17 FREE ways to learn something new

Including languages, AI, piano, Open University courses & more

If you're looking to learn a new skill or broaden your knowledge, we've rounded up some free ways to learn something new. There are tons of free online and app-based resources that can help you learn and develop new skills in a fun way, from free courses, to tutorials and quizzes – and all can be done from the comfort of home.

Learn a new language at your own pace

Whether you want to learn a whole new language or just see how much you can remember from your French lessons at school, here are some suggestions for how you can pick up a second (or third, or fourth) language for free.

A favourite with MoneySavers is Duolingo (there's also an Android / iOS app). You can learn 35+ languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Greek. For Game of Thrones fans, there's even High Valyrian, and Trekkies can brush up on their Klingon.

Each bite-size lesson has a mix of learning methods, and you can generally complete a lesson in under 10 minutes. You can also 'compete' with fellow users or friends, which helps motivate you to carry on.

There is a paid-for version of the app which gives a few added features and gets rid of adverts, but it's not necessary and you can do an entire course for free.

Another language learning platform that's worth a go is Memrise (also for Android / iOS). It has a free plan which includes 23 language courses such as Arabic, Danish, Norwegian, Spanish, German, and Polish.

You can practice your speaking with an AI language tutor, and watch videos of native speakers showing how to converse in a more natural way.

If you want to expand your Spanish vocabulary beyond tapas, sangria and churros, MSE Rebecca found the free Coffee Break Spanish podcast helpful:

It's a free tutorial podcast for Spanish learners and it makes you repeat phrases out loud.

I also used to teach English to a Spanish friend, and in return she helped me improve my Spanish, so that was essentially Spanish lessons for me for free.

Another popular tool is Busuu (also free at the App Store and Google Play). You can learn one of 14 languages for free, such as French, German, Dutch and Arabic. Similar to Duolingo, it offers bite-sized lessons that you can fit in when you have a few spare minutes.

Gain free qualifications such as Open University courses, including MSE's Academy of Money

Adults can gain industry-recognised certificates and qualifications for free online, from resources such as the Open University's 'Open Learn'.

MSE's Academy of Money

Open Learn hosts 'MSE's Academy of Money written by the Open University, with support and guidance from MSE, the course is made up of six two-hour sessions of study covering all the key aspects of personal finance, including spending, borrowing, mortgages, saving, investing and retirement.

The course is totally flexible – students can study at their own pace, perhaps even choosing to complete just one topic to brush up. It is available to anyone wanting to improve their knowledge of personal finance for their own interest and financial capability, or for those who work in the consumer help industries, it can provide some academic grounding to support their work.

More Open University courses

Open Learn has almost 1,000 totally free online courses. Ex-MSE Luke T found it useful for expanding his personal finance knowledge:

Open University is free to sign up and there are thousands of different courses you can complete. Courses I tried out in preparation for this job were the 'Managing my money' & 'Managing my money for young adults' ones.

MoneySaver Beverley let us know that after reading this guide, she's started a meteorology course on watching the weather...

Thank you!!! I'm currently doing a free Open University course on the weather! Really enjoying it and can do it at my own pace! x

We've written before about FutureLearn, which has free online short courses covering a range of modern and classic subjects from social media to history. MoneySaver Della reckons there's a course for everyone:

The Skills Toolkit – specially selected training for professional development

The Department for Education has selected a number of free digital courses to help you learn in-demand skills. Some of the courses include:

To see the full list, search the National Careers Service Skills Toolkit.

Improve your typing speed and accuracy

Put your fastest finger first... There are several free websites that will let you test and improve your typing skills. One that we particularly like is LiveChat, which tests how many words you can type in a minute, and how accurate you were. Can you beat MSE Oli's score below?

Learn how to get the most from AI


AI, or artificial intelligence, is the big thing right now, and it's going to continue to develop and impact us over the coming years. But if AI has you scratching your head (or worried for the human race), there are free training courses available so you can learn how to use AI tools to save you time, be more productive, and other potential benefits.

We can't vouch for how good the below courses are as we've not tried them all, but we've picked a selection with positive reviews. And before you ask, no we didn't use AI to write this.

Google, which knows a thing or two about this subject, hosts free 'Boost your productivity with AI' sessions, which it says will show you how to use AI-powered tools and techniques from Google and others to save you time. You don't need to have any prior knowledge and there'll be a chance to ask questions. Sessions are 45 minutes long and run via YouTube. The next session you can register for is 10am to 11am on Wednesday 10 January, but check back as more sessions should be added soon.

It also has a further session, 'Understanding machine learning', designed for those with a small to medium business who want to learn how to apply machine learning.

FutureLearn has a free AI digital skills course, which lasts about six hours, and covers the history of AI, how it's applied within businesses and everyday life, as well as skills needed to work with AI.

Udemy has several free tutorials on artificial intelligence, including:

The free versions of these tutorials give you on-demand access to video content so you can learn at your own pace, but you won't be able to ask questions.

Crack the basics of coding in HTML, Javascript & more

There are a few sites that offer free online coding courses, including Codecademy and General Assembly. Both have an option to upgrade to a 'pro' version that costs money, but you can learn the basics for free.

Ex-MSE Laura B decided to use General Assembly's Dash free online course, which teaches the basics of HTML, CSS and Javascript. She found the online course really engaging and easy to follow, and there's even a Facebook Community where you can get help from others if you get stuck.

Learn to code for free with General Assembly's Dash
Embedded YouTube Video

Free two months' access to 80+ online courses for O2 & Virgin Media broadband customers

O2 and Virgin Media broadband customers with access to the Priority loyalty scheme can grab some new year new skills by signing up to Upskillist, free for two months (normally £108). It's a learning platform with over 80 courses including photography, marketing, health and wellness, tech, arts and hobbies, and more. You'll be awarded a certificate at the end of each course.

To get it, search 'Upskillist' in the Priority app (Android / iOS), then select 'Use now' to register at Upskillist by 11.59pm on Monday 19 February.

Important: O2 says you don't need to enter card details when signing up – just skip this option during registration to get the free two months. If you do enter card details, you'll be charged £49 once your free months end, unless you cancel. See full terms and conditions.

Play a musical instrument, including free piano lessons

Have you been wanting to learn to play an instrument? Well now sounds like a good time.

If you fancy giving guitar playing a go, then while paid-for lessons may be important if you're wanting to go through the grades, or want to reach proficiency quickly  and you may be able to get these lessons online such as over Zoom  there are also many ways you can learn at your own pace for free.

It's something Ex-MSE Ant has been doing for years, using sites such as Ultimate Guitar and JustinGuitar.com to learn new chords, then find songs he can play:

I've taught myself to a decent enough standard to strum and sing along to the songs I want to play using Ultimate Guitar (there's a 'premium' service you can pay for, but most of the site is free). I use it most days to search for chords to whatever I feel like tackling next – recently The Beatles, Arctic Monkeys and Billie Eilish songs. The content's uploaded by other users, so not everything's perfectly notated, but the user ratings system helps you find the most accurate versions.

If you'd like to learn to play the piano, the Flowkey app (for Android / iOS) is a decent place to start. With its free basic account you can get access to eight songs and selected course content. You'll be able to practice notes and chords, and receive instant feedback.

Elsewhere, musical instrument producer Casio Music UK offers free previously-recorded virtual piano and keyboard lessons online through its Facebook page. The videos are available to watch back at any time.

The lessons are about 30 minutes long and are aimed at new learners and people of all ages. Here are the first few lessons to get you started:

🎹 Lesson one 🎹 Lesson two 🎹 Lesson three

If you want to give some popular pieces of music a go (we're talking Baby Shark rather than Beethoven), here are a few tutorials we spotted from YouTuber Amosdoll Music...

Embedded YouTube Video

Embedded YouTube Video

Embedded YouTube Video

Embedded YouTube Video

Of course, there are many other instruments that you can learn, and from a quick search we found there were loads of free tools out there to help. If you're after sheet music, you can download it for free from sites such as free-scores.com.

Brush up on hair & beauty techniques

Video hosting site YouTube and social media platform Instagram are great free resources for hair, make-up and other beauty tutorials.

You can easily search for, then subscribe to or follow, any hair/beauty influencers that grab your attention, and the more you follow, the more recommendations you'll receive for other channels/accounts sharing similar content – so you can constantly learn new techniques or find inspiration for new styles.

Ex-MSE Laura B has used YouTube to teach herself how to do 'fishtail' plaits and apply eyeshadow without looking like she's got a black eye.

You might think it brave (we certainly do!), but MSE Rhiannon has even used YouTube to save money on eyebrow threading:

I had a look for tutorials on YouTube and was shocked at how easy it was to learn eyebrow threading – the same with cutting my own hair.

So now, I'm saving £10 every time I thread my brows and about £50 every time I cut my own hair. And if I mess up? It grows back, no problem!

If you fancy a bit of pampering without having to leave the house, Ex-MSE Guy's wife, Sarah – who runs a beauty business  shows you step-by-step how to give yourself an at-home facial massage in her YouTube video below:

The video was originally uploaded during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, but the tips in this video will still apply, meaning you can always self-pamper at home for free.

Ever thought of cutting your own hair? For tips, including dos and don'ts from the MSE team and other MoneySavers, see the DIY haircut tips guide we published during the first national lockdown.

Learn to draw 40+ Disney characters from Disney animators

Do you want to draw a snowman? Well, Disney animators will show you how to create Olaf, Elsa and other Frozen favourites, as well as 40 more Disney characters from famous animations such as The Lion King, Toy Story and Snow White, and of course Mickey, Goofy, Donald and the gang.

Check out the official Disney Parks YouTube Channel to watch the video tutorials with Disney animators  they range from five to 30 minutes. It could be fun to try with family or friends and compare each other's drawings.

How to draw Olaf - Disney's Frozen - Walt Disney World
Embedded YouTube Video

Read or listen to key ideas from books covering career & success, psychology, politics & more

Blinkist is a learning app which summarises key ideas from non-fiction publications in text or audio. It's normally a subscription service, but it offers one title for free each day through its Blinkist Free Daily site, with no sign-up required. Or you can sign up for a free seven-day trial to get access to over 5,000 learning titles.

Important: After your free trial ends, you'll be automatically enrolled into a paid subscription at £3.99 a month, unless you cancel. Blinkist says it'll send a reminder email on day five of your free trial, reminding you it's ending.

Some of the subjects previously covered include a practical guide for entrepreneurs, minimalism, habits of highly effective people, and intuition or deliberation. It can be good if you're curious to learn about new ideas but don't have the time or inclination to read a whole book, as summaries are often 15 minutes or less.

Scope out space & constellations with the Star Walk app

Space is astronomical in every sense of the word, and if you ever look up at the night sky and wonder: 'Is that a star? A planet? A plane?', then this is an app you can learn from.

The Star Walk 2 app is free for iOS (works best on an iPad) and Android. Just point your phone at the sky and you'll get a real-time map of stars and constellations.

As well as stargazing, you can learn a lot about the solar system, comets, asteroids, spacecraft and nebulas, and identify their position on the map of the sky.

Revisit history with free virtual museum tours

It's not always necessary to travel to see the world's top museums as you can still get your fix of historical and cultural knowledge from your sofa. Some of the most famous museums offer free online tours where you can take a virtual 'walk' around the exhibits, as if you were actually there.

Below are a few of the top tours  for a bigger list and many more virtual tours and experiences, see MSE Oli's Free virtual globe-trotting guide.

London's British Museum covers the history of cultures across the world. You can take a virtual walk through the museum at Google Arts & Culture, or take a look at this interactive timeline dating back to 2,000,000 BC, where you can select various artefacts that are housed in the museum and learn more about them through images, text and audio.

The National Palace Museum in Taiwan has a collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artefacts and artwork. Its virtual tour allows you to read and listen to in-depth descriptions of anything that piques your interest during various guided tour routes.

Some of the exhibits at The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC include the ecology of African elephants, the skeleton of a massive sea turtle, human evolution, and of course, dinosaurs.

Boost your general knowledge

If you're looking to expand your general knowledge or impress others, Ex-MSE Ant reckons trivia website Sporcle, which has a plethora of quizzes, should help:

Sporcle's a great a way to procrastinate and test your quiz knowledge – I've spent many hours on there and absorbed all sorts of stuff I'd probably never have learnt otherwise. You can even create your own quizzes to test others if you fancy trying your hand at being quizmaster.

MoneySaver Steve recommends JetPunk which has a huge free library of trivia and quizzes covering general knowledge, geography, science, history, music and more.

Here are a couple of trivia titbits we'll give you for free. Did you know...

  • No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple. Try it.
  • Mel Blanc, the person who voiced Bugs Bunny, disliked carrots. What's up with that, Doc?

Rustle up new cooking & baking skills

You might look inside your kitchen cupboards and feel like you're on an episode of Ready, Steady, Cook, but fortunately the internet is full of cooking and baking advice to give you some inspiration.

A few of Ex-MSE Laura's favourite culinary resources include Buzzfeed Tasty, BBC Good Food and Tesco recipes.

The short and snappy videos from Tasty in particular are great for quickly seeing meals being prepared and getting inspiration, but BBC Good Food and Tesco recipes are good for the comments section, where you can get tips/advice to learn how to adapt and improve the recipes from other users.

Get help with spelling, grammar or creative writing

There are free tools you can use to improve your writing and grammar skills. If, like Ex-MSE Becky, you use Google Chrome to browse the web, you might find the free Grammarly tool becomes your new best friend:

The Google Chrome extension 'Grammarly' is completely free, and only takes seconds to install onto your browser. It's an automated grammar checker that will highlight any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors you've used within your emails, social media or documents. It's really helped me to improve my sentence structuring and become a better writer overall.

If you're looking for something more specific, such as creative writing and playwriting, MSE Laura F recommends poet Tim Clare's Couch to 80k free podcast and the National Theatre's free podcast too…

I'm a big fan of receiving learning straight into my ear canals. Podcasts let you learn stuff while you're commuting, which makes me feel very productive.

Tim Clare's 'Couch to 80k Boot Camp' delivers an eight-week fiction writing course spread over 48 episodes.

Google your way to advanced search skills

If you've a website or blog of your own, or a job that involves using Google Analytics or search engine optimisation (SEO), you can earn 'beginner' and 'advanced' certificates for free using Skillshop.

Something similar, with more of an online marketing focus, is Google Garage, which Ex-MSE Jules has used:

I chose to do the 'Fundamentals of Digital Marketing' online course. It's a 40-hour course with 26 different modules, and it includes a nice little certificate once you've passed  which went straight on my LinkedIn profile! The course was great, and I found it really relaxed, because I could learn at my own pace, so I was able to fit this in around my full-time job.

A few other useful links...

If you want to learn something but aren't sure where to start, there are many websites where you can browse through free courses and content. Here are some we've found useful:

  • Skill Share free classes – online community with thousands of free classes, mainly creative topics, but also covering analytics, management and lifestyle.
  • Reed free courses – jobs and recruitment site Reed has a section on its website where you can search for free online courses.
  • TED Talks – TED is a non-profit community where people share their ideas and knowledge, usually through a short talk. There are tons of free videos of talks available to watch online across a wide range of topics.
  • EdX website that hosts lots of free courses from prestigious institutions, such as Harvard and MIT.

Which free resources have you used to learn something new? Let us know on Twitter @MSE_Deals.