For example, italki offers online teachers that you pay for, as well as language exchange partners for free. What significant differences should I be aware of between these two options? Are they more-or-less interchangeable? Why, or why not?

Note: I posted a similar question on Reddit.

  • @Closevoters, what would make this question less opinion-based?
    – Hatchet
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 15:40
  • I'm going to have to agree with you on this one; this seems to be a perfectly valid question. For the record, I didn't close vote.
    – fi12
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 0:13
  • @Closevoters, as far as I know, there is literature on this topic, more specifically in the literature on tandem learning.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


The main difference is that a teacher should be able to teach you the language, therefore italki has some requirements:

  • Professional teachers have training as educators and/or extensive professional teaching experience. They can provide students with resources, prepared materials, and structured lesson plans to help students reach their goals.
  • To apply for a professional teaching profile, you must upload documents showing your training and experience as an educator.
  • ..
  • "Native" or Advanced (C2) language proficiency

While a language exchange partner can be anyone that has some knowledge of the language you want to learn:

Language Exchange is when you find a language partner who has complementary language skills to you.

Language exchanges are free and very informal. You and your language exchange partner are simply exchanging time and helping each other learn your respective languages.

The idea with the language exchange is that you practice with another person that speaks the language you want to learn better (for example being its native language).

I would conclude that both can help you, but if you want to get more knowledge about a language a teacher can help you more. However, a language exchange partner is really useful to get more fluent in a language, and obviously by that you will also learn; furthermore they are cheaper since there are several places where you can do language exchange for free.

  • Note that italki offers both "teachers" and "tutors".
    – gerrit
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 19:05

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