When to start using Italki as a learner
Hey, I´ve taught 8000 lessons on iTalki (mostly German) and I´ve taken more than 100 (mostly Czech).
A lot of it depends on whether you can find someone who´s good at "teacher talk" (simplyfing their speaking to be more comprehensible, ideally with somewhat natural volume and intonation). Some teachers are better at that than others, it probably mostly comes down to experience.
The better your listening and the more words you know, the more pleasant the experience will usually be. You need to speak a lot to speak well but it´d say the "progress per hour of speaking practice" increases with input.
On the other hand, most people don´t want to just get input for months or years without talking to anyone. If you feel that not speaking affects your motivation or if you want to improve speaking faster, you should start earlier (around A2).
Thank you for the response. I should start setting up lessons then!
I have done a lot of italki lesson, mostly in German but also a few in Russian and Mandarin. With German, I started after about 5 months of very intensive learning and I could already have decent simple conversations. This was really good and the lessons got better and better as I improved and could talk about more stuff.
With Russian and Mandarin, I had very different experiences. My knowledge of those languages was and still is far worse. I of course did learn a good amount during the lessons, so it is worth it if you have the time, dosh, and motivation. However, the lessons were very strenuous and not fun. We did not have any real conversations and it usually just boiled down to me trying to say the same sentences with slight variations. I gave up on these lessons very quickly.
Thanks for the insight. I know Chinese and Russian are a bit tougher in comparison to German so maybe the time required to prepare before a lesson is longer. Perhaps I have to wait a bit longer to improve my overall everything before starting Italki.
For sure. For people like us, German is significantly easier. It's up to you to decide when you want to do lessons. I don't think you have to wait to do lessons. You will always benefit from them. Are you thinking about doing lessons in Mandarin? Your LingQ statistics are really good for Mandarin.
Yeah, I want to do it for Mandarin but just worried that I won't benefit much since my conversional listening isn't "good enough", but I can always ask them to slow down and such. Thanks for the compliment.
I assume you mean conversational listening. What do you mean by that? I think that should not be a major problem for you. Teachers tend to speak slowly and clearly and you will get better and understanding people also from doing lessons. I would bet you have a lot to benefit from some Mandarin lessons. Maybe you can do half-hour lessons at the start.
As a disclaimer, I have no experience with tutors or italki. I'm certainly considering it, just don't have much free time currently.
I'm surprised to hear that you think your listing comprehension might be amiss, with your kind of numbers I assume it to be rather advanced, at least compared to myself. I have over 1k hours less and even I understand all sorts of things. I'm sure you'll be fine.
Regardless, as Juliani already said, you are paying this person, so they should talk to you at your level. They can slow down, explain in other words, repeat themselves etc., as needed.
Also I believe it should be important to be clear and upfront with the potential tutor, before the start and clearly state your wishes, for example if you want the classroom experience ("today we're learning the colors"), prepare for an exam (HSK), have your ego destroyed by them nitpicking your tones (like @Michilini), or if you just want to have a conversation about a topic of your choosing. I think both parties should have clarity before engaging in anything.
By the way, I totally agree with your approach to listen a lot, and every now and again check your profile to see how far you've come, it is inspiring, and a reminder that I have to do more listening :)
Wish you the best.
Thank you for your kind words. Likewise for the the inspiration. I have more of a better understanding that is less conversational and more technical topics so I might not be used to conversions in general, but I appreciate the advice and will think about it more.
The key question is what do you expect from your classes? Or more precisely: What do you want to do in your classes?
Steve Kaufmann said that he uses the MiniStories in his first lessons. I don't know how exactly this looks like, but going through a familiar piece of content with your tutor is something you can do at a very early stage.
There is also the option to ask your tutor for comprehensible input. Something like a TPRS class. You can do this also at a beginner level, though it might be hard to find a tutor.
For having real conversations about a topic of your interest you have to wait, in my opinion, a bit longer. Some state that you can start speaking from day one but I honestly have no idea how this works. So as soon as I comfortably understood intermediate podcasts in Polish I started booking more regularly classes with my tutor.
My strategy: Listen and read to the podcast several time, write out interesting words and phrases and prepare some questions for the tutor.
Even though you might not be at the level to talk about the topic of your choice, you can kind of interview your tutor and try to understand the best you can.
Normally tutors have a good sense of what you can understand and what not, so by asking them interesting questions you genereate comprehensible and compelling input. I see no reason to hold this step back, unless it still makes you uncomfortable to speak.
So the only requirement I would set is being able to understand content that appears interesting to you.
Makes sense. I appreciate the response