The Ultimate italki Japanese Review

By Donald Ash | The Japan Guy Reviews...

For those of you who want to bypass this ultimate italki Japanese review and go straight to trying out italki lessons for yourself, you can click here.

For everyone else, it's review time...

How can you gauge how good your Japanese skills really are? By SPEAKING JAPANESE!  That's not to say that reading and writing (hiragana, katana, and kanji) don't have a place, because they do!

But I think fluent conversation is the pinnacle Japanese skill.  I'd argue that it's the pinnacle skill in any language.

Why is speaking Japanese so important? Because being able to do it skillfully forces you to combine so many moving parts of the language on the fly.  You have to know the words you want to say (vocab), effectively put them into coherent sentences (grammar and usage), all while understanding/responding to the conversation you're hearing (listening comprehension).

I'd be lying if I told you that speaking comes easy to me. It doesn't. But there are ways to get better at speaking Japanese. Today, let's look at a popular platform that focuses primarily on improving how well you speak and communicate in Japanese - italki

Let's examine...

  • what italki is
  • the pros
  • the cons
  • how much it costs
  • the features
  • and more...

By the end of this italki Japanese review, you'll have a clear understanding of what italki is and whether or not it's the right service to help you improve your Japanese speaking skills.

Affiliate Disclosure

Yes, I am an italki affiliate and this italki review does contain affiliate links.  If you decide try italki using one of the links on this page, I do earn a commission.  However, my affiliate relationship will not keep me from thoroughly picking apart the italki platform thoroughly (the good and the bad).
Trust that this is a 100% honest review - one based on my personal experience with the service.

What Is italki?

Launched in 2007, italki is an online language learning platform that connects students all over the world to native-speaking teachers of their target language. italki is a services that focuses primarily on one-on-one, online lessons and offers everything from Arabic to French, from German to Japanese.

italki logo

italki Quick Reference Chart


Does italki do what it's billed to do? ABSOLUTELY! This will of course depend on the teacher you get and how well you mesh with them.

But on the whole, if you're truly trying to get better at speaking Japanese, italki is an effective method to do it.


italki is very easy to use!

If you have the credits, you literally just find a teacher you're interested in learning from (they have introduction, video profiles), schedule the lesson, take the lesson, and leave feedback for teacher.


Is italki affordable? 
Yes! The italki platform allows teachers to charging what they feel they're worth.

But you don't have to ever feel like the most expensive teacher is the one you HAVE TO choose.

The beauty of having options is that tere are teachers who offer INCREDIBLE LESSONS at a REASONABLE PRICE!


How easy it for you to schedule the italki teacher you want?
Well, that really depends on how popular that teacher is. 

While the process is straightforward, it's not always easy to schedule the sought-after teachers.

More on this later in the review...


Why is italki one of the go-to platforms for people wanting to improve their Japanese conversation skills?  Here are five reasons I like learning Japanese with italki:

  •  1. Choice!
  •  2. Real-World Japanese
  •  3. Convenience
  •  4. italki is Affordable
  •  5. Credit-Based Platform
  •  6. It's All About You


1. Choice!

One of the biggest italki pros I can think of is choice! Have you ever been in a class (high school, college, or otherwise) where the teacher wasn't engaging at all? Or, worse, the teacher made you feel stupid when you had legitimate questions? I've experienced both and it sucks!

The trouble with real-world classes is that far more often than not, you don't have a choice. You're stuck with the teacher you're assigned. italki gives you the opportunity to "try out" your teachers with their trial lessons.  In addition, you have full control of which teacher you choose. Do your research, and pick the online Japanese teacher that's right for you.  It can make a night and day difference in your Japanese.


2. Real-World Japanese

A common gripe among Japanese learners (especially living here in Japan) is that often their textbook grammar doesn't sound like the Japanese they're hearing everyday. italki is a tangible solution to this problem. What better way to figure out what sounds natural, and what doesn't, than by speaking with a native Japanese speaker.

Yes, it can be a little intimidating at first, but know that the more often you have conversations with Japanese native speakers the more your ears and your speech will adjust.  It is CRITICAL that you make time to get out of your textbook and use your Japanese - italki can help you with that.


3. Convenience

For the time-starved, language enthusiast, finding the time to fit Japanese lessons into your schedule can be a challenge. Because italki allows you to schedule lessons at times that work for you, it's beyond convenient. This is arguably my favorite italki benefit. I know, because I've struggled to find physical classes that meet when I'm not at work.


4. italki Is Affordable

If money is a concern for you, it's time to put that excuse to rest. Not only can you find teachers that charge an EXTREMELY REASONABLE rate, but you can also decide how frequently you take lessons.  Can't afford to take lessons every week? DON'T! Yes, being consistent can help you improve, but you can determine what "consistent" means for you, depending on your budget. 

NOTE: We'll dive deeper into price later in this review...


5. Credit-Based Platform

A credit-based payment system means that you can hold credits (up to 365 days) until you're ready to use them. This allows you to properly research and check out the teachers you're interested in without the pressure of your italki credits disappearing right away.

NOTE: CREDITS CAN'T BE REFUNDED! This may sound like a con to some, but italki I see this as a positive.  Why? It forces you to use the use the money you've put in to actually take Japanese lessons. It's a great incentive to keep you from flaking on your lessons.


6. It's All About You!

italki boasts over three million users in over 100 countries. You would think that with a service that large, you might get lost in the flood of users. However, this just isn't the case. italki has managed to make a large service feel small - like it's tailored just for you.

Finding a teacher that treats you like an individual, one that helps you to learn Japanese wherever you are in your language journey doesn't have to just be a wish. 

Try italki

for yourself

Does italki sound like the platform to help
you improve you Japanese conversation skills?
You can check out italki by clicking the 
white button below


italki is great, but let's be honest, it's not perfect. It's important to highlight some of the things that I don't like about italki. This will help you navigate some of these pitfalls if you decide to try this platform to improve your Japanese.  Here are four things I don't like about learning Japanese on italki:

  •  1. Not Every Teacher Is A Winner...
  •  2. Structure Matters
  •  3. Teacher Availability
  •  4. Online Lesson Disconnect


1. Not Every Teacher Is A Winner...

This is not disrepect to any of the teachers out there working hard to serve their italki students.

But there are teachers out there who won't devote as much time to making sure their students "get it."
There are teachers who will cut corners, ones that'll put you to sleep, ones that are overpriced, and everything in between.

But I that's the nature of any platform like italki, where students and teachers can come together like this.

FIX: Use ratings and teacher introduction videos to guide you to the right Japanese teacher. Also, pay close attention to a teacher's rating.  This gives you a sense of what you're getting before you actually get it.


2. Structure Matters

As your Japanese improves, you'll have a better sense of how to structure your learning to best benefit you. Unfortunately, not everyone is at that stage in their Japanese. A beginner, going into a lesson might not have a clue about where to start.  If you get the teacher that just wants to "free chat," it would be doing a Japanese beginner a HUGE DISSERVICE!

Sometimes structure can really be the key to a great lesson or a terrible one.  BEWARE!

FIX: For those just getting started with italki, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND trying a teacher who uses a solid Japanese textbook (like Genki 1 or Genki 2). This should get you on the right path from your very first lesson.


3. Teacher Availability

One of the downsides of italki Japanese, is trying to book the best teachers. Sometimes I feel like the better a teacher is, the harder it can be to book them.  But that's economics 101 right?
Low supply. High Demand.  

The best of the best Japanese teachers are going to be in lower supply.  They can literally have their calendars booked for months, and it can be frustrating to find an opening. This is just one of the bitter italki pills you'll have to swallow.  You won't always get the teacher you want, for some reason or another.  Maybe you're schedules don't match or maybe they're booked.  It's good to have clear expectations going in.  

FIX: Use your "favorites" option in your italki dashboard. This will allow to keep a list of good teachers at your fingertips.  If you have a good lesson with a Japanese teachers, save them. This makes it far easier to book a lesson with a good teacher at YOUR convenience.


4. Online Japanese Lesson Disconnect

Online lessons can limiting, especially when dealing with a language that's as complex as Japanese.

When you're trying figure out kanji symbols, or trying to work out what particle goes where, online lessons don't always make it easy for you. You may have trouble seeing what you're teacher is showing you because they're camera/board setup doesn't allow you to. There can be technical issues, too -  sound, video, Skype connections, etc.

I've had a teacher's camera go on the fritz and have to do a lesson without being able to see their face. Not being able to see your teacher's mouth moving can make it hard to gauge exactly what's being said

FIX: This one isn't always the easiest to fix, but the best way is to communicate with your teacher as clearly as possible to ensure the best lesson possible.  Keep in mind that things can happen, but good communication helps.

Still interested?

I laid out all of the things that I genuinely dislike 
about italki. No platform is flawless...
But if after hearing the cons, italki still sounds like something you'd like to try. You can click the white button below.

italki Is For...

Those Who Want Better Conversational Japanese

Being able to hold a conversation with a native Japanese speaker is a true test of your Japanese.

italki's Japanese lessons give you a chance to improve your listening, improve your speaking, stumble, and learn from your speaking mistakes.

Self-Study Students.

If you're studying Japanese on your own, italki is the essential!

No language can be truly learned in a vacuum, even with the best textbooks.  

italki gives you a way to apply the Japanese you're learning

Students Who Don't 
Live in Japan.

Getting real-world Japanese practice is much easier when you live in the country of the target language you're learning.  However, not everyone has that luxury.  

For those who aren't in Japan, italki can be a great alternative.

italki Isn't For...

Excuse Makers

italki is a fantastic tool, but only if you're open-minded enough to try it.

If you don't truly want to learn Japanese, you won't. Instead, you'll come up with reasons
as to why italki isn't a feasible solution for you.

Are you making excuses to dance around REALLY trying to learn Japanese?

The Inconsistent

I know I'm guilty of this...

Japanese is one of those skills that you have to work at consistently to see marked improvement. 

I think that holds true even more when you're learning to speak. 

One good lesson here and there isn't enough for mastery.


You're going to mess up...GUARANTEED!

Speaking is one of those things you can improve
if you're willing to embrace your mistakes. 

If you can focus on trending towards improving instead of being perfect (especially in the beginning).  The perfection comes with practice.


It would be impossible for me to give you a set price on italki lessons. Why? Because italki Japanese teachers charge different rates. I've seen teachers charging high as ¥5000 per hour and as low as ¥1000/hr.  But these numbers will change as more Japanese teachers join the italki platform.

MONEY-SAVING TIP: Keep in mind that credentialed, "professional teachers" will generally charge more than "community tutors."  But that there are native Japanese speakers in both categories. And you can get good Japanese practice from both.

If you're just getting started, though, I think taking the time to find a reasonably-priced pro teacher makes sense.


italki has a handful of extremely useful features that you should know about before your start using it.  These features will help you to find the the best teacher for you at a time that's convenient:

italki dashboard features

A. Trial Lesson Counter

When you register for italki, you get access to trial lessons. This area of the main dashboard shows you how many italki trial lessons you have left.

B. My Teachers

If you've had lesson with a teacher, or "favorited" a teacher, they show up in this convenient block. This allows you to go back and take lessons with the teachers you had a good experience with.

more italki features

C. Teacher Intro Video

This is probably one of your best chances to gauge what kind of teacher you're going to get. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND watching a teacher's intro video, in full, before signing up for their lessons. These videos can help you hear their diction in both Japanese and English (if they speak English).  Can you understand them? Does their personality seem like it matches the style of lesson you want?

D. Lesson Info & Ratings

How is this teacher rated on a five-star scale? The closer to five stars, the better. BUT, keep in mind that you have to weigh these start ratings with the number of lessons and students a teacher has taught. A teacher with one lesson, one student, and a 5.0 rating tells a very different story than a teacher with a 4.8 rating, 2000 lessons and 100+ students.

E. Lesson Price  

How much does a teacher charge for each trial lesson? Each regular lesson?  Find out in this convenient tab on the teacher's profile.

F. Availability Calendar

Find out when you can schedule a lesson with a particular italki Japanese teacher.  The green blocks show a teacher's available times. 


If you're interested in using italki yourself, you can go to their website by clicking here.


No. I think the ultimate way to practice speaking Japanese is being in Japan, in a natural setting, outside the confines of a classroom (even a digital one with a native speaker). However, I can't understate how valuable italki lessons can be if you're not able to visit Japan in person.


The biggest hurdles to learning Japanese are time, money, and not having a person to practice with.  italki, while not perfect, is about a rock-solid solution to three thorns in the Japanese-learner's side. 

Even if we consider the negatives, I have to give italki an A rating.  

Currently, it is the best-in-class language platform for improving your spoken Japanese. It's BEYOND worth every penny that you pay.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!




I wouldn't call myself and italki expert, but I do have experience using the platform to study Japanese. If you've got questions, leave them in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them.



I hope you've enjoyed the ultimate italki Japanese review. If you need to learn more about italki before making a purchase, I have some other italki-related resources for you to check out:

italki video review


Want to see the video version of this italki review?

You can check that out by clicking the 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.

  • denny says:

    Hi Don – am I missing something here? The links take me to am italki Spanish site. The menu doesn’t list Japanese. Chinese, German etc, yes. Japanese no. Tried it several times, same results.

    • Donnie says:

      Oh my gosh!!!! Thank you so much for sending me this. I had
      no idea the links were sending people to the wrong place!
      YOU are a lifesaver, Denny. Thank you!

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