Why You Should Use italki To Practice Arabic Dialects
If you are learning a new language, you are probably always on the lookout for new material.
Luckily, the Internet makes a ton of things possible that just a few years ago would seem like a miracle.
One of those miracles is a website named italki.
While its usefulness is evident for almost any language, there are numerous reasons why it might be your best resource for learning an Arabic dialect.
What italki is and how it works
italki is the leading website dedicated to connecting online teachers with students around the world.
You either pay a teacher for an hour of their time, or you find a conversation partner to practice languages with for free. Your meetings (or “classes”) happen online, usually using platforms like Skype.
While there are other features that might be of use on italki (help with writing, articles on grammar), its main focus is spoken practice.
The site is split into three different kinds of teachers: Professional Teachers, Community Tutors, and Language Partners.
Professional Teachers are exactly what they sound like: officially certified language teachers. These are people who teach as a career, and often have years of experience.
Community Tutors are basically teachers without the certification. Maybe teaching on italki is a side job for them, or perhaps they just don’t have an official teaching degree.
Either way, Community Teachers are pretty much the same thing as Professional Teachers. From my experience, there isn’t a noticeable difference in quality.
The main advantage with Community Tutors is that they are usually cheaper than Professional Teachers. If price is an issue for you, this is something to consider.
Language Partners are much less formal.
These are people who speak your target language and are currently trying to learn a language that you know.
This makes italki an absolute goldmine if you are a native speaker of English.
As an “expert” of the world’s most in-demand language, you can find people to practice with quite quickly.
Language Partners are also free, which is their main appeal.
This can be quite useful if you want to save as much money as possible while learning a language.
Regardless of which category of teacher you choose, italki only functions as an initial contact point. After hiring a teacher or tutor (or agreeing on a language exchange with a partner), you will usually move to Skype.
While italki as a platform focuses on improving your speaking skills, the teachers can adapt your classes in whichever way you choose.
Why italki is great for practicing languages
italki is a fantastic language learning resource for three main reasons.
1. The site makes it a breeze finding teachers that are a good fit for you.
italki’s search option, combined with numerous “filters” you can apply (teacher availability, hourly rate, other languages the teacher is proficient in) make it quick and easy to find the perfect teacher for you. Within seconds, you can have an Arabic teacher from Morocco who fits your budget and can teach on Fridays.
It’s never been easier to find the perfect language teacher.
2. italki provides you the ability to learn a language from the comfort of your own home.
No more long commutes to meet your teacher.
No more cafes that are too loud to focus on what they are saying. Instead, just put on your headphones, grab your notepad, and start speaking.
It’s that easy.
3. Classes (especially if you are paying a teacher) usually take on whatever form you want.
As the student, you dictate how the class functions.
Do you prefer a much more basic “free form” conversation style, where you chat with your teacher about whatever comes to mind? Do you learn better when the teacher provides you with a new theme each meeting?
Or maybe it’s best to have a much more interactive environment, and the teacher shares material during your meetings (pictures, video clips, etc.) that you then talk about?
Whatever your learning style, italki teachers are usually quite receptive.
This makes learning a new language both easy and fun.
Why italki is specifically awesome for Arabic dialects
While italki is great for any language, it’s particularly convenient if you are studying a dialect of Arabic.
In general, if you are a student of Arabic, it’s much easier to find classes and online resources devoted to Standard Arabic. This is great if you want to learn “proper Arabic.”
However, these resources are much less useful before a trip to the Middle East.
Nobody speaks Standard Arabic naturally, and if you want to talk to people on the streets, hours spent learning phrases in فصحى (fus7a) Arabic can leave you woefully unprepared.
italki is your solution.
Taking a trip to Egypt? Visiting a friend in Tunisia? Traveling through Jordan?
italki has you covered. The convenient interface of italki makes it a breeze to sort through teachers by country, and you can be talking to an expert in your target dialect in minutes.
Also, learning Arabic through italki is likely going to be quite cheap.
If you do some quick research on the site, you will start to notice a pretty big disparity between prices.
Let’s take French as an example, and France as our teacher’s country.
Most of your Professional Teachers are going to set you back at least 30 dollars for an hour of instruction. The more experienced the teacher is, you might even be approaching 50 dollars per hour.
This isn’t surprising with a country as expensive as France. Indeed, the more expensive the country, the more expensive the teacher. This seems to be quite consistent throughout italki.
Let’s compare that to Egyptian Arabic.
If you are learning this dialect, it’s a completely different story.
Because Egypt as a whole is such an inexpensive country, teacher rates tend to be quite cheap, as well. Most professional teachers will cost around 10 dollars per hour, with the “expensive” rates being only 15 dollars/hour.
In fact, if you are intent on spending as little possible, you can hire a Community Tutor for three dollars per hour.
Let me repeat that: three dollars per hour.
An amount of money that’s almost an afterthought for a solid hour of practice.
You could afford to take a lesson every single day. Imagine how good you would get at Egyptian Arabic…. and how fast.
If you are learning an Arabic dialect, italki makes it possible on even the cheapest budget.
Another great thing about italki is that many teachers will also provide you material to study after class is over. This can take the form of videos, PDFs, audio files, and anything else you find helpful.
This is especially useful for Arabic dialects.
Anybody with a computer can find (literally) millions of resources in German or Spanish. Much less common, and much more difficult to find, are materials in Arabic dialects.
Who better to provide them than a native speaker living in the country?
If speaking is your main priority, your teacher might even keep a running list of new vocabulary words in the Skype messaging window. As soon as your lesson is over, transfer the new words and phrases to note cards, and you suddenly have a week’s worth of vocabulary practice.
Your learning is not simply limited to the hour that you are speaking to your teacher, but can theoretically happen anytime.
That’s wonderful motivation to keep your studies going strong.
Suggestions for using italki for Arabic
Just like anything, consistency is key.
If you are intent on learning an Arabic dialect, conversation practice has to become a habit. Because of that, I suggest paying a teacher (Professional Teacher or Community Tutor).
It’s been my experience that Language Partners can be very “hit and miss.”
While a good one can be worth their weight in gold, they are often more trouble than they are worth. They are inconsistent with their schedules, might be late with your Skype meetings, or might not even show up at all.
This makes learning with consistency impossible.
Not so with formal teachers.
Your money and reviews incentivize teachers to show up on time, and to have a stellar class for you when they do.
Teachers you pay take their job seriously, and a result, the learning return on your investment is usually quite high. The best teachers will provide useful lessons, answer any questions you have, and motivate you to keep learning.
Paid teachers will also (this is huge) stick exclusively to your target language if you request it.
None of those pesky “explanations in English” if you are serious about full immersion lessons.
I recommend booking “lesson packages” with your Arabic teachers.
Not only is this slightly cheaper (you usually get a discount for booking in five or ten class chunks), but it also keeps you accountable over time.
If you simply book on a “lesson by lesson” basis, it’s much easier to skip a few weeks here and there. With a package booked and paid for ahead of time, you will be far more likely to make conversation practice part of your weekly schedule.
italki is also great for “mixing and matching” different teachers.
If you are serious about Arabic (and indeed, any language), it’s usually a good idea to expose yourself to difference voices.
Don’t get too comfortable, and always be willing to try out a new teacher if the vibe isn’t right with your current one. There are hundreds of teachers on the website, so this is quite easy to do.
For the sake of your own learning, find teachers that make you excited and enthusiastic to learn their dialect.
This will pay dividends.
italki makes practicing your Arabic much easier
Check it out here.
Learning an Arabic dialect is difficult for a number of reasons.
There isn’t as much learning material as Standard Arabic, it can be hard to find a teacher in your area, and some of the dialects are mutually unintelligible, making certain “Arabic resources” completely useless to you.
The learning journey can be quite frustrating at points, and the fluency you desire can seem impossible.
However, italki makes the process much easier.
While the website is great for any language you might choose to learn, its value for students of Arabic dialect can’t be overstated. Not only is it cheap, but it’s easy to find the specific dialect you are interested in.
The teachers also tend to be quite good, and can provide you with a ton of material you probably wouldn’t find on your own.
If your goal is to chat with street vendors in Amman, order koshary in Cairo, or party with the locals in Beirut, italki can help get you there.
Stay consistent, take notes, and you will only get better at spoken Arabic.
Speaking practice is only a click away.
This post was contributed by Eric Schenck.