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Company Spotlight: italki

Leann ZatlaviLeann Zatlavi
November 27, 2017

There’s never been a better time to learn a new language. As the world becomes metaphorically smaller, doing business abroad or spending more time travelling to new places is in the reach of a whole new range of people.

Now more than ever, if you are a language teacher this is a great time to expand your business, or maybe you just would like to earn some extra money. italki provides the perfect platform to achieve both aims.

What is italki?

italki connects students with online language teachers from around the world, via a freelance marketplace. Learning a language has always been more effective if you take lessons directly from a native speaker – for example, if you want to learn Spanish, it’ more beneficial to find a teacher from Spain or Argentina, and take personal lessons from him/her, rather than be taught by a non-native speaker.

Apps on phones or PCs also have their place, but when it comes to language, nothing beats a human teacher. italki uses technology to bring teacher and student together, making online lessons more convenient and affordable.

Meeting a need

Established by Kevin Chen and Yongyue Jiang in 2007, italki was officially registered in Hong Kong, with the development center in Shanghai, China. Through their own experiences, both Kevin and Yongyue felt that language education was missing the right type of communication, as learning a language from a non-native speaker resulted in slow progress.

However, the issue to achieve the ideal of working with first language teachers has always been distance. The internet brings us a step closer to solving this, with free voice-over-IP technologies providing the opportunity for learners to able to practice talking with a native speaker.

And so, italki was born out of a desire to create a website where teachers could meet with prospective students, wherever they are in the world.

Although the decision to use Shanghai as the base for the start-up was made purely on the fact that both founders live there, the city itself has turned out to be the ideal center for a language business. With its multi-cultural, dynamic and international feel, it encompasses the ethos of breaking down the language barriers.

What makes italki special?

 With a strong belief in the human side of language learning, italki has made communicating directly with people a reality (as opposed to practicing with bots or games). Users of the marketplace share inspiring stories about how teachers in other countries helped them get their dream job, pass a test or just helped them appreciate traveling in a foreign country. Without the direct link to a native speaker, this would have taken longer to achieve, if at all.


With more than 100 languages available in italki, there are numerous opportunities for teachers to become involved. English continues to be the most popular language in non-English speaking countries, but French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian or Chinese are also among the most learned languages.

Becoming involved with italki

If you are interested teaching in your spare time, introducing others to your language, making some extra money, or just want the flexibility of being able to work from home or on your own schedule, italki will work for you. Whatever your reason for wanting to teach languages, italki will help you to find students seeking your services from all over the world.

It doesn’t matter where you are; a quarter of italki users are from North America, and roughly half are from Europe. In fact, more than 90% of users and revenues come from outside of China.

Creating a free account and submitting your application to become a member of the teaching community is simple, whether you are an experienced and professional language teacher or a patient and friendly advanced native speaker. italki staff personally review all applications to ensure that students have a far reaching and quality selection of language teachers to choose from.

If you are interested in teaching at italki, please begin by going to the teacher application page.  


Of course, like any marketplaces selling wares, you need to be seen. italki offer some excellent methods of promotion that make this job easier. The little extras such as creating a high-quality video introduction, setting teaching specialties and tags, offering package deals, contributing to the italki community and many more, all help to raise your profile. The support pages give hints and tips on how to proceed.

Getting paid

italki works with different payment providers like Payoneer to help teachers withdraw their money. Such systems make it easy to receive your earnings, wherever you or your students are in the world. Although italki does not charge any fee from your withdrawals, you may be subject to different fees depending on which method you use.

Is the future rosy?

Apps and tools are constantly being heralded as the future, and with good reason. They offer a convenient method of learning in your spare time, providing help to memorize some extra words or learn a new grammar structure. However, becoming fluent purely through language games is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Becoming fluent in a foreign language necessitates spending time speaking with real people.

However, the good news is that you don’t have to choose just one language learning product. The future of language learning looks to balance out between human contact and technological assistance. The good news for italki is that the former will always be in demand when it comes to languages. Yet, as we move towards a student-centric world, learners should use every service that helps them learn faster, for the ultimate success.

Become a teacher on italki

The content provided in this article including any information relating to pricing, fees, and other charges is accurate and valid only as of the date it was published. In addition, changes in applicable regulations, policies, market conditions, or other relevant factors may impact the accuracy of the mentioned pricing and fees and other associated details. Accordingly, it is further clarified that any information regarding pricing, fees and other charges is subject to changes, and it is your responsibility to ensure you are viewing the most up to date content applicable to you. Payoneer will provide the most up to date and accurate information relating to pricing and fees as part of the account registration process. Registered customers can view this information via their online account.

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