how italki language exchange is providing a store of value during monetary crises

3 min read

It Started as Just Your Average Two-Sided Marketplace

Hola! Örvendek! Gutentag! Kayfak? In my neverending search to connect with other humans, I’ve always been fond of learning new languages. That being said, I don’t resonate well with traditional courses, and find I learn a lot quicker through spoken conversation. When I stumbled upon iTalki two years ago, a two-sided marketplace for language learners and teachers, I became a fan immediately.

Want to learn Arabic? You can choose to learn an array of dialects from $3.00 an hour to $100.00 and up. You can choose to learn from a professional teacher, a college student, and anyone in between. All tutoring is negotiated between you and the teacher, with minimal interference from the platform. iTalki is elegant in its vision; to bring together folks who want to learn languages, and folks who want to teach languages.

ITalki is able to process transactions efficiently across borders through a token system (not a decentralized one — just a SQL server) where parties in one country purchase intra-platform tokens with their native currency, and then, to pay for services, send the tokens (or “credits”) to the tutor they negotiate lessons with. The tutor can then either hold the tokens in the platform, or, cash them out into their native currency.

I love myself a well-designed two-sided marketplace. I was hooked from the beginning, and it’s been my go-to place for connecting with tutors ever since. This is not a sponsored post. I am just this big of a fan of the platform. All in all, iTalki has made it easier for me to improve my Spanish, German, and Hungarian thus far. It’s done a lot for me, but it’s done far more for one of my tutors in Argentina.

Life Savings On A SQL Server

As many of you know, Argentina has been going through a monetary crisis recently (or rather, multiple crises over the past few decades). The peso is depreciating at astounding rates, and the government has initiated austerity measures that include restricted citizens' ability to hold foreign currency. It’s not hard to see why.

Recall what I mentioned before about the intra-platform token system that iTalki’s platform uses to facilitate money transfers? While tutors can cash out these tokens into their native currency, some do not.

For the past four months, my tutor has been HODLing (holding on for dear life) iTalki credits to avoid the extreme value losses that her native currency is experiencing.

My tutor stores all of her funds in iTalki credits. When she needs to buy groceries, she converts just enough iTalki credits to Argentinean peso to cover what she needs to buy that day and preserves the remainder in credits. This allows her to avoid the money she earned on Monday depreciating into dust by the time she wants to buy something on Friday.

Drastic Times

Globally, we’ve seen an uncanny increase in monetary instability. This has coincided with the creation and eventual growth of cryptocurrencies — a way for people to store the value of their work more effectively, and more securely than many (all) fiat currencies.

When platforms like iTalki provide a more stable store of value than major currencies, we are long overdue for monetary innovation. Only time will tell if cryptocurrencies (and the underlying tech they are based on, blockchain) will be able to breathe new life into how we store value. Until then, people will get by through whatever means necessary; even if it means learning a new language in the process.