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3 Apps That Can Teach You Something New

Insights & Ideas Team •  December 3, 2015 | Focus on Women

If you’re looking to learn a new skill there are lots of options: you could hire a coach, enroll in a class, or just muddle through on your own. Or you could download an app, placing a valuable self-improvement tool right in the palm of your hand. Here are three apps women are using to develop new skills and broaden their horizons.

Duolingo teaches language a few minutes at a time. Whether you plan to travel internationally, work with multinational colleagues or just feel curious about other cultures, this app can help you learn a new language in the nooks and crannies of your day.

Jacqueline Kiple, a full-time professional and mom, is using Duolingo to learn German—a skill she’s eager to add to her resume. Thanks to an integration between DuoLingo and LinkedIn, her professional profile automatically shows her progress toward fluency.

She uses Duolingo while sitting idle during carpools and at bedtime with her 11-year-old son. He’s just as attracted to the app as she is, thanks to a point system that makes learning feel like a game. “We have a little contest going,” said Kiple. “He’s learning Spanish while I’m learning German. At night before bed, we sometimes do language lessons in lieu of reading. The app is easy to use and a good use of electronic time versus playing mindless games.”

Kiple also appreciates how Duolingo keeps her accountable for making progress. “I set a goal of how long I want to study daily, and the app sends reminders to make sure I’m keeping up.”

Yousician is the self-proclaimed “easiest way to learn to play a musical instrument.” This app teaches you guitar or piano, progressing through lessons that match your skill level. It includes video tutorials, songs and practice exercises in a game-like interface that encourages you to overcome increasingly challenging musical missions. As you play, the app “listens” and responds with feedback about accuracy and rhythm.

Vaishali Shah, who does not play guitar herself, downloaded this app to help her children practice and build on the skills they were learning in private guitar lessons.

“I needed something to prompt and discipline them to proactively practice every day,” she said. While music books and websites didn’t appeal to her eleven- and nine-year-old kids, Yousician does.

“Kids nowadays like to play with apps, so this adds one more dimension of motivation for them,” she said. “They have a lot more resources to practice, and they’ve become much more disciplined about playing every day.”

Yousician is useful for their teacher, too. “It gives our instructor reports, so he can monitor their progress,” said Shah. He can assign them a new song one week and then come back next time to see a record of practice and progress.

Even after they master their instruments, the Shah kids could continue to play with Yousician. In addition to instruction for beginners, the app offers features even advanced players appreciate. You can upload your own songs, for instance, and Yousician will guide you as you play along. You can even slow the tempo while you work a challenging passage and speed up as you learn it.

Investing for You: 5 Critical Questions for a Smart StrategyHeadspace is an app that teaches you to meditate—a technique some 18 million U.S. adults practice for its potential health benefits. Headspace is billed as a “gym membership for your mind,” training your brain to achieve such feats as reducing stress, increasing focus, sleeping better, improving relationships and breaking bad habits.

If you’re new to meditation, you can use Headspace’s Take10 program. It’s a free 10-day program to help you learn the basics in just 10 minutes a day. Then, if you find benefits in the practice and want to go deeper, you can subscribe to learn more techniques and gain access to hundreds of hours of guided and unguided exercises. Sessions last from two minutes to one hour. You can select exercises to deal with difficult moments in your day or entire programs to address big-picture challenges in your life.

When Alison Helin was looking for relaxation techniques, a friend suggested she download Headspace and try meditation. “I've found that meditating with Headspace has helped me unwind after a long workday,” said Helin. “It also helps me fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.”

And Helin has had more on her mind than work struggles. “I recently underwent open heart surgery,” she said. “I used meditation both in the weeks leading up to the surgery and in the weeks since. It has helped me relax, de-stress, and just calm down when I’m worried.”

If you’re looking for a convenient, low-cost way to learn something new, search your favorite app store for helpful tools. With more than 1.5 million apps on the market, you’re bound to find something that can help.

This post is the last in a four-part series on apps women trust to manage what matters. Previously: Apps for Working Women; Apps for Moms; Apps for Entrepreneurs.

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