Back to school for grown-ups: 9 apps to learn a new skill and keep your brain active

It’s never too late to learn a new skill, and it's never been easier thanks to a range of apps that can teach you a language, help you exercise correctly or play the stock market.

The schools are going back, but it’s not just the kids who are learning: all over the country, evening classes are teaching adults of all ages something new, whether it’s a musical instrument, a new language, business skills or meditation.

If you can’t get to evening classes or prefer to learn in the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of apps out there to help you. So get ready to study, because class is in session.

[Read more: Apps to help you stay supple in body and mind]

Study at home: Khan Academy

Khan Academy

This distance learning course is like The Open University in your phone. It contains over 10,000 videos and explanations, more than 40,000 interactive practice questions with instant feedback and step-by-step hints. You can study at your own pace, and earn ‘energy points’ as you go. Its focus is on STEM  (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, but also covers economics and other topics.

Download it for iOS, Android

Learn a language: Duolingo


The best way to learn a language? Immerse yourself in a foreign country where you have no choice but to speak it in order to get by. But if that’s not practical, this app is the next best thing. It turns learning into a game, making it fun and addictive so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Languages include Spanish, French, Italian as well as those from further afield like Japanese, Russian and Korean. You’ll sound like a native in no time!

Download it for iOS, Android

[Read more: Why your family needs BT Mobile's Family SIM]

Clear your head with meditation: Headspace


What if you don’t want to cram your head full of knowledge, but rather empty it to make space for new ideas? Headspace can help. It’s a meditation app that will help you focus on your breathing, calming you down and letting you live in the moment. Your stresses will soon melt away, leaving you free to expand your mind and your horizons. A valuable skill, especially given the frenetic pace of modern life.

Download it for iOS, Android

Try the stockmarket: TradeHero


Want to learn to play the stock market? You’re not the only one. However, if you don’t fancy losing money as you learn, TradeHero is for you. It lets you practice trading using virtual money, so you can learn how it works, risk-free. That way, when it comes to actually investing, you’ll know what you’re doing.

Download it for iOS, Android

Build management skills: Mind Tools

Mind Tools

If you’re looking to get ahead in business, Mind Tools is a very useful app indeed. Its skill-building resources focus on management and leadership, as well as how to excel in the workplace. Subjects include how to make goals and achieve them, problem solving, time management and how to deal with the inevitable stress. Reserve yourself a seat in the boardroom...

Download it for iOS, Android

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Learn an instrument: Yousician


Don’t lug your new musical instrument to music classes, download this app instead and learn in the lounge! It covers the piano, guitar, bass and ukulele, with thousands of songs to choose from. It listens to you play and gives you instant feedback on your accuracy and timing. There are step-by-step video tutorials for each lesson too, so everyone can benefit, from beginners to maestros alike.

Download it for iOS, Android

Exercise efficiently: Technogym


Plenty of apps track your movement, but Technogym teaches you how to do exercises correctly so you get the most out of your workouts. It’s ideal if you’re new to exercise, as you’ll know what you’re doing and minimise the risk of injury. Enter your details and it’ll suggest a workout tailored to you and your needs. It’ll also keep tabs on how much you move – you might find those walks in the park actually make a huge difference, even if they do often include an ice cream.

Download it for iOS, Android

Discover coding: Udemy


There’s no doubt about it, coding will be a critical skill in the future of work. If you want to add it as another string to your bow, or just want to know more about it to help with your children’s or grandchildren’s employment possibilities, Udemy is a great place to start. It features more than 80,000 video courses taught by expert instructors, including programming languages, design, drawing, as well as more traditional skills like writing and yoga. Some courses charge a small fee, but plenty are free, so you’re sure to find something to fit your skill level, ambition and budget.

Download it for iOS, Android

Train your brain: Elevate


Maybe you don’t want to learn a particular skill, but just keep your brain active. In that case, check out Elevate. It’s a brain training app that will help improve your focus, processing speed, memory and more. Once you sign up you’ll get a personalised programme that’s tailored specifically to you. It adjusts over time as you improve, to make sure you’re always getting the most from it. The side effect of all this improved grey matter? More self-confidence – never a bad thing.

Download it for iOS, Android

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