The 7 Best Online English Tutoring Services of 2020

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Our Top Picks

Learning English online is easier than ever, thanks to the proliferation of online English tutoring services. It’s not all formal classes and traditional "homework," either—today’s English language learning is focused more on practical applications and lessons for any proficiency level or age group.

While several English tutoring websites are geared toward particular groups or nationalities, there are plenty of options that offer to tutor a wider range of students. From services catered to your flexible schedule to platforms with real-life features, there is definitely an option out there for you.

Our Top Picks

Best for Kids: AmazingTalker

AmazingTalker

AmazingTalker

Algorithmic matching is used for social media, dating sites, advertising, and more AmazingTalker has taken that and applied it to language tutoring.

The platform is easy to use and even easier to tailor to individual tutoring needs. After inputting basic information like current proficiency level, goals, and schedule availability, the site "matches" you with potential tutors.

They will then send prospective students a quick introduction about themselves and their teaching styles before committing to working with them. Prices vary widely since each tutor can send their own rates.

A large number of language-learning services either don’t offer kid-friendly lessons or only offer them to speakers of one particular language (there are, for instance, several platforms that specifically target English-learning kids whose native language is Mandarin Chinese.)

AmazingTalker avoids both of those traps by offering kid-friendly tutoring as one of its many “specialties” that students can search for. All tutors are experienced, and although a certification like TEFL isn’t required, many on the site do have language teaching certificates.

Best Runner-Up: Skooli

Skooli

Skooli

Skooli is probably best-known for being a flexible, interactive platform for a wide variety of subjects, particularly for high school and college students. But, did you know that the service also offers ESL tutoring for any age and proficiency level?

If you’re looking for tutoring without being locked into a specific number or length of courses, Skooli’s services might be a good option. Students can work with a tutor on an ongoing basis or just log on for instant help with specific questions. Unlike subscription platforms, Skooli’s rates are pay-as-you-go at about $1 per minute.

Although the platform itself is flexible, its standards for tutors aren’t. Instructors all have at least a bachelor’s degree, teaching experience, and most have a teaching license or a specialized certification (in this case, some form of ESL teaching certification).

The platform then allows you to use virtual classrooms to video chat, practice conversations, write on a "whiteboard," and more. For adult language learners who are probably looking for a no-frills approach that still has all the resources they need to learn, Skooli’s setup allows for a degree of independence while still connecting with experienced tutors to learn from and practice with.

Best Value: Verbling

Verbling

Verbling

Verbling has a multi-faceted platform that facilitates learning at any level, but advanced students are particularly likely to find the extra features helpful.

The site has the usual offerings—video chat and text-based chat—but it also includes some extras that help tutors and students customize learning. The "classroom" includes the ability to share files back and forth, so tutors can send worksheets and real-life text examples that can support learning. There’s even the option to create custom flashcards that you can use in between live lessons.

Because Verbling leans on its reputation for using high-level pedagogy to improve the learning experience, it also has an unusually high percentage of top-tier teachers. All tutors are required to have a teaching certificate or verifiable language teaching experience, but most have both. The company will not accept inexperienced teachers, and the applications are competitive.

If you’re an advanced student seeking an experienced tutor, Verbling can offer that assurance, along with lower prices; Tutors set their own rates, but many fall between roughly $15 and $45 per hour.

Best for Adults: Lingoda

Lingoda

Lingoda

If you’re looking for the perfect blend of practical, career-focused language learning with an actual class structure, Lingoda may be the right fit for you.

The platform is popular for its occasional "language sprint" promotion, which offers partial refunds for completing a certain number of classes within a given time span. Even if you’re not up for a language "challenge," its lessons are well suited for adults’ learning needs and schedules.

There are a variety of packages with different rates: Students taking two to three group classes per week pay about $159 per month (or roughly $369 for the same, but individual tutoring), while choosing one of the Language Marathon options allows students to pay around $929 for 90 classes in six months, with a $250 cash-back option (for students who attend every course).

The tutoring system at Lingoda is more structured than just one-on-one casual tutoring, but that’s what makes it work for adults who may be seeking "classes” they couldn’t take before. Students can sign up for one-on-one classes or small group classes (often about three to four students per class) and can choose individual, 60-minute classes based on what topics interest them the most.

The platform only accepts professional teachers with language teaching experience, so students at any proficiency level can rest assured they’re being taught not just by native speakers, but by trained teachers.

Best for Advanced Learners: Preply

Preply

Preply

Advanced English students are likely to enjoy the customizable learning environment on Preply, a tutoring service that includes language learning as one of its biggest attractions.

The process for finding a tutor is pretty straightforward, but it’s geared at making sure every student finds the right match for their needs. Since advanced learners are likelier to have more specific goals, the structure is perfect for them. Tutors set their own rates, which can range widely—from about $20 per hour to around $70 or higher.

Students can browse tutors’ profiles, searching by language, price, availability, or other factors that are important, and they can also see feedback provided by past students. There’s an option to book a trial lesson, during which students can talk with a tutor to find out if their expertise matches the student’s goals, and if it works out, they can work together to craft a lesson plan that addresses the student’s individual needs.

The emphasis is on customized, individual instruction, and although teachers aren’t required to have specialized certifications, many of the best tutors do have language certificates and in-depth teaching experience.

Best for Casual Learning: Cambly

Cambly

Cambly

If you’re not looking for formal, structured lessons, Cambly might be the casual tutoring service for you. The basic premise of the service is simple: instead of a classroom setting or something similar, English students can speak with native English speakers through live chats.

Students can practice talking about a specific topic, study for the TOEFL or IELTS, or just brush up their skills casually. The focus is on real conversation with English speakers, rather than heavily structured instruction. The platform does offer practical courses that are a little more structured as well, and they’re nearly all targeted at specific needs.

Lessons on informal conversation topics (such as family, hobbies, food, and more) and business English are also available. There are additionally a few courses for intermediate to advanced learners that focus on more niche topics like pop culture, fitness, and technology. It’s a laid-back way to learn English in a practical sense, with a focus on the types of conversations you’re most likely to have in the real world.

Cambly’s price plans are customized based on how frequently you want to use the service: choose from two, three, or five days per week and 15, 30, or 60 minutes per day to obtain a quote.

Most Flexible: italki

italki

italki

italki, which offers English among several languages, is another excellent option for students who are looking for a more informal approach alongside traditional learning.

Students can choose which level of tutoring they want: a Professional Teacher, who is required to be certified in teaching their native language as a second language, or a Community Tutor, who is simply a native speaker who teaches informally or acts as a practice conversation partner.

The flexibility offered by italki is one of its most appealing features, especially for learners who may not have space in their schedules to have a bunch of formal classes on a regular basis. Students can log on anytime, anywhere (as can tutors), and even the payment plan is flexible, allowing students to pay per lesson instead of signing up for a full course or monthly plan.

Rates are set by each tutor, and most range from about $15 to $40 per hour. Plus, you can get a feel for what each tutor is like before connecting with them, since tutors are required to have a video introduction on their profiles. It’s a lower-risk option that can still yield great results.

How We Chose the Best Online English Tutoring Services

English language learning encompasses a broad swath of potential students, so we ensured that our picks covered as many groups as possible. Instead of targeting platforms that are specific to a single language group, we tried to choose services that don’t specify what native language a student ought to speak.

Although pricing is important, it’s hard to compare different services when they have different pricing models—some tutors charge by the hour, while others provide pre-packaged courses and charge based on that. We’ve chosen a range of services (some of which allow individual tutors to set their own rates as well) and focused on highlighting platforms that have high standards for their tutors. On the platforms that do allow non-professional tutors (such as italki’s Community Tutors), it’s clearly marked that they’re for conversation partners more than formal teachers.

What Is an Online English Tutoring Service?

Online English tutoring services are platforms designed to connect English tutors with students who are learning English as a second language. Services may offer different versions of tutoring: While some are structured as actual courses, others provide one-on-one conversation and individualized learning plans.

How Much Do Online English Tutoring Services Cost?

Like any other tutoring service, online English tutoring comes with a broad range of price points. Depending on the platform, you may end up paying hourly, per lesson or class (or for packages of lessons and/or courses), or per session. In many cases, the individual tutors will set their prices, so it’s always a good idea to compare or even set up a test session, if possible, before making a decision. Beware of bottom-basement prices that seem too good to be true, though: While some of those may just be newer tutors looking to build a resume, others may be offering a lower quality or lack the teaching skills to effectively meet students’ needs.

What Accreditations Should I Look for When Choosing an Online English Tutoring Service?

It depends on what you’re looking for: If you’re comfortable with a basic knowledge of the language and are just looking for a practice partner, you’ll probably just want to make sure that the potential tutor is a native English speaker or an experienced teacher. But in any other case, where you’re actually looking for a more in-depth learning experience, you’ll want to select teachers who are experienced and certified teaching English as a foreign language.

Some of the acronyms to look out for:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
  • TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language)

If you’re not sure about an accreditation, double-check. Most online tutoring platforms have a section for potential tutors to see some of the basic qualifications, and as a student, it’s a good idea to read that section, too, in order to see what types of tutors you’re likely to find.

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