6 Cheap and Digital Ways to Learn a New Skill in 2014 (Because You've Always Wanted to Speak Russian)

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Want to learn something new in 2014? Depending on what you aim to know, there are a number of technology-enabled ways you can do so for little or no cost. Whether at work, on your laptop, or on a phone or tablet, here are websites, apps, and hacks that can help you start learning new skills this January. 

Through Open Courses

By now, there are sites devoted just to sorting though all the free, open, online courses offered (non-credit) by U.S. universities. For serious classes from computer engineering to literature, check out CourseraAcademic Earth, and MOOC2Degree

In Your Sleep

Apps like Digipill are the 21st century equivalent of the overnight hypnosis tapes many a sitcom mocked in the 1990s. Digipill “teaches” skills like self-discipline, creativity, irresistibility, and motivation while you sleep. 

Image: Digipill/Facebook

While You Work

Lifehacker recommends those learning a new language turn on Language Immersion for Google Chrome browsers. It turns select words on web pages into your target language, so you’re practicing your new language skills whenever you’re online. Listening to audio books in your target language while you work — even if you barely understand or pay attention — is another good immersion-learning tactic. 

On Your Phone

Since your phone is always with you, you might as well put it to use in your quest to learn Italian/quantum physics/feminist theory in 2014. For language learners, there are tons of apps that could be of aid. A few of the best-reviewed free apps include Babbel Mobile, Duolingo, Wordpower, busuu and the Michael Thomas Method app. For videos and podcasts of all sorts of college courses on your iPhone (or iPad), check out the iTunes U app

Through Skillshare

Skillshare is my favorite organization devoted to peer-to-peer learning. It started as a local New York group offering in-person classes and has since branched out into online classes. Most of the online classes cost money, but not much ($15 to $35); some take place in a finite timeframe but many are self paced. Classes are taught by professionals in advertising, art, design, publishing, fashion, technology, business and more. 

Image: Annalisa Pino Ravelli, via Skillshare/Facebook

Through Neuro-Games

Lumosity uses neuroscience-backed games to improve memory and attention (which we could all use a little help with these days). 

Image: Lumosity/Facebook