We have been looking into different ways to improve our language skills since finding ourselves without our regular classes. Due to the current situation, we have really been enjoying language learning from the comfort of our homes and today we would like to share with you a platform we have tried called Preply.
Note: For this post, we received credit to try out the platform. All opinions are our own. If you like what you see in the review, consider using our affiliates link, which comes at no extra cost to you but tells Preply that you found them through us.
What is Preply?
Preply is a platform where you can connect to tutors of languages and other subjects to get one-on-one tutoring in the area of your choice. We were surprised to find that in addition to all of the most popular languages, Claudia was also able to find multiple Finnish tutors to connect with. We have only been using this platform for language-learning but we can imagine that it can be useful for other tutoring needs such as math.
Why do we recommend it?
We often talk about how learning languages isn’t something that happens overnight and, no matter how much you want it, probably won’t even happen during a six month language exchange. There are always opportunities to learn more and improve your language skills. While we recommend starting with free apps, such as Duolingo (see our review here), and other forms of self-learning, if you advance enough, you will probably want to connect with a tutor who can support you on your learning journey.
Right now, we are loving the idea of working online, over video chat, so that you can get the one-to-one feel of tutoring from the comfort and safety of your home. In addition, because the sessions are one-to-one, you will be able to discuss your level and objectives with your language tutor as well as adjust the pace as necessary. If you are wondering how to take advantage of studying virtually, check out this post.
Is it free?
Joining the platform and taking a trial lesson with your first tutor is free. This is a great way to check out the offer available and see which tutors might fit you best. Once you have decided on a tutor, the sessions are purchased in packages and the prices are set by the tutor. This means that you will have to buy at least six sessions with the tutor and the prices vary widely from quite inexpensive to more than 50 euros an hour. While this might feel like a commitment, we kind of like the idea that you have to invest in your tutor because it is one of the only ways to know if you truly are a good fit. In turn, you should expect your tutor to invest back in you.
In the Preply system, you purchase sets of lessons or packages by using a credit or debit card or PayPal. The platform uses a PayPal service called Braintree to secure all payment options. Then, depending on your tutor, you can book the lessons directly in his or her calendar or you can set up the sessions with the tutor directly.
Who can use Preply?
This platform is useful for people who are looking to practice and improve their language skills but also those people who might need tutor support in other areas of study. Dani took a Spanish class at an advanced level and was really satisfied with the preparation her tutor did to support her. Claudia did a total beginner level and was pleased that her tutor provided her with the necessary support just to get going. All the classes are one-to-one which will really help you find someone who you are able to talk with about your needs.
How do you choose the best tutor?
Depending on what you are looking for, Preply has options for you. For example, if we are looking for a Spanish tutor, you can search the language option “Spanish” and even decide where you want your tutor to come from or if he/she is a native Spanish speaker. In addition, you can decide how much you want to pay per hour and can select your time availability preference. This last feature is especially useful if you are working in the morning and can only take lessons at night or vice versa. In the case of Spanish lessons, there are Spanish tutors from all over the world and we believe you can definitely find one that fits your schedule needs.
We also recommend checking out the profiles that the tutors share and the reviews that people have left for the different tutors. This will give you a better idea of what each tutor is like and what you can expect from your sessions with them. Of course, you won’t fully know if a tutor fits your learning style until you take a class or two with them, but it will help you see if they are more focused on grammar needs or general conversation, etc.
After you have found someone that fits your price range and schedule, you can then take a class for free. This test class is an hour long—a full length class—and will help you see if you believe the tutor is a good fit for you or not. We would like you to keep in mind, the tutors are not paid for this trial lesson so, even if Preply offers you a free trial lesson, do try to be respectful of the tutor’s time. Although Dani was offered the option to book a second free trial with a new teacher when she did not purchase a package directly after her trial lesson, we do not recommend you take advantage of this option repeatedly.
How do you book a class?
Booking lessons is quite simple but can only be done in packages for a specific tutor. Once you have decided on a tutor, you will have to purchase credit using a credit or debit card for a set number of hours with that tutor. The packages are usually in sets of 6, 12, or 20 hours. On one hand, we like that you have to commit for a set amount of time to a tutor, which is great for you to be able to see if you are able to develop a relationship with him/her but can be a little bit annoying if you want to work with more than one tutor at a time.
This can also feel like it is locking you into a situation where you are stuck with a tutor even if you decide you don’t like him/her after the first sessions. However, if you find that you do not like the tutor or he/she misses classes, you can always transfer your credits from one tutor to another. We have not done this because we have enjoyed the tutors we worked with, but it does seem fairly straight forward. In addition, if your tutor misses a session, it does seem like Preply will refund the hour to spend with that or another tutor.
Once you have booked the package, you can then decide on the hours. Some tutors have all of their available hours in their online calendar but others will want you to decide your classes when you are together with them. The tutors will then schedule the sessions and send you invitations for each lesson. Preply automatically sends you updates whenever you get a message from your tutor and before every class, which is a nice reminder if you have a busy schedule.
Do you need any additional technology or software to take a class with Preply?
Once you sign up for your classes, you are good to go as Preply uses its own interface platform for your learning sessions. Although the platform is pretty basic, you can see your tutor’s video, share your own video, message each other, and share screens. We didn’t have any problems with the platform but could imagine having issues if your internet connection isn’t great.
In addition, for the best video lessons, we would highly recommend that you use your computer camera (so that your tutor can see your face) and an external headset with a microphone. This is to ensure that your tutor can properly hear you—important when doing language lessons—and that you will be able to block out background noise around you. If you don’t have one yet, Dani’s favorite headset is this one!
What can you expect in your class?
Because every tutor is different, you will find that the sessions that you do can vary greatly. We have found that most good tutors will spend time to figure out your objectives for taking the lessons so that they can better tailor them to your needs. In Dani’s experience taking an advanced lesson, the tutor sent a full survey (in Spanish) ahead of time in order to know more about her previous experiences and expectations with the lessons. In addition to this, there was also a Preply language test that included grammar, writing, listening, and speaking in order to assess the student’s language level. Likely, this does not exist for all languages, but it was a thorough assessment offered in Spanish.
At the same time, there are tutors who will just use what they have on hand and wing it as they go along. As we have both taught English ourselves, we have found that there are students for every kind of learning, so we recommend getting to know a tutor to see if his/her style works well for you.
And remember, like all ways of learning, Preply is just another tool that you have decided to use to improve your own skills. In that sense, you will get what you put into it and you should not expect miracles if you are not really investing in your learning process. However, if you are disappointed by your experience or the outcomes you are seeing, do not be afraid to talk openly with your tutor about these feelings as it will help you better align expectations. If things really are not working out, you can always change tutors as well to make sure you have a positive experience.
Are there any other features aside form lessons?
Unfortunately, if there are additional features, we haven’t really found or explored them on Preply. The platform is pretty basic and mostly just offers a place for you to do your lessons and a messaging system for you and your tutor.The one thing we really liked was that one of our tutors sent us homework via the messaging system so we could build on our basics even when we were not doing lessons.
Are there any downsides to using Preply?
While we did enjoy using this platform, we did find that there were some inconveniences with Preply:
1.) The pricing will vary by tutor. While we believe that it is wonderful that tutors can establish their own value and get paid what they believe they deserve (something that is not always available on these types of platforms), it can be confusing for students, especially when purchasing or transferring credits. Like we mentioned before, you have to purchase credit hours in package deals, which means that they most likely correspond only to the exact tutor that you have been working with. If you want to try someone new, you will have to adapt accordingly.
2.) Reviewing the experience is quick but not always thorough. When you leave every lesson, you are asked to leave a review of your tutor from 1 to 5 stars. However, you cannot leave comments. You can leave a general review (again from 1 to 5 stars) on your tutor’s profile and there you have the opportunity to leave a commented review.
3.) Lessons can run over or start late. Because Preply is set up in a way that all lessons are hour-long lessons, it is easy for tutors to be one or two minutes late for their next session. We believe that only having hour-long lessons obliges the tutors to be put into uncomfortable situations where they have to finish a session in the middle of a thought and carefully plan things like bathroom breaks.
All and all, we do believe that Preply can offer a beneficial tool for you. We are firm believers that one-to-one lessons can offer massive benefits for new students and proficient users alike. However, like we said before, it is important that you keep in mind the limits of such a platform because you will only get out of it what you put into it.
Have you ever used Preply? If so, please share more information about your experience in the comments below!
Check out more reviews with this post that evaluates Italki as a language learning platform.