors.

However, for me, Preply still loses on this one.

Like I said before, my account was deactivated for not using it enough. Instead of making it easy to reactivate, they want me to email support. Already, I’m not going to do that.

account suspended on Preply

For the sake of this blog post, I created a brand new account using a different email address.

iTalki vs Preply: Commission Prices for Teachers/ Tutors

Even though this point is more important if you want to TEACH on either platform, I still think this is interesting from a student’s point of view.

I have become friends with all of my language teachers and I think it’s important that they’re being paid fairly.

Preply Commission Structure for Teachers

If I understand correctly, Preply takes 100% of the commission for the first lesson you teach to EVERY new student. Am I reading that right??

platform commission on preply

For those of you who have taught language classes online, you know this is a sh*tty setup. Sometimes you get a new student and they never come back.

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In fact, I’d say a lot of the time they don’t come back.

From there, Preply decreases its commission depending on how many hours you have completed (from my understanding, this is a total of hours from all your students, not just the one you’re teaching).

Yikes.

What’s kind of funny here too is that the more hours you teach, the more money you make, however, if you look at the graphic they use the color red to show the highest commission for you.

This makes it look like that commission structure gets worse for you as a teacher when really it just gets worse for the company.

Why aren’t they showing it getting better for the teachers instead of Preply’s commissions getting worse for them?

For example, I work with Mediavine for my blog and I get a 75% commission. They don’t tell me that they get 25%, they focus on what I get.

This whole graphic doesn’t make any sense visually and looks misleading (or just badly designed).

At the very best commission rate that Preply offers (after teaching over 400 hours, a ton of that for free, too) the best commission rate you can get as a teacher are 18%.

iTalki Commission Structure for Teachers

iTalki charges a 15% commission on every class no matter how many classes you have taught. So as a BEGINNER teacher on iTalki, you are already making more than you could ever make on Preply.

The next thing that is crazy is that iTalki does the exact opposite of Preply with their first class. Preply will take all of the commissions with the first class a teacher teaches to a new student, meaning the teacher makes nothing.

iTalki makes nothing on the first class (called trial lessons) and the teacher makes 100% of the money.

What an insanely different business model. Preply, are you listening? Cuz I’m pointing out the exact reason why you’re not as successful or nearly as good as iTalki.

iTalki commission rates for teachers

Moral of the story: if you treat your employees like sh*t, it affects your business negatively. So just pay your employees, Preply!

Preply vs. iTalki for Teachers & Tutors

One thing I noticed that is a big difference between Preply and iTalki for the teachers is that Preply caps your hourly rate at 35 euros or 40 dollars.

iTalki allows you to set your hourly rate at DOUBLE that amount, or 80 dollars/ 70 euros.

As a teacher or tutor, I would choose iTalki to have more freedom in the amount I can charge based on the services I’m providing.

Preply vs. iTalki for Language Learners

Would you rather go to a restaurant that serves pizza, hamburgers, sushi, fried chicken, Chinese food, etc., or a restaurant that specializes in one type of food?

Preply is a tutoring platform, meaning that you can find a tutor for math, acting, science, artificial intelligence, email marketing, French, or even app development.

subjects provided on Preply
Pokemon GO? lol

iTalki is a platform for language teachers only. This means that instead of spreading itself thin between a bunch of different subjects, it provides a way better service for language learners.

Preply has to try to find teachers/tutors for all of those different subjects, while iTalki focuses on finding the best language teachers available.

In fact, Preply only has 50 languages available on its platform while iTalki has over 150 languages available.

iTalki is the clear winner for language learners.

Preply or iTalki for Affordability

Preply caps the lesson price at $40 per hour while iTalki caps the lesson price at $80. But which one is actually cheaper?

Even though the classes on Preply may seem cheaper, there is a much higher chance that you won’t be able to use that money that you spent at all. Remember the teachers not showing up?

Besides that, I mentioned earlier that the prices on Preply were insanely low. I was signing up for classes for an hour for only $3.

If you look at the minimum price for a class on Preply, they allow you to charge as low as 1 euro or 1 dollar.

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On iTalki, the lowest price you can charge is $4.

It’s important to remember that even though these classes don’t require much for the teacher (if you book a conversation class) those prices are far too low.

iTalki and Preply both take a commission out of that price, plus if those teachers don’t live in America, a lot of times they have to pay a fee to get that money into their foreign bank accounts.

Then after the company takes a bit, Paypal (or whatever platform to get your money to your bank account) takes a bit, then the teacher has to pay taxes on the money they’ve made.

At those prices, they haven’t made any money at all.

Although affordability is important, we also need to make sure our teachers are being paid fairly. You can get an affordable class from iTalki without completely ripping off your teacher in the process (talking to you Preply).

Preply vs. iTalki for Quality of Teachers/ Tutors

For this one, I wanted to compare the two sites using the same subject: French. I wanted to see how many teachers had availability for that subject and how many reviews they have using the filters available on each site.

On Preply, there are 1,004 French online teachers available.

Preply online language learning platform

From there, I chose to organize the teachers by the number of reviews they had. The top two teachers for French had 74 and 56 positive reviews.

Preply teachers

On iTalki, there are 718 French teachers. So on this point, Preply has 300+ more French teachers than iTalki. However, does this prove that Preply has better quality French teachers?

iTalki teachers

Another point for Preply here is that they have the ability to organize the teachers by the number of reviews they have.

I think iTalki used to have that feature, but they must have taken it away to give newer teachers a chance to get students.

But as I scrolled through the French teachers on iTalki, I found multiple teachers who had taught more lessons and had more reviews than the top teachers on Preply.

reviews for iTalki teachers

One reason why I think iTalki has fewer private tutors is that they aren’t constantly hiring for every subject. As far as I could see on Preply, you could apply for any subject.

All of the years I’ve used iTalki (since 2018), I’ve always checked what languages they were accepting applications for since I taught English and I majored in Spanish Education.

I never ended up applying, but it was always something I had in the back of my mind.

Right now, if you go to apply for iTalki, you first have to check to make sure that they are accepting applications for the language that you want to teach.

apply to be an iTalki teacher

Preply vs. iTalki: Who Should You Use?

If it isn’t already painfully apparent by my tone in this post, I am team iTalki all the way.

They have better teachers, they pay their teachers better, they focus on language learning, they are affordable, and they are easy to use.

Preply underpays or doesn’t pay their teachers, has a flawed class booking system, doesn’t make changes even when they are obvious, and keeps your money even if you don’t get to use their credits.

So choose iTalki!

Have you had a bad experience with Preply as a student or a teacher? Leave a comment below!

Read More About Learning Languages:

Aashish

Saturday 18th of November 2023

Thanks for the very good summary and detailed analysis.

on Preply -- STAY AWAY... bad experience as a parent of a student. Be very careful when buying hours.  The app will tell you to buy more hours at a discount, and that you can refund unused hours... but it doesnt tell you of the fineprint which can stop you from refunding hours.  I think this is unethical and unfair and want to caution any parent/student to not fall victim to such malpractice.  Very disappointing that a good business idea has to resort to such dubious ways to make money.  Finding alternatives, and will try italki!

Jenny

Monday 30th of October 2023

Hello, thanks for your review about Preply, I totally agree with you. I have been teaching for over 15 years. I am a very experienced IELTS coach and I have been on many different sites for many years. Italki, is definitely one of the best platforms out there for teachers who want students to come to them and also want a fair pay system. In comparison Preply underpay their teachers, they take probably the largest commission out of any platform, there are a number of trial classes you teach that they are expected to be free. Then they take about 5 to 6 dollars of your set teaching price. Aside from that, I have had other teacher friends apply who have outstanding and exceptional teaching portfolios and certificates, yet they have been refused to teach with Preply, we suspect that Preply staff check your profiles on other social platforms as there is no reason for them to turn down highly experienced teachers unless there is some kind of prejudice going on with their preference to teachers they hire. It´s a waste of time signing up to teach with Preply. I do recommend Italki.

M

Sunday 8th of October 2023

Wow. this is a detailed review..... good job on this. I was just searching trying to understand if preplay is a legit website before I booked my lesson, and ended up learning about italki.

I am trying to learn a language from scratch. is italki a good place to start?

Dayna Brockbank

Monday 9th of October 2023

hey M! Glad you liked the post, I would definitely recommend spending a bit of time on Duolingo until you have some basics, then start italki. If you feel comfortable starting now, go ahead! The earlier you start the better as long as you try to stick to only speaking your target language in lessons! (: Good luck and have fun learning, Dayna

Jess

Monday 21st of August 2023

Preply is definitely a scam.

It blows my mind anyone has had a good experience with this shady company. In fact I find it hard to believe and am half convinced the good reviews are either bought or very naive people who have never had the misfortune of having an issue that needed resolved with them.

I specifically asked to refund my money and stop all sessions after my teacher rescheduled lessons last minute at my expense and had poor audio quality that took half a PAID lesson to resolve on the first two lessons alone.

They refused to give me a refund and come to find out continued billing me automatically after I asked them very clearly to stop all sessions and close my account. For four months they did this without my knowledge. I spoke with someone directly about it so I'm sure it was intentional. I also have the chat logs to prove it.

I will be reporting them as fraudulent activity to my bank.

Please let me know if there is anything others have started or been able to do to shut down this scam of a company. Even if I get my money back I don't want others to suffer as I did and have hundreds of dollars stolen from them!

Ryan

Wednesday 24th of May 2023

My experience on Preply in 2023 has been great! I purposefully filtered out the tutors at the low end charging $1-10 per 1 hour lesson as I figured with the commission and fees they either were too new (taking a low fee to get new students and build their profile) or they weren’t going to be able to make enough money!

Anyhow, the search/filter features on Preply were great, the tutor videos/bios were helpful. I found a great tutor, and even though I purchased a block of hours at the tutors set rate, I schedule individually and get refilled # of hours monthly, so no surprises.

The ONLY thing I am not a big fan of is that Preply works best on a desktop/laptop computer and OS, and the Whiteboard/Screen share features do not work on the mobile app - which is a big downer if you are trying to go for the “classroom” aspect if your tutor prepares slides, and shares their screen w/ you. If you primarily just “talk” with your tutor then essentially the app is like FaceTime and you can see/talk with each other and use the chat.

Your article was very helpful in comparison terms, I will probably check out iTalki in the future, but I think you did a nice job comparing the business models and platforms. Ultimately the main experience will be driven by the actual tutor/teacher/coach and I am sure both platforms have plenty of good and bad ones. Thank you for your post!