Now you’re talking … with a language course

Gen up so you can order dos cervezas (or indeed a range of other drinks) with a perfect accent or perhaps ask for directions to the Acropolis – and understand the answer. Duolingo’s selection (free) ranges from French to Klingon, for those planning to travel further afield. Other options include Babbel, with 14 languages, podcasts and daily challenges (from £4.75 a month). The app has options for different levels of experience, with writing exercises as well as real-life dialogue and speech recognition software to critique your pronunciation. Lessons are from 15 minutes long and the first one is free. There are options to focus on topics such as culture, travel or business, too.

Take a tasty trip with an online cooking course


Dive into the cuisine of your favourite destination with an online class. Learn to make Italian dishes – from gnocchi with pesto to lasagne – from old family recipes, with 84-year-old Nonna Nerina (£50, nonnalive.com). The website offers a choice of cooks to sign up with, but Nerina’s classes, which she runs with granddaughter Chiara, are particularly charming. Among free options are chef Nicoletta Grippo of La Scuola di Eataly in New York making fresh pasta at Skillshare.com, while villa company Tuscany Now & More is running cooking and wine tasting lessons from Instagram each Sunday (ingredients posted the Wednesday before).

Learn smartphone photography

young woman taking a photo of the Rockefeller Center Observation Deck



Photograph: Michael Brooks/Alamy

Hone skills for your next trip by learning how to make the most of the camera on your phone. The iPhone Photography School’s Photo Academy (from £99) course has easy-to-understand tutorials on aspects including framing and lighting, as well as taking pictures of the night sky. It also offers listings, such as the best free photography apps. The Shaw Academy’s Smartphone Photography diploma is free for a month, before optional upgrades. US online learning platform Udemy lists many options, including Dale McManus’s iPhone course, with detailed online video tuition on subjects from composition and storytelling to editing in Lightroom (£49.99). Sky Blue Photography runs a monthly smartphone photography course (next one 12 May). Instruction is via Zoom videoconferencing, with demonstrations and exercises on everything from exposure settings to using filters – and costs £46 for two hours.

Unleash your inner artist

woman painting in garden


Discover how to capture your next holiday with a pencil or paintbrush through online art tuition. The basics can be learned using free resources: check out YouTube or sites such as free-online-art-classes.com by US artist Lois DeWitt. For the more committed, the London Art College has 30 courses for all levels, from landscape painting to still life. Its beginners’ drawing course has a dedicated tutor to whom work is submitted for critique, and takes around three months to complete (from £190). West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has a new series of bite-size tips and tutorials from course tutors too – from charcoal-sketching to botanical painti ng – available free on its social media channels.

Writing workshops: travel or fiction

Young female hiker writing notes in rocky valley



Photograph: Alamy

Get busy with a travel writing course and capture holiday memories and evocative landscapes on the page. The Travel Writing Workshop has taken its practical courses online, with the choice of day-long sessions, evening classes and one-to-one tuition (from £115, including follow-up support). Or try creative writing: maybe your next trip will provide compelling material for a novel. The Novelry has a range of courses, led by novelists including Louise Dean and Tim Lott. Its Classic Course, for example, has daily lessons and costs from £129 a month.

Set a course … for sailing

knitting a Bowline



Photograph: Ivan Ryeka/Alamy

If you dream of sailing off into the sunset when lockdown lifts, there’s now time to get ahead with your boating skills. Nav At Home’s Basic Training course is for beginners and has 20 hours of fully animated lessons covering everything from knots (pictured) and anchors to chart familiarisation, working with tides and safety at sea (£35). The eSail sailing simulator is designed to teach skills that can be transferred into real sailing situations, for different levels, with virtual tutorials covering aspects including raising sails and mooring (£19.99).

Diving into scuba knowhow

Single scuba diving underwater



Photograph: Jan Wlodarczyk/Alamy

Get the technical side of a scuba-diving course under your belt with a Padi e-learning programme. The online Padi Open Water Diver course uses a mix of video, audio and text to teach the main concepts and essential safety practices needed to explore the underwater world, with quizzes to check progress. It takes about 15 hours to complete. Practical dive skills lessons must still be completed to gain a certificate – but you can get in the sea that much quicker with the theory done and dusted (£96.41, including a 25% discount; the practical will be extra).

Wilderness survival skills – indoors

making a spark with Flint and Steel


The call of the wild may be strong in lockdown, but some outdoor skills can be learned while stuck inside. There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty, the key principles of wilderness survival can be mastered on Frontier Bushcraft’s Online Elementary Wilderness Bushcraft Course. It’s an in-depth course, in 12 modules, covering many aspects, from tools to making fires (pictured) and building shelters, with videos, worksheets and animations to bring it all to life. Two modules are available on joining, with the rest sent out once a week (from £224). For those on a budget, there’s a lot of free material, from videos and articles to podcasts on the website of Frontier Bushcraft’s Paul Kirtley.

Keep skiing skills sharp

Person doing foot exercises on Warren-Smith-Ski-Academy-remote-coaching


The mountains may be out of bounds, but it doesn’t mean skiing skills have to get rusty. The Warren Smith Ski Academy has launched lockdown coaching with live, free Facebook webinars every Friday at 10am (they’re recorded if you miss them). The #skitechniquelab aims to motivate with exercises to help skiers stay slope-fit and maintain muscle strength and flexibility in lockdown. Coaches will offer advice on anything from specific posture issues to equipment, and a video consultation service analysing ski footage will be launched soon.
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Know your way round a starry sky

Silhouette of person gazing at the stars



Photograph: Alamy

Learn how to tell Orion from Arcturus for the next time you’re out lying under the stars – with an astronomy course. There are many good free courses, such as the Open University’s Galaxies, stars and planets, which offers an introduction to night skies with eight hours of tuition, while its 16-hour Comparing Stars is for those with some knowledge already. The Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Solar System and Beyond is designed for homeschoolers, but is a great starting point, too, with nine hours of classes.

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