dutch, immigration, language, learning a new language, nederlands, travel, travel advice

How To Learn a Language (Without Classes)

Learning a language is difficult enough, but trying to find time to attend classes is even harder. Between work, running the blog and keeping up with my fitness routine – I just don’t have 6-10 hours per week to be sitting in a classroom. I can only imagine how difficult it is to find the time when you work full time or have children.

Even if you’re passionate about learning your new language, life tends to get in the way sometimes.
Having taken a few Dutch classes in the past, I had never really considered learning on my own – the obvious reason being I didn’t think I was self-disciplined enough to stick with it.

I was totally wrong! I actually like learning in my own way more than learning in a classroom!
Learning on your own gives you the freedom to combine methods like different language programs, different textbooks, smartphone apps…and for those “lazy days” – you can even study using some good TV shows in that language!

With my self-directed study of the Dutch language (explained at the bottom of this post) – I can somehow incorporate Dutch into my life every day of the week!

Here’s how I do it;

Create a (Realistic) Schedule

Saying that you’re going to study your language for 3 hours every single day is great and all – but it might not be very realistic. Set out your week(s), and see where/when you have the time to fit it in. Some days it just might not be possible to study that much, and that’s okay.

Be Consistent

While you’re creating your realistic schedule, try and make it roughly the same every week (even the same times of the day, if possible.) Creating routines will help you focus.

There’s an App For That!

Because isn’t there always, these days? There are a ton of apps you can use on the go, and some you can even use offline. You can practice your language on the subway ride to work every morning if you want to!

Not only are there apps for everything, but there are also countless websites and online courses available. Some of my personal favorites are Udemy, Duolingo and Rosetta Stone (which I will talk more about below).

Rosetta Stone

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Rosetta Stone is a great tool. I have built my language studies around my Dutch version, and it’s going really well. I’ve heard a lot of people debating Rosetta Stone because of it’s cost, and/or they are just unsure about the program.
But I can tell you – it’s great, and totally worth the money. With access to their app and online tutors, you have everything you need.


Don’t Force It

On days that you really aren’t feeling into it – don’t force it! The last thing you want is for this to feel like too much work. You don’t want to dread your study time. For those lazy days, spend 10 minutes in your language app or watch a half an hour TV show in that language.

Buy a Dictionary

This tip was in our Tips for Learning a New Language post a while back – so it’s an oldie but a goodie. Buy a dictionary and actually read it. Yes, that’s right – start at the beginning and work your way to the end. It sounds boring, but it’s not!

Tip: Do a little “Word of the day” game. Write the word on your whiteboard, hang it on your fridge, post it on your social media or just practice it with your spouse.


Combine Methods

The best thing about learning on your own is all the freedom you have. When you’re learning solo – there are no boundaries and you can learn from so many different resources. The internet alone is a great resource, but there are also so many different books, audio sets and interactive programs out there. You actually have more access to your language outside of the classroom!

Reward Yourself

Sometimes it just seems so much like work, especially if things (like a job) depend on you learning this language fairly quickly. Having that pressure tends to make learning a little stressful – so find new ways to make it fun again!
In Rosetta Stone, when I reach a new Unit, I always treat myself to a little Belgian chocolate truffle. Positive re-enforcement really does work.

Read Transcripts or Conversations

As weird as it sounds, just find an interesting TV transcript online (in your new language, of course) and practice it with your spouse or friend(s). Not only will you learn new words, but you can also have fun “acting”. Most of the time, K and I use this when I’ve already studied that day, because things tend to get a little ridiculous when we’re acting out scenes from our favourite TV shows.


Read Kids Books

There is no shame in reading a love story about 2 eggs from different farms. No joke, K bought me that book 2 years ago and I absolutely love it. It’s adorable and helps me practice the flow of sentences.

Take on an Actual Book

This is a little more advanced, but eventually, you should buy an actual book you’re interested in reading (for me, it’s the Hunger Games series since I’ve already read them) – and give it a try.  You might need help every page or two, but reading will get you used to the sentences and how they flow together.




My Resources to Learn Dutch:




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About Travel Pray Love

Expat motherhood, travel lifestyle blog.
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10 thoughts on “How To Learn a Language (Without Classes)

    1. You definitely should consider keeping it up on your own, Tanja! I like my Dutch lessons, but I like learning on my own more because I can just fit it in whenever I have time. 🙂

  1. I totally agree, and I travel with a kid. 🙂 The other thing I have found is the free language apps for the phone. They get me the basics and I carry on from there. Mindsnacks is a good one.

    1. Ohh, I might be hitting you up for some advice in a few years when we have kids! I never want to stop traveling, but traveling with kids sounds like a handful sometimes! I’m definitely going to check out Mindsnacks, Rhoni! 🙂

  2. I learned Arabic in college, but haven’t kept up on it since graduating, it’s hard to find decent resources for the Fusha! I love Duolingo too, when I need to brush up on French.

  3. Nice tips thanks.

    Have you heard of iTalki? You can skype for free people around the world and have a conversation. You talk to them in your mother tongue and they in theirs.

    Why do you need to attend class for 6-10 hours a week on top of work?

    Obviously more is better but 1 or 2 hours a week on top of other studies is doable. Personally I find one on one better than a group (Spanish_.

    I’m not sure anything beats speaking to native speakers and if you don’t live in the country class is the most practical way.

    Isn’t learning the language more important than a blog?

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