Preply is an online platform for teachers of a variety of subjects (not just foreign languages) to connect with online students. Specifically, Preply is well-known for offering dirt-cheap lessons, which attracts language learners who want to save a buck or two.
Honestly, I’m of the opinion that spending a few extra bucks to support an experienced tutor is always worth it, but this Preply review is for all the language learners who want a realistic, no-fluff review of a language learning platform that can help them to push their spoken language skills forward.
In this Preply review, we’ll talk about what I love and what I don’t love, from using the platform to an actual lesson with a (very cheap) Preply tutor, including what Preply does differently than the competition.
Preply review: getting started
When you first get started, you get a screen very reminiscent of Verbling and italki: a list of Preply tutors who teach your target language with an intro video, schedule preview, pricing, intros, and more.
You’ll also notice the menu bar at the tippy-top where you can narrow down specific features that are important to you. Again, italki and Verbling also operate similarly, though each has different options. My favorite is to organize by gender, but I didn’t get that here. Oh well! Preply does allow you to search by:
- Specialties (including learning disabilities and test preparation)
- Other languages spoken by tutor
- Whether or not they’re a native speaker
….and you can even search by name or keyword, which is great! I’ve definitely run into the problem where I’ve been searching for a specific tutor and just…couldn’t. Such a simple functionality that isn’t nearly as common as it should be!
Anyways, I narrowed my search down to $5/hour (because if you’re on Preply, you’re probably looking for something cheap), and Spain as the country of origin. Only one Preply tutor popped up and she wasn’t available for a few days, so I expanded the country of origin to also include Venezuela. Found my tutor!
On the tutor page, you get a few key details, including their “about” section, reviews, how many lessons they’ve booked in the last 48 hours (implying success/popularity), and a little intro video. While intro videos probably won’t say too too much that the “about” section already says, this is a good opportunity for you to listen to how your potential tutor speaks, and see if you can understand their accent/way of speaking.
This particular tutor didn’t have a resume on their profile, but many of them do. Of course, you likely won’t get a decorated teacher for $5 an hour, nor would you want to if you want a high-quality education from someone who has spent the time and money to earn various certifications and work highly-skilled jobs.
Scrolling down, you’ll also get a peek at the tutor’s availability in your time zone and their past clients’ reviews.
As you can see, Dargy was wide open!
If you look closely, you can see that instead of just blocking out the times when she’s not available, there are greyed-out letters. If you guessed those are the initials of the student scheduled in that time slot, you’d be correct. In my opinion, that’s kind of weird. Why is it important what a student’s initials are, except to the tutor? Why did Preply make that choice instead of simply blocking the time out? I have questions here!
Anyways, I went ahead and booked a trial lesson with Dargy. I’m not really sure what makes it a trial lesson though…it was full price, for an hour! An hour is a long time for a 1:1, especially for a first lesson. 1-hour lessons wear me out, and I wish there was an option to schedule a 30-minute lesson, especially since the schedule is broken up into 30-minute chunks. Weird.
There were a couple of interesting perks, at checkout, too!
Specifically, Preply has some major fail-safes in place. For one, you get free lesson cancellation until 4 hours before your lesson. I’m not sure what happens if something comes up and you have to cancel after that – maybe you pay a fee, or maybe you work it out with your tutor.
More importantly, though, is that Preply’s got your back if your tutor doesn’t show up or you’re not satisfied: either a full refund or free replacement! I wonder if they’ve had problems in the past with tutors bailing? That’s the most aggressively secure guarantee I’ve seen anywhere!
Once you have your lesson scheduled/paid for, Preply directs you to prepare in a few different ways. Some directions are to prepare for the lesson itself, others are to motivate you to consistently set up more lessons.
The first is the option to make sure you can get into the Preply classroom smoothly, and that all your tech works. I love that they have their own classroom as opposed to relying on something like Zoom or Skype (which hasn’t been the go-to for foreign language tutor platforms in a while, fortunately).
Very simple and smooth: I approve!
When you get your email confirming your lesson date and time, it also includes a link to this classroom, which I love! I copied & pasted it directly into my Google calendar so I didn’t have to go searching through the Preply website when the time came. This is what I do with all my Zoom meetings, so I love that I could seamlessly add it to my schedule.
After that, I was given the option to test my level and set goals. You can edit these at any time in the settings of your account.
If you can stick to this…it honestly seems pretty legit! The levels are based on CEFR guidelines, and Preply does a decent job of breaking down how to get from where you are now to your goals…though it is important to keep in mind that this is based on the speaking skill only, so don’t expect the certification to be good for anything besides putting it up on the wall.
Like I said, way to get language learners to stick to it! If you want some light structure, this is not a bad start!
Oh, and one more thing: this guy popped up while I was on my lesson page.
Ideally, if the trial lesson goes well, you can get a monthly subscription to your tutor and save another few bucks! Consistency is absolutely key to improving your speaking, so this is a super interesting move into the Netflix era of the internet. This is the kind of thing that BaseLang has been doing from the start but at a much less intensive/expensive scale.
Preply review: the problem
Before attending my lesson with Dargy, I did some searching to see the inner-works of the platform. Most anyone can be a tutor (unsurprising – that’s usually the case), but I did find one key feature of Preply that was….upsetting, to say the least: the pay that tutors receive.
Yup – Dargy wasn’t even getting paid for my first lesson with her!
Not only that, but she was losing at least a quarter of my payment until we had 201 hours together.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that the platform needs to be financially supported, and I absolutely believe that Preply should receive some sort of commission for hosting and maintaining all these tutors. I also get the value of promoting long-term tutor/student relationships. But I don’t like these numbers.
Considering I didn’t want a full-hour lesson in the first place and Dargy wasn’t even getting paid for her time with me, the first thing I did when our lesson started was request a 30-minute lesson instead.
By the way, Dargy was very gracious, kind, and intentionally asked me how I felt about our lesson together/if I had any feedback for her. She got 5 stars from me!
After our scheduled time together, I got a BUNCH of notifications pushing me to schedule more time with her. Specifically, I was prompted to schedule another lesson/buy a subscription to her:
- as a notification in the app
- in an email
- in a pop-up after I rated our lesson
This is a good way to keep students accountable, honestly. Especially considering you have to spend over 200 hours with a single Preply tutor for them to keep more than 75% of their income from you…and keep in mind that with subscriptions, they’re earning even less from you. Yeesh!
Nonetheless, when it comes to the success of a language student, I am a fan of any tactic that removes obstacles between the learner and their commitment to studying. It wasn’t spammy – more like you have to make the decision to turn down more lessons three times. I’m sure it works, and if it convinces more learners to improve their foreign language skills, I’m all for it!
What you need to know about Preply
Like I said, I was honestly not expecting this Preply review to be very high quality – I figured it was a matter of “you get what you pay for”. I do have to say, though, that I was pleasantly surprised!
I love the platform. It’s incredibly user-friendly. The app is really nice, too, and gives you notifications for your lessons. I love the option to commit to a long-term relationship with a Preply tutor, and all the other methods that really encourage you to stick with it and stay accountable, like setting reasonable goals and expectations for having conversations a few days per week. I mean they really hook you in!
I don’t love the payment model. It was already kind of strange that a trial lesson was a full hour (a long time for even a normal 1:1 lesson), but Preply tutors aren’t even paid for it? That’s gross. Plus, you have to commit over 200 hours to a particular tutor for them to keep over 75% of their pay? Even after the student discount with a monthly membership? Yikes.
All in all: this Preply review shows that for the student, Preply is great. For the tutor, not so much. Nonetheless, there are tons of highly qualified Preply tutors with great resumes and lots of experience, so one has to assume it’s not all bad!
Want to give Preply a shot? Click here to get 50% off your first lesson with Preply!