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What's the best way to make use of an iTalki teacher?

April 16, 2023 — Tatsumoto Ren

I'm beginning to utilize iTalki. many iTalki teachers seem open to structuring a game plan based on what each student requests. What would you consider to be the most effective use of iTalki in a way that's complementary to the AJATT philosophy? What would you personally look for in a teacher?

I don't know much about iTalki, so I went to their website and was surprised to see that it doesn't work with JavaScript disabled. Truly a disappointment. I couldn't press half of the buttons on the webpage, all I could do is read the text on the few pages that were able to load.

So apparently Italki is a platform where you pay to have lessons with language teachers.

英語 のスキルが確実に向上する方法をお探しですか? italki には資格を持つ 英語 講師が在籍しています。 英語 のオンライン講師のレッスンを受けて、英語 力アップを目指しましょう。

In the world of language learning, paying for speaking practice is often compared to paying for sex. So you're about to do something really shameful there. I do not think that iTalki can be utilized in a way that aligns with the AJATT philosophy. AJATT has always been about learning by yourself, and on this website I also stress it a lot. Ask yourself, would another native speaker of your native language pay you to have a conversation with you? Would you pay a native speaker of your native language to have a conversation with you? Probably not, right? The reason some people are paid to speak is that what they say is of value. Famous businessmen, scientists, programmers, politicians are paid to give talks and lectures because they share valuable knowledge, not because they speak a certain language. The value of a conversation lies in its content, not simply in the act of speaking a language. Having a meaningless conversation in another language with a language teacher is the antithesis of value. A teacher's role is to teach learners how to learn by themselves, and thanks to this site you already know how to learn your target language through self-study, so you don't need to pay anybody.

If you are "looking for a way to improve" your target language, you need to understand that language is a tool for acquiring knowledge. Speaking is merely a byproduct and a result of acquiring knowledge, not the end goal. Output ability emerges as a result of listening, watching and reading for thousands of hours. It is through input that learners acquire the necessary linguistic structures, vocabulary, grammar, and cultural context to communicate effectively in the target language. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize comprehension over production, input over output. The best way to improve is by immersing in the authentic content made for native speakers of the TL. Immersion plus SRS leads to comprehension ability. Immersion plus comprehension leads to speaking ability. Then, speaking ability plus speaking practice leads to speaking mastery.

Before you concern yourself with improving your speaking skills, you need to make sure that you have mastered understanding your TL. To be able to speak a foreign language well, you need to be able to hear well. Pronunciation comes from listening. If you can't hear it, you can't say it. If you are able to understand everything you hear, you will be able to speak well. In addition, a good grasp of the language's phonetics and pitch accent is vital. Lastly, research the topic you want to discuss and learn how native speakers converse about it. You can't talk about something if you don't know how and what to say. For example, you learn about history of Japan, and then you can talk about it. Or you learn about Japanese food, and then you can talk about it. To learn how to talk about something you need to read and listen to native speakers of your target language.

Speaking practice can be counterproductive. It is not uncommon for learners to start speaking early before fully developing their listening abilities and intuitive understanding of language structures. This can lead to the reinforcement of incorrect pronunciation and grammar, and can actually hinder language learning progress.

Let's say you have immersed for 10,000 hours, and now you are ready to start improving your speaking. Getting better at speaking requires speaking practice. Speaking practice is mainly a tool for improving pronunciation. First, determine if dedicating time to this activity aligns with your objectives. After 10,000 hours of immersion, most individuals can speak proficiently and can improve naturally by simply talking with native speakers on the topics of interest. If the answer is yes, AJATT recommends practicing by imitating native speakers. This is done through shadowing exercises.

Shadowing is a language learning technique where you listen to a native speaker and repeat what they say, trying to match their speed, rhythm, and intonation as closely as possible. Here's how you can go about shadowing:

  1. Choose an audio or video recording of a native speaker speaking your target language. It could be a YouTube video or an audiobook. Obtain the text version, the transcript of the recording as well.
  2. Listen to the recording. Start shadowing by repeating what the speaker says, trying to match their speed, rhythm, intonation and pitch accent as closely as possible.
  3. Record yourself. Pay attention to your own pronunciation and try to correct any mistakes you notice.

You can repeat what the native speaker says after they say it or simultaneously, at the same time. There appears to be no consensus on which way is better.

Tags: faq