Memrise is an amazing app and website to help you learn vocabulary as efficiently as possible. Memrise uses spaced repetition to work and has a game-like system and leader board to encourage you.
It is one of my go-to resources that I think everyone should be using. I even mentioned it on my top 5 amazing resources to learn any language post!
It is important to note, though: Memrise is NOT a one-stop shop. This website and app is not meant to be used alone, to master a language. This will not work.
For any language routine to be successful, you must work on all of the pillars of language. Speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Memrise can help a bit in all of these areas, but it’s purpose is to learn vocab to support you in your studies with other resources.
For example, the words you learn can help you speak better, yes, and if you listen to and repeat the pronunciation, your speaking will improve even more, but the main purpose of Memrise is not to train your speaking.
The same goes with the other pillars. To train those, it is always best to find a resource meant specifically for that purpose.
The main point is: if you use Memrise with other language learning resources, you can create an amazing study routine that will help you achieve your goals in no time.
What Memrise is:
Memrise is an app and a website to help language learners learn vocabulary and phrases via spaced repetition.
They have official courses for 23 languages, but you can always find user created courses, or you can even create your own!
The official courses, however, offer video examples and more immersive learning.
Natives appear in the official Memrise course videos, speaking the words and phrases you are learning in different ways. You are taught via these videos and then quizzed on what you learned.
The image below shows the official “Japanese 0” course from Memrise. They have many different videos and audio bites for each new word/phrase/character you learn.
The official courses are also often a bit… odd. In a good, funny way. The people in the videos are a bit dramatic and strange in their actions and facial expressions (and constant eye contact), but I must admit, it does keep you entertained and attentive! Haha
No matter what course you use though (official or user/self created) Memrise works in a gamified way.
With each word you learn, a “seed” is planted to grow a flower. You can see in the image of the official Japanese course above, on the right side, a seed is being planted. After I answered this question correctly, it was officially planted and a baby flower started to sprout up.
Each time you get an answer correct, you grow the flower. Once the flower is fully grown (after you have answered so many questions right in a row), you must “water” the flower via reviews according to the spaced repetition algorithm.
When you are in a course, you always have these options when you want to practice.
You can learn new words, do a classic review to learn the words that the Memrise algorithm believes it is time to refresh, do speed review all of the words you have learned thus far, or you can practice only the difficult words, work on listening, or learn with locals.
The last three are only available with the paid version of Memrise.
I personally do not have the paid version and I do not think it is worth it (at least so far). I find the free version is more than enough!
When you decide to learn something new in a user or self created course, you will arrive at a similar page to the image above.
It will have the word/phrase/character in your target language up top, the equivalent in your native language below, any attributes (verb, adjective, adverb, etc), and then any audio (if your course has audio! Not all do) at the very bottom. Only the official courses have videos!
On the side, you can see the flower (the word) starting to grow. This is how it appears after the word has been correctly answered once or twice.
Below the flower, you can see a lightning bolt and a stop sign.
The lightening bolt would be yellow if you have particular difficulties with a word. If you have the pro version, you can then practice those words separate.
The stop sign is if you wish to ignore a word and not learn it. If you start a set and find a lot of words you already know, you can easily just click that stop sign and it will take those words out of your learning and review.
The image above shows the speed review. I am a big fan of this feature and use it quite often.
It tests all of the words you have learned thus far and presents them to you as a timed quiz. You have only a few seconds to select the right answer.
The goal is just to last as long as possible (you have three lives) and to get as many correct answers as you can.
The speed review is one my favorite features of Memrise because it motivates you to answer quick. In real life, you cant usually sit there for 10 mins in the middle of a conversation and try to remember one word. You need to know it under pressure and immediately.
The speed review helps me to practice for that. If my heart is racing and I can remember the word easily, I can feel confident that I will likely be able to quickly recall it in real life as well.
Why Memrise is Helpful:
As mentioned, the greatest feature of Memrise is that it uses spaced repetition. This is a scientifically proven memory technique to help you learn things long-term.
The idea is that you only study something once you are, statistically, just as you start to forget it. This jump-starts your memory of said vocab word/phrase/etc and you can go longer, next time, without needing to refresh it again. Each time, you can go longer and longer and the thing you are studying becomes more and more permanently lodged in your brain.
Memrise does all this automatically for you. Their algorithm knows, based on spaced repetition, when you need to refresh your words.
Each time you log on, Memrise will let you know how many words you need to “water” (i.e. refresh) and they will help ensure you keep these words in your long-term memory bank.
On top of this, Memrise presents this all in a fun way.
It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, the flower planting idea, however the gamification certainly keeps things interesting.
Tips to Use Memrise as Efficiently as Possible:
The Website is Better (Less Glitchy and More Options!)
The most important tip I can offer is to learn on the site.
The app is also good and when you want to practice out and about, its awesome.
However, the biggest issue is that you can only see the official Memrise courses on the app – none of the user created courses!!
This is a massive drawback to the app.
Luckily, if you do find a course you like online and start it, it will automatically show up on your app for you to continue learning and review.
The other drawback of the app is that some courses have multimedia levels. These used to be much more common in the past, however you might still find a course with some of these levels online. They might be educational videos, introductory videos or info, links to more resources, etc.
If you are on your phone, it will automatically be skipped.
All in all, the website just has more features, less glitches, and is easier to use.
I would recommend everyone to start on the computer and (ideally) keep this as the main source, using the app as backup or support.
Make your own lists! (Or at least find custom lists)
The official courses are great, that is certain, however if you are using a textbook to learn, or if you are reading a book in your TL, search and see if you can find a related course on Memrise! It is very likely that there will already be a course for whatever resource you are using.
I have worked on courses for my textbooks and books (like Harry Potter). This helps me prepare for my textbook studies or the next chapter in my book, and it helps me retain the words better when I have so much more context to go off of and use after.
If you don’t see a course you want or need though, just make your own! Its very easy to do.
And dont just stop at textbook, literature, and general vocab. Get creative!
For example, you could pick a favorite song in your TL and work to memorize it. You can enter in vocab words, or even a whole phrase or line from the song. Not only will you learn the vocab, but you are certain to remember it much better when you have a song to help!
Look for Pronunciation Guides or Phrase Lists
Pronunciation guides, like the one for Korean in the image above, can really help. If you are a beginner in a language, working on pronunciation now, will only help you in the long run.
There are several courses like this in many languages. I would recommend starting one in conjunction with your vocab learning, especially if the vocab course you are using does not have audio.
On top of this, you can also take part in courses that are filled with phrases, rather than words. Not only does this help you prepare to speak and have a real conversation, but this will help you learn context and learn many words at once.
I love to learn phrases. I still hear words sometimes that I can understand and recognize from a specific phrase I learned many years ago, even though I never learned that actual word on its own.
Make it harder!
One drawback of Memrise is that it can be a bit easy sometimes. If you are on your phone, it tends to be a bit easier as well, as it will lean more heavily on multiple choice questions.
Unfortunately there is no way to say which types of questions you prefer, its all automatic, however you can make it harder for yourself. If you see its multiple choice, cover up the bottom of the page.
Read only the word up top (or listen to it, if its audio) and try to guess the answer without looking at the options.
If you cannot guess without looking at multiple choice options, you do not know the word well enough.
Adjust Your Settings!
Customize the app to you. Go to your settings and edit your learning settings.
I personally like to learn a lot of new words per session (10), but I don’t like to review too much at once (Its usually on 25). I like to have a proper sit-down session when I learn new information, but I like to review throughout the day, whenever I have time, in short bursts. This is what works best for me and my lifestyle.
Learning a language is not one size fits all. Its unique and your routine needs to fit to you.
There are not too many customization options on Memrise, but even editing this small bit will help you learn a bit more comfortably.
Speak, Speak, Speak!
Speak the words/phrases you learn. This is so important to not only help cement the vocab into your brain, but also to help you get used to speaking the language.
The best way is to find a course with audio and then mimic the audio. The more you repeat, the more natural it will begin to feel.
It doesn’t matter how different or “difficult” a foreign language’s pronunciation is for you, if you put in the time and effort, you will improve. You will improve your accent, your speaking ability, and likely your overall confidence in that language.
The Two Most Common Arguments against Memrise and my rebuttals:
“You can’t become fluent in a language just by learning vocab“
Of course not. This is 100% true. However, I don’t believe that Memrise or any of it’s supporters are claiming that you should be using only Memrise and then you will be fluent.
Memrise is a great tool. It should certainly be used in any language routine for maximum benefits. Learning vocabulary is incredibly important.
However, as mentioned at the top of this post, it should be used with other language resources. You should always try to find different resources or activities to focus on all of the main pillars of language learning. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
As long as you are doing this though, Memrise is the perfect addition to help you become fluent.
“Memrise and vocab tools just teach random words. You cant learn without context“
Context is important, yes, however if you are learning a language, you will naturally come upon the words you are learning in context eventually.
For example, a long while ago, I learned the Spanish word for still. Just the word. No context. Still is quite a big word. It can fit into so many different contexts.
A few weeks after learning it though, I was reading a novel in Spanish. I stumbled upon that word. It was used in a different context that I had imagined it would be in, but I knew that word. I recognized it instantly and the context in that paragraph became very obvious to me.
I strongly believe that this is always the case. You learn a word and then one day, you hear it in conversation. Or you read it in a book. You recognize it and it all clicks.
Even if you do feel the need to learn in context as you wish to have it all click immediately, all the time, though, Memrise can still work for you. You just need to work with the courses that offer context and phrases, instead of the single word vocab lists!
What do you think about Memrise? Let me know in the comments below!
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Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.
Thank you Mark, I wont!! 🙂