Even if you are studying by yourself, the best way to become conversational–is to have conversations! Although I love my language partners, when I chose to hire an Italian tutor through Skype I saw my language level increase exponentially.
I know there are many questions before getting an Italian tutor. Is it really worth the investment? I say yes. Keep reading and I’ll answer all your questions, and review the top 5 platforms online for finding an Italian tutor.
Why should I get an Italian tutor? And why should I pay for tutoring and not just do a free language exchange?
Have you ever made a plan to have a Skype call with a language exchange partner and then it just falls through? Either your time availabilities just never match up, or maybe you just keep putting it on the back-burner, so you keep rescheduling it until finally it just never happens, and from the embarrassment you stop talking and try to find a new partner.
With international language partners there is always the problem of the time zone difference–and the level of commitment. Even though I was okay with waking up at 6AM for my language exchange partner, it was so hard to find someone that was willing to do the same for me. I did find someone eventually but I wasted time with quite a few before finding that. Even just planning the exchange on Skype, they would often cancel on me because something else came up. They weren’t committed me.
Also, many of my language exchange partners aren’t able to actually explain hard grammatical concepts to me. And that’s okay, because it happens. As a native speaker, you sometimes just don’t know the “why” behind how a certain sentence is constructed. However, Italian language tutors are knowledgeable in grammar and can help you understand why.
Plus, I feel that sometimes the financial commitment you make gives you another push of keeping on track to your goals. Why would you cancel on someone you’ve already prepaid to? Would you really not want to do the homework that you are paying to do?
When should I get an Italian tutor? What if I’m a super beginner?
You should get an Italian tutor as soon as you can! Seriously.
A lot of beginners make the mistake of just focusing on apps like Duolingo or books that explain grammar rules that maybe you’ve memorized but still can’t put into practice. In all honesty, I love books, and I like Duolingo as well, but the longer you wait to begin speaking the more frustrating it will be!
Books, software, apps, etc. are great for building up your vocabulary, but aren’t able to help you understand why Italians say things a certain way, or what phrases are the most natural to use in certain situations. It will become hard to construct phrases beyond what you’ve memorized. And discouragement will set in. You will think things like, “I’ve put so much time into studying Italian and I still can’t speak.” But you have to practice speaking Italian to be able to speak Italian. You get what I mean?If you only use apps to study Italian, it will become hard to make sentence beyond what you've memorized. Don't end up thinking 'I've put so much time into studying Italian & I still can't speak.' You have to practice speaking in order to speak Italian!Click To Tweet
When I was a beginner, my tutor started where I was at. It didn’t matter that my sentences were put together wrongly. She did an amazing job of covering the basics and correcting me. Once you know those basics it is much easier to put sentences together. The teacher will know what to do and will guide you and adjust to whatever level you are. You’ll find it quickly becomes like talking to a friend. No pressure!
How often should I take a class with my Italian tutor?
I found the best results by taking a class 2-4x a week. I know that also finances play a part in this, and what I did was to alternate between a community tutor and a professional tutor on italki, which I’ll talk more about down the page. Another method to consider is to alternate between your language exchange partner and your Italian tutor.
One of the ways I tried was I would book back to back with my language exchange partner (or community tutor) and have my professional Italian tutor before/after and talk about the same topic. This way, I can keep trying out the same phrases and have extra corrections in making sure I’m formulating my ideas correctly.
What should I focus on in my Italian tutoring session?
In my own personal experience, I did both community tutors and professional tutors on italki. With my community tutors, I focused more on conversation, sounding natural and working on any pronunciation problems. With my professional tutors, I focused a little more on grammar rules but still lots of focus on conversation. For each session, I would make mini goals for me to reach.
However, with any Italian tutor at the start of the very first lesson, I ask them to speak only in Italian with me for full immersion. Because we are paying and because we’re the only student in the “class,” we can set the ground rules! I usually say something along the lines of: “Please only speak Italian to me. If I ask what a word means, please explain it to me in Italian like I’m a child that’s still learning. If I still don’t understand, I will then ask you to explain it in English in the last resort.”To get the most out of your Italian tutoring lesson, use full immersion. Ask your Italian tutor to speak only in Italian, and if you ask what a word means to explain it to you like you're a 10 year old Italian kid!Click To Tweet
A lot of Italian tutors have their own styles of teaching. One of my favorites was when my tutor would use Google docs with me so I can have live feedback with the sentences I am saying incorrectly, and also so that we can refer what we worked on last time we chatted. This helped me keep track of certain mistakes that I kept making and any new vocabulary that I’m learning.
Many Italian tutors also have their preferred dictionary sites, and resources that they can share with you. Some have even created their own homework, or classwork. Just be up front with what you want to try, and if it’s not working for you, change it. That’s what’s so great about having a tutor and not being in a classroom- you can focus on the things that are working for you!
When I was a beginner, I like to spend a few lessons focusing on topics that are “about me.” When getting to know someone new, you usually talk about yourself–your hobbies, your family, your work, right? With the tutoring session you’re able to delve into deeper topics about these general topics, maybe talk about memories from childhood or the reason behind why you chose your job.Ask your Italian tutor to use Google Docs during your lesson to keep track of your mistakes, any grammar rules and new vocabulary. Click To Tweet
As you get more intermediate and advance, stop talking about these general topics because by this time you’ve talked about it so much you’ve pretty much memorized what you have to say! I try to talk about current events, something that recently happened to me, anecdotes about my life, etc. I know it’s frustrating not to be able to say things the way you’re thinking them. That’s where tutoring can really help.
Who should I pick for my Italian tutor?
I think finding an Italian tutor is a little bit like dating. You will just have to take some trial lessons (if the platform/tutor allows) and see if they vibe with you.
I prefer picking someone with an introduction video. When watching their intro video, you can get a feel for the type of energy they teach with. Do you prefer a happy, smiling and energetic teacher? Or someone more relaxed? I prefer someone in the middle.
Also, their video gives me an idea of how clearly they speak, which is very important. I like my Italian language tutor to speak very clearly and has the intuition when to speak slower or at a normal pace (which always seems fast to us learners!).
In the beginning stage, you want a teacher to wait patiently for you to finish your own sentence. And no matter what your level is, you want to make sure that you’re doing the talking majority of the time–not the teacher.
You also want to make sure the teacher you pick has a schedule that works for you. Every platform I will review in this post has the teacher’s availability shown in your time zone so that you can verify this.
For me, it’s important to have a native speaker so I make sure to check that the teacher is a native speaker. I will talk about this in each platform, whether it’s required or if they mark it.
Just know it’s okay to not continue with a certain tutor and don’t feel guilty! They can still be a great person, and a great teacher, but just not the teacher for you.
Should I choose an online Italian tutor or an in-person tutor?
I am all for an online tutor! Here are my reasons why:
- Convenience: There is no travel time for either the tutor or you. You could just roll out of bed in your PJs if you wanted. No wasted time.
- No background noise (usually): I wear my headset to block out any background noise. I shut the door and tell everyone not to disturb me for the next 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Personalized attention: 1-on-1 means it’s just you, everything is customized to you.
- Affordable: Language learning doesn’t need to be expensive. Online tutors usually have very affordable prices.
What do I need to use an online Italian tutor?
- Headset with mic -A lot of computers have built in mics that you can use, but I find them a bit subpar and prefer using a headset because I like to filter out any background noise to concentrate with my lesson.
- Webcam – Most laptops and computers have this built in nowadays, but I’ve linked to a great one that I’ve used in the past.
- Good internet connection – You don’t want to have lag during the lesson.
- The willingness to learn!
Ok, but what if I’m shy? I don’t like seeing myself on camera.
I understand how it is to feel a bit shy. But you can’t let this stop you from progressing. Every Italian tutor, language exchange partner and friend that I’ve made since I’ve started this language journey has been only kind to me. We laugh together about my mistakes. It is really a joyous thing whenever we have a conversation. It’s a great thing to be able to laugh at yourself and not take it so seriously.Laugh together with your language partner about your mistakes! It is really a joyous thing whenever you have a conversation in a second language. And it's a great thing to be able to laugh at yourself and not take it so seriously.Click To Tweet
With online tutoring, you have a “safe barrier” of your screen if you’re feeling shy. What can you do to make yourself feel better? Pump yourself up with some confidence boosting music before the class. Do some confidence poses. But really, don’t stress yourself out. They are here to help us!
What I like to do before class is to prepare something that I want to go over. Maybe a new grammar pattern I heard, or just a phrase that I want to know more about. Sometimes I pick a topic beforehand so I prepare a little vocabulary list so I know some words already to prepare mentally some sentences I want to say. I feel a little better going in prepared. This is something you can try.
As for not liking to see yourself on camera, I really recommend you to watch your tutor! Watch how your Italian tutor speaks and enunciates her words. What does the mouth look like when pronouncing certain syllables? Which hand gestures is she making while saying certain things? (Hand gestures are super important in Italian, right?)
Plus, there has been so many times where a tutor pointed out the reason why I pronounced a word like a foreigner was because of how I shaped my mouth when pronouncing a certain syllable. They would have never been able to give me a correction like this without seeing my face.Remember that your goal of learning Italian is bigger than your fear of mistaking mistakes!Click To Tweet
What is CILS?
CILS is the Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera or CILS), which is recognized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Italian language proficiency.
Some of the Italian tutors and websites mentioned have specialized CILS courses in case that is your goal. I will be using the abbreviation of CILS when talking about it.
Where can I find an Italian tutor?
Now that you’re convinced of the benefits of using tutoring in your self-study, I will talk about the top 5 websites to find your perfect Italian tutor. All prices mentioned will be in USD (American dollars.)
italki is a website that has been providing language learners with tutors and language exchange partners for many years! I’ve been a member since 2008, if you can believe it.
There are two main sections of the italki website- one for finding language exchange partners, and a second for finding a tutor. For the purpose of this post, I will focus on their “Find a Teacher” section.
There are two types of language tutors on italki: community and professional. Both use Skype to conduct the lessons. italki requires both types of tutors to be native or C2 (advanced) level in the language. They mark the profile of the tutor if they’re a native speaker or not.
Community tutors are people like you and me–people that love language learning and love helping others. We may or may not have tutoring experience in the past, but we are helpful and dedicated. I like to think of community tutors as like friends that I’m buying a coffee or meal for in exchange for helping me. Because community tutors are paid, they will not flake on you like exchange partners. If you’re short on time for language exchange, I believe community tutors are a better choice–because you can use the full hour to just get your Italian language in.
Professional tutors are tutors that have past teaching experience, types of teaching credentials such as certificates or university degrees. These tutors often charge a higher price, offer homework and other structured classroom experiences. Some of these tutors offer specialized courses for CILS as well.
I believe if you’re taking a conversational approach to your studies, informal community tutors are fine for beginner and intermediate levels. In my own personal experience, I used both and alternated depending on my needs for that week or month. They have 250+ teachers for Italian to choose from, ranging from $4/hour to $80/hour.
italki doesn’t offer free trials, but offers 3 trials at a discounted rate, usually around $6 for 30 minutes. Just know that these trials, according to italki, is not for you to gauge the teacher but for you to understand how the platform works. This is a con in my opinion because I wish this wasn’t restricted to 3 trials max, and that’s for any language you choose.
If you’ve never used italki before, italki is offering $10 USD in italki credits for you to try out some trial lessons!
Live Lingua requires all of their online Italian tutors to be a native speaker, have a university degree (many have masters and PhDs!), have at minimum 2 years of experience teaching languages to foreigners and also know a second language- so they know how it is to learn a foreign language as well.
Live Lingua uses Skype for their lessons, and offers a free 60-minute trial lesson, that sets them apart from the others in this list. They also focus on a full immersion experience, so they should only teach in Italian which is something I love! Their Italian teachers also provide reading assignments and written assignments to make the full immersion complete.
Prices are standard on this site, with no extra fees like registration fees or material costs. Depending on the amount of hours you prepay, the cost is $24.99/hour to $29/hour, where the hours never expire. The pricing for the CILS course ranges from $34.99/hour to $39/hour.
Live Lingua currently has 9 Italian teachers to choose from, and the teachers have a really detailed bio, but no introduction video. It would be easier to choose a teacher with a video since I could hear their voice and see how clearly they speak.
Also, it’s interesting to note that Live Lingua understands that not everyone can afford their Skype language lessons, so they also host thousands of free ebooks, audios and videos for over 130 languages. They currently have 4 courses for Italian, 8 Italian ebooks, and 96 audio files.
Preply doesn’t require their teachers to have previous teaching experience or certifications, but do have an application process to be accepted. Teachers that have gone through a verification process will be marked with a badge that shows they passed an ID check and education credentials verification. Unlike Verbling, they allow non native speakers to also teach, but they identify native speakers by clearly marking their name with a “native speaker” tag.
Currently, their site lists around 300 Italian language tutors to choose from ranging from $6/hour to $39/hour. With each teacher you can see an introduction video, their response time, their schedule, reviews and any qualifications they may have. Preply doesn’t have a native platform, so Skype is used for the lessons.
Preply, unfortunately, doesn’t offer trial lessons which is a con.
In Preply’s FAQ, They say they also offer tutors that do in-person (live) lessons and to use the search bar at the top, but I could not find that option for searching for in person so I believe their platform is more focused towards online learning.
If you find a teacher that suits your fancy on Preply, use my link to get a 30% discount on your first payment. This will at least give you more of a “trial lesson” price for the first lesson.
Verbling is a site that features its own interactive platform for 1 on 1 tutoring in many languages. Their main feature is that they use their own platform that allows you to work together on documents like lesson plans, worksheets and vocabulary flashcards! This means you won’t have to worry about any Skype login problems waiting for your Italian tutor. Of course working on these documents is optional, you can choose to only work on conversation if that’s your focus.
Since they use their own platform, they have a dashboard where all your materials and tools that you’ve used with your tutor is easily accessible and viewable at any time. Many tutors at Verbling specialize in creating lesson plans for you, and often create a course that you can reserve, such as “How to ace CILS” or “Beginner Italian Conversation.” Tutors often assign you homework as well, so in the dashboard you can manage the homework you’ve been assigned, view your lesson schedule and schedule new lessons. Your Italian language teacher can actually create personal flash cards for you to review using spaced repetition.
For the best Verbling experience, they recommend using Google Chrome to access their platform. They also offer a mobile app for both Apple iOS and Google Play so you can take your lesson on the go. This is perfect for sneaking in a lesson on your lunch break at work.
Verbling vets their tutors as they require all Verbling teachers to have previous experience teaching in their native language, only allow native speakers to teach their language, and prefers that the tutors have teaching certificates–though this is not a requirement. Teachers set their own prices, with the Italian teachers’ prices ranging from $9/hour to $49/hour.
The first 30-minute trial lesson is free, and afterward the trials are priced at $6.
Wyzant not only offers Italian language, but they have thousands of instructors who offer private lessons in all academic subjects, musical instruments, and more. You can easily browse tutor ratings, their distance, and an hourly price.
Although Wyzant gives the option of meeting in person (US only), most offer online tutoring so I’m including it here. Searching and emailing tutors is completely free, so reach out and see if you vibe with a certain tutor. As always, taking the first step is the hardest, but there’s no reason for you to not start that conversation!
Their approval process for teachers vary by subject. For some, they require tutors to take proficiency quizzes and only give them one opportunity to pass. They also give tutors the opportunity to have background checks for their profiles, but this is not required by Wyzant. It seems that they do not require any university degree, or being a native speaker, so if this is important to you be sure to read the tutor profiles.
Wyzant’s Italian tutor prices range from $15/hour to $150/hour! Tutors also have the choice to offer a free first lesson, or to meet for an in-person interview before lessons take place.
Wyzant has given Italian Self Study readers $20 off your first lesson with a tutor. Click here to take $20 off your first lesson Italian (or any other subject for that matter!)
Yes, you can find an Italian language tutor on Facebook! There are many Facebook groups that focus on Italian learning, and a lot of tutors advertise their services and what they offer.
The main con of this is that it’s hard to find reviews on some of the teachers, some may or may not have a good website where it explains what kind of tutoring they offer.
To vet an Italian tutor you found in a Facebook, I would:
- search their name in the search bar of the group to see other posts they have made. Are they sharing articles and materials that you think are helpful? Are they answering people’s questions in the group?
- check their website. Do they have any testimonials? Do they break down their class structure?
- check their profile. Do they list where they went to school? Or if they hold/held any jobs tutoring?
I met Valeria in one of the Italian language Facebook groups who teaches one on one through her site ItalYes – italiano con il sorriso. She offers online options through Skype or Zoom, and will begin offering in person tutoring in the future.
Where can I find an in-person Italian tutor?
If you just prefer an in person experience, you have many options for finding an Italian language tutor!
First, choose whether or not you are okay with a group or 1 on 1. As my website is called Italian Self Study, I highly recommend choosing a 1 on 1 tutor.
The reason why I recommend a 1 on 1 tutor is because you can benefit the most from it compared to a group class. Group classes often have to move on from certain material to meet the overall needs of the group, even if one person hasn’t completely grasped the concept yet. And group classes don’t really give you much time or opportunity to actually speak.
There are some group classes that are actually conversation-only classes that limit the students to a small group. I highly recommend looking for a conversation class if you are wanting a group class.
Otherwise, try looking for a 1 on 1 tutor.
Here is a list of where I would check:
- Check your local community college. They have group classes that are quite affordable. Some of the teachers there will also offer tutoring.
- Check your local university! Reach out to the professors or the Italian language department, or even Italian language club. They can direct you to an Italian language tutor that is local.
- Check meetup.com for your local Italian language exchange group. Sometimes the native Italian speakers that go to these offer tutoring. Or maybe you’ll just make a new friend that will speak in Italian with you!
- Search “Italian American club [your city]” or “Italian Cultural Center [your city].” If you live in a city that is large enough, you will often find these communities and they offer smaller class sizes!
- Wyzant, as I mentioned earlier, has Italian language tutors that are in your city. Search by zip code and send a message to a tutor that you might be interested in working with.
- Live Lingua offers a list of Italian Immersion Programs in Italy
- italki tutors often list the city they are in. Why not send one a message and see if they’re willing to teach in person?
In conclusion, here is a summary of the top 5 websites where you can find an Italian language tutor:
Native Speakers Required
Teaching Experience Required
*Professional tutors only
University Degree Required
Background Check Available
Introduction Video Available
Individual Tutor Reviews & Ratings
Please note to check the individual websites to make sure information is recent & accurate.
Are you convinced about getting an Italian tutor? Are there are any other questions you have? Let me know in the comments!
Aein is an American artist, designer and writer who fell in love with an Italian, and then fell in love with Italian language & culture. She is the founder of Italian Self Study, and is passionate about learning Italian. When she’s not studying Italian, she is designing brands and websites for small businesses and entrepreneurs through her studio Hopemade, designing Italian inspired apparel or taking a break with un po’ di caffè.