Once upon a time, it was really hard to learn a new language. If you were an average (not poor, not rich) person living in a rural area, you might have been limited to whatever couple of languages your school offered. If you were out of school, you might not have even had access to that.
And if you lived in an out-of-the-way area and wanted to learn a less commonly spoken language, maybe you could have used your local public library, but there was no way to know if you were even pronouncing things correctly unless you knew a native speaker of your target language.
In 2018 there are fewer obstacles than ever to learning a new language. You no longer need to shell out a ton of money for private tutors or expensive textbooks.
You don’t even need to live where people speak your target language. You’re no longer confined to being in a physical classroom.
If you've never heard of online language classes, the concept is simple: you engage with a tutor or teacher who is in a different location. Even though you're not in the same room, you use video chatting to have a one-on-one lesson. The World Wide Web has brought the classroom to you.
An example of an online Russian class
Taking an online class as opposed to an in-person one might not sound ideal for some people, but it has its advantages. Limited mobility or lack of access to transportation are no longer insurmountable roadblocks if you don't have to leave your house to learn a new language.
Sometimes you don't have local access to your target language because of geographical isolation (ex: you live in rural Maine and don't know any Russian speakers).
Online classes are often a more affordable learning option and they can also give you the freedom to determine your schedule. They also give you the advantage of getting a private lesson so you can go at your own pace.
Most websites allow you to book half-hour classes or increments of 30 minutes (30, 60, 90, etc. minutes). This can be great for people who work on a tight schedule or even those with short attention spans.
If you already know you want to take an online class but haven't decided on which service to use yet, keep reading!
$4-$15+ per Hour
3 Trial lessons at a discounted rate
Varies (Low to High)
*Use this link to purchase a minimum of $10 (US) of Italki credits and receive an extra $10 free! (Bonus added completion of 1st lesson)
You can check out a more detailed review of Italki here.
If you've even done a cursory search for online language classes, you've definitely come across italki. It's the biggest online marketplace for finding teachers and offers more languages than any of the competition.
What distinguishes Italki from the other services I'll be talking about is that it offers two categories for instructors: “Professionals” and “Tutors”. The professionals are certified teachers who can provide learning exercises and materials, whereas the tutors are usually native speakers that may or may not have teaching experience.
Take your learning goals into account before choosing an instructor. If you're someone who benefits from structured lesson plans, you might want to go with a professional teacher over a tutor.
If you're a more independent learner who's already exhausted FSI guides and other websites or if you're a heritage speaker who wants to practice conversational skills, a native speaker tutor might be the better option for you.
Svetlana is an example of an Italki tutor (and she's a great one at that!)
There are a lot of upsides to using an established site. With italki, you'll have access to over 300 Russian teachers and tutors. Their huge selection leads to high competition between teachers, which means lower prices for students.
Italki also comes with free community features like a blog, forums, and the ability to connect with language partners. This service could have what you need to take your Russian to the next level.
With so many options for instructors, quality can vary greatly. You'll need to do your research and read reviews before choosing an instructor because there's only a discounted trial option, not a free one.
Before you choose between a teacher or a tutor on italki, you'll want to know what kind of and how much structure suits you.
Unfortunately, Italki doesn't give you a free trial for registering unlike other services and sites, however, after you make a new account on Italki you receive three 30-minute trial lessons at a discount (Sometimes 50%+).
Keep in mind that the teachers and tutors on italki get to determine for themselves if they want to offer a discount and if so, for how much. You might happen to pick a teacher/tutor who gives you half off their normal rate for a trial lesson, but it's not guaranteed that your preferred teacher/tutor will offer this bonus feature.
*Use this link to purchase a minimum of $10 (US) of Italki credits and receive an extra $10 free! (Bonus added after completion of 1st lesson)
$9-$20 per Hour
1 Free 30 Minute Class
You can check out a more detailed review of Verbling here.
Verbling is pretty similar to its competitor italki with a few key differences: teacher qualification requirements, advanced native interface, and package deals.
There are a number of features that make Verbling a very attractive choice for online language lessons. Thanks to their experience prerequisites, they're able to offer a selection of high quality instructors.
Unlike italki, Verbling requires all of its teachers to be experienced and gives preference to teachers with certificates. This theoretically ensures an extra layer of quality control that other sites don't have.
Because the teachers are professionals, they are able to craft and offer supplemental materials reading and writing exercises, proficiency assessments, and quizzes. You might not get these kinds of features from a native speaker with no teaching experience.
Verbling hosts its own video chatting service instead of relying on outside services like Skype or Google Hangouts. The site has one of the best online lesson interfaces around thanks to built-in tools like a file sharing option, text chat, the ability to type using non-English characters, and a virtual flash card maker.
A tour of Verbling's exceptional user interface
In addition to the high caliber of the teachers, the price per lesson is definitely on the more reasonable end compared to many other sites.
Verbling's packages offers a unique way to purchase Russian classes online
With Verbling, you have the option of buying an entire course. You can also purchase five or more lessons at a time with a teacher centered around a common theme, topic, or aspect of language learning. Some of the packages available to Russian learners include Accent Reduction, Business Russian, Listening Comprehension, and more.
Just like cable and phone bundles or shopping at Costco, buying multiple services (in this case, lessons) at one time gets you a discounted price.
Verbling’s more stringent requirements for teachers means that they aren't able to employ as many as other websites, plus Russian isn't as popular a language to learn as others (like Spanish and French). Verbling has about 70 Russians teachers right now as opposed to italki’s 344. It’s up to you to decide if quality is better than quantity.
Those same strict hiring requirements also mean that professional teachers on Verbling tend to charge more than the tutors on Italki.
Whereas you might be able to find a native speaker on Italki who's willing to work with you on your conversational skills for $6/hour, a certified, professional teacher is going to ask for more money (probably $10 or more/hour).
Often you can find the same teacher giving lessons on both Italki and Verbling. The prices are typically comparable, but sometimes you find a lower price on one site and a slightly higher one on another.
As a gift for signing up for a free Verbling account, you'll receive one free individual 30 minute class with one of their teachers.
$17 per hour
Free 30 minute lesson
RU Land is definitely the service with the narrowest focus on this list. Unlike Verbling and italki, it focuses exclusively on Russian. It's a small club made up of five native Russian teachers, each of whom holds a professional certification from a university and has a background in philology (the study of languages).
You may have heard of RU Land from their YouTube channel that is popular with Russian learners.
Ru-Land's teachers run a popular Russian learning Youtube Channel
The teachers are knowledgeable and experienced and use their expertise to tailor each Russian course to every individual student’s needs. The quality of the lessons will probably be higher than what you’d find on many other sites. For some RU Land's focus on Russian might make it a more attractive choice than the competition.
One of Ruland Club's online students paid them a visit in Ukraine
That high quality comes at a price however. Lessons on RU Land cost about $17 per hour as opposed to Verbling and Italki’s usual rates of $15-16 an hour. If costs are a prohibitive factor for you, you might want to weigh your options carefully before deciding on a service.
RU Land offers a free 30-minute trial lesson with one of their teachers
Italki has the widest selection of teachers and tutors, which is very attractive for students looking for conversation practice. It also comes with an online community that can make learning a new language virtually a less lonely experience.
Verbling has a smaller availability of teachers, but has quality control assurances like certification requirements which could help take your learning to the next level. Their learning interface is also the best of any language learning site I've seen. If you’re looking for a more structured online experience, this site might be the right choice for you.
RU Land is only for Russian learners unlike Verbling and Italki which offer courses in many different languages. There are only a handful of teachers and the service is a bit pricier than the other options, but the site offers more individual attention than the others and the YouTube channel and app are highly developed.
Make sure you look through each site yourself and check out the trial lessons before you make an investment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to online or in-person learning so do your research before making a decision.
In the end, it’s the individual teacher rather than an individual website that makes for a great learning experience.
Let me know if you have any questions down in the comment section!
Privet! I'm a 21 year old polyglot (Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic). I'm very excited to share my language learning tips and experiences. Check back regularly for new posts!
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