The Ultimate italki Video Review

By Donald Ash | Articles

Ultimate italki Video Review Transcript

The true test of how good your Japanese really is, is whether or not you can speak it. And to be honest, that's the part that I struggle with the most, doing the whole self study thing. Today, let's review a popular online language learning platform that gives you that chance to speak in Japanese. We're going to do a deep dive into italki. We're going to discuss the pros, the cons, the features, the teachers, and everything in between. And hopefully by the end of today's video, you'll get a better sense of whether or not italki is a language learning platform that makes sense for you. My name is Donnie, and this is The Japan Guy. And to appease the YouTube algorithm gods, please don't forget to Eren Yeager that like button.

What is italki?

I like to think of italki as this online language learning classroom, and it effectively connects native speaking language teachers with students who want to learn that target language. You can learn everything from French to German, English to Spanish, whatever language is available on italki. And of course, I'm going to focus on the Japanese learning side of italki.


Pro Number One

You can choose your teacher. One of the biggest benefits of italki is that you have a choice, you can choose the teacher that you want to learn from. Now, I did do a short stint at a Japanese school and I think one of my biggest gripes is that, as expensive as it was, you're kind of stuck with the teacher that you're given. So if this teacher sucks ass, then you're going to have to learn from that suck ass teacher. And italki takes that limitation away.

Pro number Two

Pro number two, trial lessons, many teachers on italki will offer a shorter trial lesson. And this is great, because it gives you a chance to test whether or not a teacher is the right fit for you. And this saves you a lot of time and a lot of money when you're vetting teachers on the platform.

Pro number Three

Pro number three, it's easy to get started. Italki is incredibly easy to use. Once you've registered your account, and you have credits, you could literally sign up for your first lesson today. I really like that it's easy to use because I know, if the system is more complicated for me, the more likely it is for me to procrastinate and not do lessons at all. Japanese has enough moving parts as it is, the last thing you need is a complicated scheduling system.

Pro number Four

Pro number four, italki is affordable. Italki's not going to cost you an arm and a leg, which is great for everybody. There's a very flexible payment system that allows you to pay as you go, so you can buy as many italki credits as you want, or as few as you want. So maybe you just want to dip your big toe into Japanese lessons, or maybe you want to dive in with both feet? In either case, you can pay in a way that makes sense for you.

Pro number Five

Pro number five, convenience. This is probably italki's most important. People are busy, man. Okay, well, maybe not right now because of what's going on, but you know what I mean. It's great to be able to take lessons when you want to take them, at a time that's convenient for you.

Pro number Six

Pro number six, it gets you out of your textbook. I think the people that pick up Japanese really fast, or at least the speaking side of it, they're okay with being uncomfortable. And sometimes, being in front of a native speaker, not knowing what to say, can be uncomfortable. I like that italki gives you this controlled setting to do it in. 

And let me say this really clearly because I know I'm a textbook lover, if you're learning Japanese, or probably any language for that matter, your textbook is not enough. Yes, textbooks can be extremely helpful, there are great grammar lessons in them, vocabulary, usage, all kinds of great things, so I'm not saying throw away your textbooks. But I don't think you can truly gauge how good your Japanese is until you sit down and have a conversation with a native speaker.


Con Number One

Not every teacher is good. Let's be very blunt. Not every teacher on italki is a gem. Yeah, some teachers are going to suck, but that's how it is on any platform, right? That's why they have a feedback system, that's why you can give ratings. So that gives you a way to get some crowd consensus on how a teacher's doing.

Con Number Two

Con number two, unstructured learning. I think structure is a really big part of learning Japanese effectively, and that's why I love my textbook so much, but you have to keep in mind that with italki, if you're not very proactive about what you want to learn, how you want to learn it, and then letting your teacher know that clearly, you might end up feeling like you're spinning your wheels a little bit, or you might end up feeling like you're not progressing as fast as you could, like you're plateauing.

Con Number Three

Teacher availability. This can be a real problem sometimes, especially with the really popular teachers. Those teachers can sometimes be booked out for months.

Con Number Four

The fine print on your italki credits. I wanted to save this con for last because it's important, but it's not right in your face. Please keep in mind that when you buy italki credits, you can't convert them back into cash to get a refund, and to be honest, I think that policy sucks. Yeah, it's really smart on italki's parked to keep money in the platform, but it's really inconvenient if you're a user. 

So to combat this particular credit con, I would just say use what you can afford and keep it lean. Buy enough credits to take the lessons that you want to take, but don't buy so many credits that you won't be able to use them all. Even though you can't turn your credits back into cash, I really like that credits don't expire on italki, because there are some language learning platforms out there that will gobble up your credits if you don't use them.

But there is one caveat to this. Your italki credits don't expire if you're an active user. So what does that mean? At the time of this recording it means that if you have not logged into italki's system in a year, you lose the credits that you've bought. So if you bought $100 worth of credits on italki, and you don't log into the system for a full year, you lose that $100 of credits. And the fix for this credit con would be to login and actually use your credits.


Keep in mind that italki lesson prices will vary depending on the teacher. So, let's just scroll through and have a look at some prices. So, right up here, we have 1,072 Yen and keep in mind that 1,072 Yen is right around $10 US, give or take, depending on the exchange rate. If we scroll down, 3,644 Yen, so that's just under $40, a little more expensive there. Right around 20 bucks, right around $20, just under $15, just under $15, just under $15. So it feels like just under $15 or that 10 to $15 range is right in the middle. 

Here's a community tutor that's under $10. Here's a price spike, so this teacher is charging around 4,600 Yen an hour, and that's just under $50 US. And there's nothing wrong with a teacher charging $50 an hour, but if you're going to pay that much money, that teacher really better be worth it because there are other great teachers on the platform that charge less. So in this case, I would definitely recommend checking out the intro video very closely and doing the trial lesson first to make sure that teacher's a match.

Now, if price is a major factor for you, keep in mind that you can filter teachers based on price. So, if I choose the price option from this toolbar, I can use this slider to show how much I'm willing to pay for an hour of a teacher's time. So this is extremely useful.

Want to try

italki is one of the best, most convenient ways to get in some real Japanese conversation practice.  Whether you're just getting started,

pleateaued, or trying to keep your skills as sharp as you can. 

I wholeheartedly recommend italki.


Let's log into italki and we'll look at some of the features of the platform together. This is the main italki dashboard and this'll be really brief because it's a very simple dashboard as it should be. So, you can see how many trial lessons that you have left, you can see the language that you're learning as well as completed lessons, teachers that you've either taken lessons from or that you're interested in taking lessons from, your italki balance, as well as Japanese teachers that I talk to you recommends for you.

And in our community tab, you have lots of different extras, articles, answers, discussions, and they do have a language community on italki. I can't really say how strong it is though, because I don't use it very often. And then, of course, you have messages, and this is just a place where you can message your teachers that you want to take lessons from and you can also get notifications from italki.

Let's also go to find a teacher. I think this is italki's most important feature. So once I've clicked on find a teacher, I can search the pool of teachers of the target language that I want. And in this case, it's Japanese and it just lists out all the teachers, all the community tutors as well. And I can also use these filters to get more specific about what kind of teacher I want. 

So I can choose availability, teacher types, I can choose between professional teachers and community tutors, categories, native speakers, price, what other languages they speak, et cetera. And if I see a teacher or a tutor that I'm interested in learning from, I can click this heart button, and if I go to my main dashboard, you'll see that the teacher shows up in the my teacher's list.

Ultimate ialki Video Review: LESSON SNIPPETS

I'm at a job where I use English the majority of the time. So admittedly, my Japanese has gotten a little bit rusty, even being here in Japan. But I'm making a conscious decision to take my spoken Japanese more seriously. So I decided to do an italki test. I decided to test three highly rated italki teachers and see what their lessons were like. I'm going to get uncomfortable for a moment and let you watch me stumble a little bit in Japanese. Here are some snippets from those lessons.

Me, too. I have the same problem with my hair.
It's hard for me, too.
I totally understand.

Akari Sensei:
Mr. Donald, you look good in blue.

Oh, thank you!
This is my favorite color.
Thank you

Akari Sensei:
It suits you.
Okay. Not that I've properly done my hair, I'm ready.

Could you let me pet your dog?

Okay. Yeah, I think I'm okay with "Sareru." 
He should still be in Japan?

Akari Sensei:
How about "Hazu (はず)?"

Okay, um.
He should still be in Japan.

Akari Sensei:
He should still be in Japan.

Akari Sensei
The coronavirus should go away soon.


Uh, okay...Brad Pitt should have money.

Akari Sensei:
That's right.
Brad Pitt should have money.

Good for him, hahaha.

Akari Sensei & Donnie:
Are you going anywhere for Golden Week?
Yes. I'm going to Kyoto and Hiroshima.
How many nights are you staying in Kyoto?
I'm spending two nights in Kyoto, and one night in Hiroshima.
Where are you going to stay?
In Kyoto, I'm going to stay in a traditional, Japanese inn.
In Hiroshima, I'm going to stay at a hotel.
Have you already made a reservation?
Yes, I made a reservation.

Hmm. I don't know.

Akari Sensei:
You don't know?

[I'm not familiar with] That "よう。”

Akari Sensei:
Well, okay, for example, Do you know what "taiheiyou"means?

What is that?

Akari Sensei:
Taiheiyou, Pacific Ocean.

Ah, okay.

Akari Sensei:
One more big one...


Akari Sensei:
Yes, Atlantic Ocean.

Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean.

Akari Sensei:
Yes, "よう” means ocean.


Akari Sensei:
So, for Japanese people, "foreign" means from the other ocean, right?


Akari Sensei:
Therefore, for Japanese people, this means overseas.


Akari Sensei:

Whenever I speak Japanese, I always have trouble
because I can't get all of my thoughts to come out...
In English, I really don't think about it at all.
I can speak naturally.
But when I speak in Japanese, maybe...
When it's vocabulary or grammar, because I don't know whether or not 
I'm saying the right thing...
all of it doesn't come out.
That's a problem for me.

Yuki Sensei:
I see. You're not able to get 100% of what you're thinking 
to come out when you speak.

When I was a Dad made me rake the leaves (yard).

Yuki Sensei:
Yes, that's right. 
He made me rake the leaves.


Movie theaters are completely different, too
In Japan, you get your ticket...
You live...
You sit here, in that spot.
But in America, there's free seating.

Yuki Sensei:
Ahhh, anywhere is okay?

Anywhere is okay.

And what else? What else..
What is this? What is this called? Armrest?

Yuki Sensei:

In America, you can do this.

Yuki Sensei and Donnie:
Ugoku, ugoku.

But in Japan [Japanese theaters] they don't.
So, if you have girlfriend...
In America, you can do this.
But in Japan, it's like this...
Right? I can't...

Yuki Sensei:
It's in the way.

Ahhh, that sucks.

Yuki Sensei:
That's funny.

When we watch a funny movie [in America],
"Hahahah" you can hear people laughing.
When I went to my first movie theater in Japan,
I saw something funny,

Yuki Sensei:
A funny movie?

When I saw a funny movie, 
I started laughing with a friend.
But everyone was dead silent. 
"Sheeeeen" (Japanese onomatopoeia for silence)
It got so quiet...
I was really surprised.

Yuki Sensei:
When people eat popcorn too, 
they do it quietly.

RIGHT! I can't hear anything!

It's so quiet.

I also got to have a lesson with Merorin Sensei, although I'm not able to put the video up here because I messed up the files. Merorin Sensei was a very nice guy as well, a very different style from a Akari Sensei or Yuki Sensei. He was a lot straighter, maybe not as many smiles, but very detailed and also very effective. And I'll leave a link in the description box to all three teachers if you'd like to check them out on italki.

iTalki Tips

With a pool of 627 Japanese teachers at the moment, how do you even know what to look for in an italki teacher? And to be honest, sometimes you don't know what to look for, but these introduction videos can be extremely useful in helping you to clearly know the right teacher when you see and hear them. I like to look for things like diction, is there Japanese clear and easy to understand? Do they seem interested in teaching? Does their personality seem to match yours? 

And for some of you, you may want to find a teacher who also speaks English. Why? Because having a bilingual teacher can really help plug in those holes when you run into Japanese concepts that are challenging, when you run into those concepts you can't understand.

Here's another useful tip from Akari Sensei, and she's one of the same teachers that we did a lesson test with.

Akari Sensei:
Especially like you, the advanced level, you can choose not only... Like me, I'm a professional teacher, but there are also community tutors. They don't have certificate, but they are cheaper and you can just [inaudible 00:18:53] this conversation.

It's a good point. It's a very good point.

Who It's For...

I think italki is perfect for the busy person that has limited time. Italki is perfect for the frugal person, if you're looking for affordable Japanese lessons, it might be the right fit for you. It's perfect for the person studying Japanese on their own. You do need to have somebody to practice your Japanese on. Italki is also great for the self motivated person.

Who It isn't For...

Not everybody enjoys online lessons, some people would rather have their teacher physically present, some people would rather be in a physical classroom setting, and for those people, italki probably isn't the best fit. Italki isn't for people who can't be flexible, you are going to have to work around time slots sometimes and even work around teachers when yours isn't available. 

Italki isn't for people who aren't self-motivated. I'd also say that italki isn't for the person that prefers to learn in groups. Some people need that support from their classmates to really buckle down and seriously start learning Japanese, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. But I really do think italki kind of favors that one to one style of teaching and tutoring.

My italki Rating

Do you know the three biggest objections I've heard, the three biggest hurdles that I've heard to people wanting to learn Japanese? Number one is time, number two is money, and number three is nobody to talk to or practice with. Now, I'm not going to say italki is the perfect platform, but I will say it is a great solution to those three problems. And for that reason, I'm going to give italki a B... No, wait, hold on. I think that B plus business is a cop out. Italki is one of the best in class, if not the best in class platforms for you to practice speaking Japanese. And it does it in an effective way.

So let's give italki an A.


Well guys, that'll do it for today's italki review. As always, thank you so much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, please don't forget to Rock Lee that like button. And if you find it useful, please share. Have you had any experiences with italki? Good ones, bad ones? Whatever the case may be, I do want to hear about it in the comments because I do want people to get a true sense of what italki is and what it isn't and that way they can make an informed decision for themselves. I appreciate you guys and I'll catch you in the next one.

italki Teacher Profiles

Hi, my name is Kohei. I'm native Japanese speaker. I'm currently living in Australia. I have been teaching Japanese since 2017.

My name is Rina. I was born and raised in Hiroko Japan, which is close to Osaka. So I speak Kansai dialect and also standard Japanese. Learning a new language is not always fun, sometimes you lose motivation, sometimes you just want to quit, and so, I am very happy to help you to improve your speaking skills...

My name is Tadahiro Muroka from Tokyo. I am a 47 years old. I have a spend about eight years, and since I started teach Japanese. I like English language since I was a boy and I became a Japanese language teacher because I wanted to start the business using English. I am a using Genki Book as the main textbook on the lessons. As we know that it is said that repetition is mother of all learning.

After having learned English here in the US, I learned Spanish and Korean by myself. I've also studied French, Italian and some Chinese.  As you can see, I love learning languages. And from all these languages that I studied, I know what works when you study a language.

I sometimes use textbooks or some real life materials, such as newspaper articles and videos, according to your needs. But most importantly, we'll be focusing on your speaking skills so that you can gain confidence and ease in expressing yourself in real life situations.Enter your text here...

Need To Know More About italki?

italki Written Review

Is italki a platform that makes sense for you? This written review will give you
even more insight into this Japanese-learning platform.
Click the blue button below...


About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.