Language learning can be a challenge. You buy the books but don’t look at them, or sign up for a class and find that it’s not quite right for you. Personally, I know that I always find excuses for not studying, even when I really want to learn a language, so I need external influences to keep me going. A weekly class is ideal, preferably one-to-one so I get all of the teacher’s attention.
However, it can be difficult to find qualified teachers in my area, or hard to find time to meet them. But there’s a solution to this too: online classes via Skype. There are a variety of platforms to choose from, depending on the language you’re learning; if you’re learning Spanish, Learned By Me is a good choice. All the teachers are qualified, experienced Spanish teachers, and at US$15 per 45-minute class, it’s a lot cheaper than you’d expect to pay for in-person lessons in many countries.
I enjoyed the clean look of the website, and found the process of booking a tutor quite simple. I could search for tutors and see their profiles without being logged in, though I had to have an account to book a lesson. Setting up my account took about 30 seconds (I just had to fill in a basic form), and when I found a tutor I liked the look of, I just clicked the time slot I wanted on the calendar displayed below the tutor’s personal information, entered my credit card details, and I was booked in.
The only problem I found with the booking process was that there weren’t any teachers available for the exact time I wanted to study. I was looking for a mid-morning lesson, which is unfortunately in the middle of the night in Ecuador, where many of the teachers are located. However, I also had free time later in the day, so this wasn’t a major problem.Lessons have to be booked at least 24 hours in advance, and when you book you must provide some basic information about your level (beginner, intermediate, advanced, fluent) and objective (help with coursework, follow a tutor’s curriculum, stay sharp, learn from scratch or prepare for a trip). You can choose to book just one class or create a recurring weekly booking — I just booked the one lesson, though I could definitely see the value in not having to repeatedly book individual classes if you have them regularly.
Immediately after I booked I received a confirmation email, and soon after that, a notification that my lesson would take place in 24 hours (yes, yes, I booked at the last possible moment). But I also received a personal email from the Country Manager for Ecuador, who asked me for more details about my objectives. I took the opportunity to answer in Spanish (ha! More practice!) and received a friendly reply within ten minutes.
The class itself went really well — I’d provided my Skype name when I booked the class, and my tutor Alfonsina added me as a contact then sent me a message a minute or two before the scheduled class time to ask if I was ready to begin. The class was great, we mostly focused on conversation but I’d requested help with my old foe the subjunctive, and Alfonsina gave me a couple of exercises to make me use it. Since the classes are one-on-one, they are completely customisable, and your teacher can create a programme that suits your level and interests.
I’d really recommend Learned By Me for anyone who is studying or thinking about studying Spanish. While experiences will vary depending on who you have as a tutor, the process of using the site is easy and pleasant, and at US$15 per class, very affordable.