Views from a Teacher: A Cambly Review (2021)

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Cambly is an online platform designed to help students learn English through conversation. I have been working part-time as a teacher on Cambly for two years. These are my opinions on the effectiveness of Cambly based on the students I have seen on this platform.

If you are more interested in Cambly Kids you can take a look at our dedicated Cambly Kids review.

Cambly Review Overview

Pros: 

  • One of the best ways to get one-on-one talk time with tutors
  • Can help you achieve spoken English fluency
  • Access to lots of tutors with different accents
  • Can be accessed anywhere that you have internet
  • Free to talk about any topic you like

Cons:

  • Fairly expensive
  • Not great for beginners or children
  • Built-in lessons could be better
  • Requires learners to be disciplined about pushing themselves
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What is Cambly?

Cambly is an online platform that connects English language learners with native speakers. The goal is to help students learn how to have natural conversations. Through conversation, students can improve their grammar, accent, and vocabulary.

What is Cambly Kids?

Cambly Kids is an offshoot of Cambly designed to help provide a more structured learning environment so children can learn English. The largest difference between the two is that Cambly Kids has set class lengths and pre-determined lessons. Instead of conversation practice, children will be taken through an online English lesson similar to what they would get on other online teaching platforms.   

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Is Cambly a Good Way to Improve My English?

Cambly is an excellent tool for improving your English for those people who already have a strong basis in English. For most students, their English instruction up until now has prepared them for written exams that focus on grammar and vocabulary. However, these students usually lack any real experience in conversation. So, when they speak English, they often are embarrassingly unable to hold a conversation. If this sounds like you, then Cambly may be a great choice.

Cambly will give students who have a background in English, but lack practical experience, a chance to use what they have learned in a conversation. Many people I meet on the platform are professionals who need to use English in meetings or on the job. Cambly is a place that they can practice, so that when they need to, they can sound fluent and confident. 

Therefore, Cambly is the perfect place to go to upgrade from being an intermediate student to an advanced learner of English. It can help give you the exposure to native speakers that your location may be unable to provide you. This can be invaluable for people who live in places that just do not have many native English speakers. 

Cambly is not for Beginners

Unfortunately, Cambly is not a platform that is ideal for beginners. “Teachers” on Cambly are not usually actual teachers. They are native speakers. They can help you with sounding like a native speaker, but they are not trained in English grammar rules. They may struggle to explain grammar or even give you the wrong information unknowingly. 

Another reason Cambly is not for beginners is that you need enough English to understand basic English instruction. Most teachers on the platform do not speak another language, and you cannot be certain that you will find someone that speaks the language that you do. If you need instruction in your own language, Cambly is not the place to be. 

For people who are just starting to learn English, Cambly should be an end goal to keep in mind, but it cannot take you the whole way. Start with textbooks and someone in your native country that can explain English grammar to you in your own language. When you advance to a point where you can use English at an intermediate level, come back and start on Cambly.

Is Cambly or Cambly Kids Good for My Children?

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If your child does not speak any English, then Cambly will not be easy. Most of the teachers on this platform are not teachers. So, they may have a hard time correcting your child or even engaging them in conversation. Most children do not want to just chat, and playing games can be difficult over a screen. I generally don’t like online tutoring for kids as it is rarely engaging and there are better ways to teach them English yourself.

Cambly could be a great fit for older children that already have really good English. I have met children on the platform who have learned English from their mom or dad, and need someone to practice with while they are busy. This is a great use for Cambly, but someone needs to put in the hard work beforehand to get these kids to this point. 

To learn more about Cambly Kids, take a look at our dedicated Cambly Kids review.

I am Preparing for the IELTS, TOEFL, etc., can Cambly Help?

Yes, but there are probably better ways. First off, Cambly teachers are all native speakers, so most of us have never taken these tests. As well, there are few people on the website who are experts on this subject. If test prep is your main goal, I would look for a tutor on something like Italki where you can hire a tutor who specializes in this topic. It is not that Cambly doesn’t have any people who do test prep, but you cannot guarantee that they will be online and available.

How Does Cambly Work?

Cambly works on a subscription basis, and it is not cheap. If you pay for three months of access, three days a week for thirty-minute sessions, it will cost you $104 a month. That works out to about $17 an hour to talk to someone. That being said, there is a free trial if you would like to see how it works before you buy it.

Once you have purchased your subscription, you can set up your profile and sign in. When you are online, you will be able to see which tutors are currently available. You can also see their name, where they are from, and a quick bio about them.  

Once in a call, you can open up pre-set lessons. I find these lessons to be less than helpful, but they do act as a nice jumping-off point to spur conversation. Most students choose to just chat with their tutors. The talk screen includes a chat-box, a translator, and a video feed to help you connect with your tutor. For the student, Cambly is accessible from both a laptop or a cellphone, making it very convenient. I have had more than one call from someone in a car or on their lunch break.

If you like a specific tutor, you are free to request lessons from them. Some tutors will publish their schedules, and you can book times according to that. This will help so that you can gain familiarity with a tutor. It will also save you time that you might waste waiting for an available tutor.

How to Get the Most out of Cambly

Go into Cambly knowing what you want to learn and improve. Then tell your teacher what that is so they can help you properly. I’ve had many students not tell me what they want, and then be disappointed when I hadn’t written down all of their mistakes. When you start your lesson, tell your teacher what you want. Do you want us to correct your grammar, word choice, or accent? Any of these are fine, but we have to know in advance. 

Be prepared to go beyond your comfort zones. I have too many students who rely on me to carry the conversation and only reply with yes or no. This will not help you improve. Also, if you have already had a thousand conversations on your favorite food, ask your tutor if you can talk about cars or politics or whatever you want to learn. It is only by pushing yourself to use more complicated sentences or topics that you will get better. If you make a mistake, we will correct you, no worries. 

I would also suggest that you ask to schedule classes with a tutor if you really like them. They may not be interested in setting up weekly lessons, but having a rapport with a teacher will help. It will also save you from having to explain what you need from your tutor before every class. 

Another great, but underutilized feature, is the opportunity to go back over a lesson. Once you finish your class, you can go back and watch the recording. Re-watching your conversations can help you take note of the things that your tutor corrected you on. If you don’t review the mistakes you make, you won’t get any better. This is a great learning opportunity that too many people overlook. 

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Final Thoughts

Cambly is one of my favorite programs for online English learning. That is one of the reasons that I remain active on the website. Cambly is the tool I wish I had to help me learn Chinese, and it can help take intermediate English and push it to the next level. However, Cambly remains to be a bad place for beginners. If you need help reviewing grammar, I would suggest you find a dedicated tutor, online or offline. Although Cambly is expensive, for those people who do not live near native-English speakers, this could be one of your best choices for getting valuable one-on-one talk time to improve your English.

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