5 Ways to Improve Language Skills without Taking Language Courses

by Tristan Verboven

Without a doubt, taking a language course is a tried and tested way to learn a language. But what if you can’t, or don’t have time? Maybe you don’t like school. Maybe you are in school but it’s not working for you. Here are some ways you can work on your language skills while living your life:


Having a romantic relationship with a person who only speaks the target language may be the fastest way, but it is not the wisest. In fact it’s not even on this list. But learning how to do something in another language is. Language courses focus squarely on learning language, but learning (for example) how to play tennis in another language would go much faster. Plus you could improve your backhand.

Today I learned "La lucha del hombre contra la bestia"

Choose something based on your existing level. If you are a total beginner, try a card game or a card trick. For more advanced students, try something a little more complicated. Most importantly, try to forget that you are learning a language and get in there.


Not English subtitles, the subtitles of the original language. Watching a movie while reading the dialogue (especially one you have seen already) is a great way to pick up on the cadence and flow. Get the sound of the language in your head while learning a few words and expressions.

Try to follow the storyline....

If done alone at home, you can rewind the movie while listening and repeating. Typically, Hollywood movies are dubbed by professional voice actors. So their pronunciation will usually be spot on and easily accessible.


It can’t be that hard to find someone who speaks the target language. But if meeting up with someone in order to deliberately have a “practice conversation” sounds lame, then why not try having a real conversation?

If you are learning Italian, try going to the local deli and order everything in Italian. They may try to break into English, but just keep talking. Chances are they will be delighted to go along with it. The trick is to have actual conversations rather than the contrived ones you get in class. Those are the ones where real learning occurs.


Nobody has to know that you are getting your language from the kids section. These books are designed to teach language and vocabulary to the best learners in the world, kids. They will work for you too.

Je ne les aime pas avec un renard...

Again, choose your level of difficulty. Picture books are great for vocabulary building. Story books are great for learning basic grammar systems. It’s weird, but it works.


The best part on online learning in general is the factor of elapsed time. In any regular conversation, there is a great deal of stress on the participant to keep up. You don’t know the word, you didn’t quite catch that, you use your hands instead of the right expression.

In the online world there is no real time constraint. You can look up words, think about what you are going to say, and take the time to express yourself clearly. That is something you can never do in a classroom. Opportunities for online communication are everywhere, whether it is social media or multiplayer video games, they are out there for you to find.

So stop promising to take that language course next semester. You’re not fooling anyone. If you want to learn a language, get on with it. The opportunities are all around you. You just need to take them for free whenever you like.