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How to Learn a Second Language Without Taking a Class

couples coordinates italy yoga retreat michael on top of the duomo

Just about everyone we know has taken a language course, either at high school, university, or both. However, most people still aren’t even conversational in a second language. As an adult, classes are both quite challenging to get to and extremely expensive.

However, knowing a second language is an incredibly handy skill to have when traveling abroad. So how do you do it? Well, we have a few suggestions for you that have helped us severely.

How to learn a second language without taking a class



-Rosetta Stone-

Rosetta Stone is an absolute miracle. If you know the history of the actual “Rosetta Stone,” then you’re aware that it was an ancient artifact found in Egypt with a decree in 3 languages found upon its face. Hence, Rosetta Stone software aims to teach users as many languages as their software developers can pump out.

Rosetta Stone leverages techniques you incorporate as a child to learn your first language by immersing you in a language without using your native tongue. You’ll associate pictures with words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs while you practice your listening, speaking, and writing skills in your new language.

Rosetta Stone typically offers 5 units made up of 4 lessons each for a total of 20 chapters. We bought the Italian lessons before we left for Italy. Alex did the first few chapters and can order food and Michael has done 4 of the 5 units and is actually quite conversational. Updates to come after the final unit is completed.

Rosetta Stone has a great iPhone app that you can use on the go as well if you have an online subscription ($14/month). The only restriction is that you can’t do the writing lessons on the mobile app.





Duolingo is a great mobile app vocabulary tool, but don’t expect to understand diction, syntax, or proper cultural nuances for a second language. It’s almost like a fun game to play when you’re bored….You’ll learn a good bit of new vocabulary, but if you were to rely solely on Duolingo, you’d struggle severely. Play around with this after you do all 5 units of Rosetta Stone (RS): the great thing is that you can take a placement test, so you can skip a brunch of relatively elementary lessons after you get a solid foundation from RS.




Have you heard the story of the Tower of Babbel? It’s an Old Testament story where (in very rough details) God apparently made everyone speak a different language.Babbel, similarly is a simple mobile app that will teach you some solid vocabulary.



-Buy used textbooks and workbooks-

Let’s be real- you taught yourself most of what you learned in college. You probably skipped class, studied your notes and text books, and somehow taught yourself 75% of the material. So what’s stopping you from buying a used Italian text book and workbook from Amazon for about $12 and teaching yourself?



-Make flash cards-

When we first started Rosetta Stone, we made flash cards for objects around our house and taped them onto the respective objects. We quickly learned household vocabulary and were able to take most of the flash cards off within a month or so.
Nostri amici. Alcuni dagli stati uniti e alcuni dagli italia



-Make local friends when you travel-

If you make friends when you travel, not only will you have someone to visit when you go back, but you’ll also have someone to speak a second language with. Facebook and Instagram have made human interaction SO easy. You can always leverage translation tools (Facebook, Airbnb, and Gmail all have them built in), but try to speak with your new friends in their native language. Learn new words and phrases and teach them words and phrases in your language as well.





-Live abroad and immerse yourself-

There’s no better way to learn a second language than by living in a foreign country and immersing oneself fully in a given culture. Take a long holiday or move abroad and learn a new language while you have the time of your life! We learned a ton of Italian while we lived in Italy and even picked up a few phrases in French and Balinese while we spent lived in Nice and Bali, respectively. Maybe you need to quit your job and travel the world?



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