Six tips for improving your language skills when you’re working

Too busy to learn a second language? Nonsense! It turns out that a demanding job is not a valid reason to ignore cries for attention from your GCSE French or Chinese. And, no, it’s never too late to start learning a new language.


Are you ready to step up to the challenge? Then let’s go/ allons-y/ vamos/ lass uns gehen/ 我们走吧 /Wǒmen zǒu ba!


  1. Break the challenge down into smaller, achievable, short-term goals. So rather than setting yourself the impossible task of becoming fluent in a new language in three months from your desk, make it your ambition to learn one new word a day or to watch a film in your target language at the weekend. Over time, your short-term goals will add up to meaningful progress.


Once you achieve your bite-size ambitions, reward yourself with a trip to a country where the language is spoken. It’s a great practice opportunity and you’ll return more motivated than ever.

  1. Find the learning method that works best for you. Taking language classes at your local community college in the evening or at the weekend is a great way to develop your language skills while working. Online courses can be just as effective. Either way, commit to showing up, concentrating, and doing your homework!


If you’re a motivated self-starter, working through language textbooks can reap great rewards too. Online apps – such as Duolingo and Babbel – are also popular learning methods. Offering interactive exercises, quizzes, and games, language learning becomes instantly more enjoyable. Log in frequently to fast-track your progress and ensure the lessons stick!


  1. Ask HR if you can take a language class during work hours as part of your personal development budget. You may be surprised to find they’re receptive to the idea and will even undertake to find the perfect language teacher for you.
  2. If your company is global or has international clients, you may be able to organise a placement year in the country where your new language is spoken!
  3. Seek out a keen and able language buddy with whom you can exchange an hour’s conversation in your target language (assuming they speak it fluently) for an hour’s conversation in theirs (assuming you speak it fluently). Having regular conversations in your target language is motivating as well as educational. You can also set each other written tasks as homework to be reviewed at the start of each class.
  4. There’s a lot you can fit into your daily commute and lunch break. Beyond working on your preferred learning method and homework, consider streaming podcasts, audiobooks, the news, TV shows, and films in your target language.


As we have seen, with just a tad of creativity and a large dose of commitment, developing your language skills while working doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. Granted, you won’t have the same total immersion opportunities that you may have had as a student or while traveling. But if you adopt the advice above, you’ll make significant progress. Over time – providing you work hard – your long-term prize may indeed be total fluency. Good luck!


For an inside track on in-demand languages or any recruitment-related advice, please get in touch. ABL Recruitment is the UK’s number one multilingual recruitment consultant and we are here to help! Please call our team of expert recruiters on 020 7092 3911 today to brainstorm the options.