Although iTalki is famous for having incredibly cheap online language teachers, there is one thing that is always better than cheap: FREE! Did you know that you can get language practice on iTalki for free? This step-by-step guide will show you exactly how to find a language exchange partner on iTalki for no cost at all.
UPDATE: iTalki no longer offers the option for language exchanges, which is so sad! However, the lessons on iTalki are still super cheap! Start learning on iTalki for $5-$8 a class here.
If you’ve never used iTalki before and need to be convinced check out this post for 9 reasons why you NEED to use iTalki for language learning.
How to use italki for free with Community Language Partners
First of all, in order to use iTalki you need to create a free account on their website. You can do this using your email or by connecting your Google or Facebook accounts.
After that, fill out your profile with a little information about yourself and the languages that you are learning.
Make sure to upload a profile picture and make your profile as complete as possible.
This will make it so that other people looking for language partners can find you and so that when you are looking for language partners you look more legitimate and less sketchy (very important as these are FREE language exchanges so you should definitely be a bit more careful about who you choose.)
Search for free italki language partners
Once you have filled out your iTalki profile, you should head to the Community tab and click on “Find Language Partners.”
After that, you fill out what you are looking for in a language partner. First, at the top you choose the language that you are looking to learn. In my case, I’m learning French!
After that, you choose the language that you are able to help your partner with, which in my case is English. Even though I have a degree in Spanish Education as well, most people are looking for a native speaker so it’s better to use your native language instead.
The next section asks for the gender that you would like your language partner to be. For me, I always choose female-only and I have found that this is often the case with other female language learners that I’ve met.
The sad truth is that once you create an account on iTalki, hundreds of messages from men will be pouring in asking for help with English.
Although I’m sure some of them are sincere, I do not feel comfortable Skyping with a man I’ve never met. However, that decision is completely up to you!
The next section is where you choose where you want your language partner to be from.
For me, this is less important for a language like Spanish since my Spanish language goals are just to get more practice and be able to communicate no matter what country I’m in.
However, for French, I am looking for someone who is from France since I still need to master the vocabulary used here in France versus Canada or another French-speaking country.
You can choose whether this section is important to you or not based on what your language goals are.
I skipped the “Living In” section since I don’t care if they currently live in France or not, they would definitely still speak French fluently! As an expat who has lived all over, this section doesn’t really make sense to me unless you’re trying to meet the person for coffee or something.
The last section is “Native Speaker” and you can just click it to turn it on or off.
I suggest you keep it on (it will turn blue) because you shouldn’t be using these free language exchanges as “lessons”, you should be using them as conversation practice. Some things will never click until you actually use them in an actual conversation.
If you’re super into language learning like me, or maybe just want to get into it, you should definitely check out this book on Amazon about how to stay fluent in a language over time without losing fluency!
Start messaging language exchange partners
Now you can start messaging the people that fit what you’re looking for. Although I’m not sure what the number is exactly, there is a limit on the amount people you can message per day.
Make sure that you are only messaging people that you’d really like to meet with!
Your message should be something like “Hello! I’m Dayna and I’m learning Italian. I’d love to help you with your English! Let me know if you want to talk!” Send it in the language that you are learning as well.
Although the norm is to find someone to Skype with, some people I messaged only wanted to talk on Whatsapp or Facebook. I just moved on to find people who were willing to talk on Skype.
You may have to wait a few days for a response. Also, during this time you should check your messages for people who message you looking for a language partner.
This is how I found most of my Italian language partners!
When you find someone
Yay, you found someone willing to do a language exchange with you! Now you just need to set a date and time to talk on Skype. Make sure to send your Skype username to them over the messenger on iTalki.
Although you probably won’t have to discuss it, the norm for a language exchange is a 1-hour skype call with 30 minutes in each language. If you want to do something different, you should let them know ahead of time.
It’s also super important that you make sure to double-check your time difference. Know the hours that you are available and make sure that they fit with your partners. I’ve definitely messed this one up before and had to stay up really late!
Lastly, set a reminder on your phone and note your Skype session in your planner! Even though the language exchange is free, don’t disrespect your partner by not showing up.
what to expect after you’ve found a language exchange partner
After you’ve found a few people that match what you’re looking for, there are still a few things you need to keep in mind to prepare for your Skype language exchange!
Prepare to speak in your language
Obviously, now that you have set up a Skype appointment with someone, you need to get ready to actually speak the language! I’ve written out a language study plan that only uses Duolingo and iTalki and tips you should follow for your language exchange which you can find here.
One quick tip that you should follow for your Skype session is to have Google Translate pulled up on your browser before you even start the language exchange.
You wouldn’t be using this to translate full phrases but instead just for when you REALLY can’t get your point across.
The best thing to do for these exchanges is to really throw yourself into it. Make as many mistakes as you can and just TALK, TALK, TALK.
It’s okay to be nervous, but also a little fun to remember that you will probably never meet these people in real life so it’s okay to just let yourself get into it!
Some People Won’t Show Up
Unfortunately since neither party in this language exchange is getting paid, it’s obvious that some people are just not going to show up. Just don’t let that person be YOU!
Set a timer, add it to your planner, whatever you have to do to be respectful of your language exchange partner. If someone forgets about your session and doesn’t show up, that’s okay.
There are plenty of other people out there who will practice with you. Just keep searching!
It will take a few weeks to find a good reliable partner
Once you find a language partner that shows up, is respectful and allows you to practice as well, and is willing to meet with you again, you’ve hit the jackpot! At the end of your Skype sessions, ask them if they’d like to meet up again.
If you got along well and feel comfortable with it, you can exchange social medias or even phone numbers so that you can contact each other outside of Skype to be able to schedule more lessons.
At one point, I had about 4 language partners that I met with every week for Italian and I was able to get a LOT out of these little exchanges.
A lot of people hate on language exchanges because they are free and “you get what you pay for” but I personally think that you don’t need a formal class to learn a language. In fact, you will learn a lot better if you just start SPEAKING!
They probably can’t explain grammar to you
This might sound rude, but I’m including myself in this too! Even though I teach English every day, most of the time I cannot tell you exactly what grammar rule to follow or what the exceptions are to any rule.
When you sign up for a language exchange, DON’T waste your time trying to get them to explain grammar concepts to you. Just ask them, very nicely, to correct you if you make mistakes.
Of course, they won’t correct every mistake you make because in a normal, friendly conversation that would be considered rude.
Even with those things in mind, you can learn a lot from your free language partner. I have learned A LOT from my language exchange partners. The most important thing is to practice being understood and having a fluid conversation with a native speaker.
You can find really good people & become friends
When you find a really good language partner, you may even become friends outside of your language exchanges! Thanks to iTalki, I have met tons of incredibly kind people who have motivated me to learn even more.
It’s little awkward switching languages
When you first get on the call, you decide which language to start out with pretty easily (I would usually let them start first) but when 30 minutes have past, it can be a bit awkward to ask to switch to the other language.
You want to make sure that you’re being polite but also that there is time for both of you to learn and benefit from the language exchange.
A few other ways to learn for free on italki
Get your writing corrected in “Notebooks”
On iTalki, you can submit a writing prompt to be created by native speakers. You can find this in the Community tab under the “Notebook” section. From there, click “Write a Notebook.” It will give you a few ideas of what to write about.
If you do write something, make sure to go through a few prompts from other users and correct them.
Although I’ve never actually submitted anything before, I have actually corrected a few entries that people learning English had made. I definitely plan to try this in the future when I’m focusing on building my vocabulary.
Get help with difficult vocabulary
Have a word or a phrase that just doesn’t translate? Personally, I would first type it into ReversoContext and see if you can’t deduce it’s meaning that way. If that doesn’t work, you can submit the question on iTalki for a native speaker to answer.
In the Community tab, go to the “Answers” section. From there you can choose the language you are learning and even select that you want the questions to be written in English if you want.
Free language tips from iTalki teachers
If you’re looking for mini-lessons in grammar or vocabulary for free, this iTalki blog section is for you! You can find it, (guess where!), in the Community tab under “Articles.”
On the far right you can change the language to the one that you are currently learning.