How do I start doing italki lessons with zero prior speaking practice?

I want to start taking italki lesson. I have zero skill in speaking German, but years of input. What can I do to make the transition into speaking with a teacher at least a some what smooth transition and fun experience? How do I really get a lot out of each lesson?


Have you done any shadowing? I feel like that helped me make the transition into conversations. I put off outputting for a long time, and just started with writing and shadowing for a while. My first italki session had me super-nervous, but once I got into it, I was surprised by how much I could keep up. It’s still kind of stressful, but the more I do it, the easier it gets. Funny how that works. :slight_smile:

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I’ve never used Italki so I’m just giving some thoughts of mine plus a couple of ideas I’ve read here about what others have done for lessons/tutoring session etc.

First of all, I suspect you can say quite a bit based on your stats. You may have real grammatical flaws and probably a lot of searching for words that pop into your native language head that you can’t find in the target language, but can you describe what you did during the course of a day…keep it simple. If you don’t know the exact word, can you describe something in another way? i.e. an airplane is a “flying thing”.

  1. Keep it simple. Describe things in easy sentences, maybe even one or two word “sentences” if you need to (caveman language)

  2. Have a topic to discuss - maybe a “lesson” you did on LingQ or something going on in the world. Read/LingQ an article about it. Maybe then try to summarize the article in your own way in the native language (beforehand). Look up things if you need to. I wouldn’t try to memorize anything, but just get familiar with some terms.

By the way…first thing I should ask is what are you looking to get out of the Italki session? Just some conversation practice or are you looking for more of a “class” session? I’m kind of focusing on the former, which may or may not be helpful to a formal lesson.

  1. Start going through the mini stories in English (I assume this is your native language) in sentence mode. Try to translate the sentence to German. Don’t try to be perfect here. Just try to say something. If you don’t know a word or want to check for a better way of saying it…then highlight it and do deepL or google translate etc. You CAN set up the sentence translation to use German, but you have to go to your settings and change the order of dictionaries which screws everything else up =), so I just set my vocab dictionary lookups to German for this exercise.

  2. Translate other things from English to German. Again, don’t try to memorize things. Try to say it as best as you can. Then look up in DeepL and read it.

  3. Throughout the day…if you speak with other people. If you have time, or afterwards, try to voice out how you would’ve said those things in German. (may have to do silently if in the presence of the other person and you don’t want to look strange). If you don’t know, or just want to check. deepL or google it and see.

  4. When thinking to yourself, try to use German instead of English. Again, looking up if you have no idea, or want to check how close you were.

Those are some quick thoughts. Will look forward to other people’s thoughts that actually have done these type of sessions.


I wouldn’t overthink it too much. You need to book a few lessons until you find the right person that gives you what you need at the moment.

Yes, you need to invest a little bit of money to figure it out but it’s not a big deal. You let them ask you questions and you ask for guidance and in few lessons you will probably understand what you prefer to do at the moment.

I believe that with your input level you will pick up speed quite fast if you really have intention of improve your speaking output. You have quite a lot of vocabulary already and consistency, so I don’t think you will have any problem about it.

I haven’t used Italki for German yet, but I’ve used it for English, French and Spanish just to sometimes maintain an acceptable fluency on these languages that I use too little.

Embrace the new challenge. :laughing:


I find that if you have a lot of input, you will naturally attempt to think and try to say words you have already heard multiple times. It should be fine if you start with simple topics and realize that there’s a lot more in you than you thought. From there you can graduate the difficulty and complexity. Good luck!

source: Was in the same boat as you


Keep it simple. Just choose a topic of your interest that doesn’t overwhelm you with new vocabulary and consume media like videos, articles and podcasts on the subject the days before your lesson. Communicate the topic and maybe a certain content with your tutor as soon as possible. Send them for example a video of Easy German or a podcast episode. Make clear that you would like to assume a more passive role in the class and rather ask questions than answering them. So, you would take the role of the interviewer.

If this goes well, take another class with the same tutor on the same subject but this time you assume a more active role and let the tutor ask you a lot of questions.


I don’t really know anything about shadowing, I’ll look it up on YT!
Starting off with writing first sounds like a good idea Thank you!

All of those are great ideas! Thank you Eric! I like the idea of picking a topic to talk about beforehand, that would relieve some stress. Trying to talk in German AND trying to think about what to talk about at the same time is daunting. But if the topic is already set, I think that would make things much easier.

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Do a little bit preparation beforehand. Try reading about your topic beforehand either on quora or online also create a dialogue with CHATGPT. This way you will know about relevant/key vocabulary that can be expected to pop up in relation to that particular topic/situation. Do not show up without any preparation. ChatGPT is a great help use it for your advantage.

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We are forgetting that good teachers know how to handle this if we don’t know what to do. On Italki there are many teachers’ descriptions with videos as well.

We can also message them beforehand to ask them what they can do for us and if they can build a program for us and so on.

Surely, if we have goals is easier because they can answer if they are good or not to help us achieve our goals, otherwise we can just ask them to help us organise our next steps.

Then we can filter them out on how they answer and on their skills. Tutors are different as they are good for conversations but teachers and great teachers have a series of skill that we can use as well. Especially if they have learnt another language from scratch and become excellent on it.



I like asad’s suggestion. I was also going to suggest ChatGPT. In a slightly different way…if there is maybe an article or something in the news you might want to discuss, you can also ask ChatGPT to summarize it and give the key vocabulary (which makes for a quick and easy review). Frankly, it may not be a bad idea with this key vocabulary to just have it up on your screen as a bit of a “cheat sheet”. Both for listening what the tutor might say and to help you talk about something. You could practice on your own with the vocabulary trying to use it in sentences that you try to formulate on your own. Maybe try to create your own summarization using this key vocabulary as preparation beforehand.

I would say an important factor in this question is your budget. Are you able to have weekly conversations with low stakes? If so, I would look for community tutors that availability when you are*, and seem like they will be easy to talk to. From there, you can talk with them about your goals and, if they are any good, they should be able to help drive a conversation you both are interested in.