Busuu and Memrise are popular language learning tools available online and on mobile. They teach languages in fundamentally different ways, but both can be useful for (primarily) beginner level students.
- Busuu teaches languages in a more well-rounded manner, covering different language skills such as grammar, listening, speaking, writing, etc.
- Memrise is more of a supplementary resource that’s better suited for learning and reviewing vocabulary rather than learning all aspects of a language.
Both Busuu and Memrise have paid plans as well as some community created features that can be used for free. The free content on Memrise is much more robust compared to the limited language exchange aspects that are free on Busuu.
As they do fundamentally different things, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one over the other.
But, as Busuu is more of a language course than anything else, there are other platforms that provide higher quality courses. There aren’t as many direct competitors to Memrise and Memrise compares favorably to the alternatives. You can also find more language learning apps here.
You can find our most recommended resources for some of the most popular languages from the table below.
What I like about each program:
- The simulated conversation practice offers a realistic view of how a language would be used in a real life scenario.
- The social feature allows users to get feedback from other users.
- The website and app have interactive layouts and are easy to use.
- Spaced repetition software makes it easier to memorize vocabulary.
- Learning is more interactive than other flashcard apps.
- There’s a never-ending range of available content.
What I don’t like about each program:
- The Chinese course is poor quality and offers no support for typing the language and there were mistakes throughout the content.
- There aren’t enough grammar explanations and practice in lessons.
- There’s not enough content to allow for language learning past beginner level.
- A subscription to the paid premium version doesn’t offer much more value than the free version.
Busuu provides courses for 12 of the more commonly spoken languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, Russian, and Arabic.
There are currently 21 official Memrise languages, including Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, and Russian. Memrise’s user-generated language courses are endless and includes courses for learning topics other than languages.
Busuu users can choose between two paid subscriptions to access courses: Premium and Premium Plus. The main differentiator is that Premium only gives access to one language and Premium Plus gives access to all their languages.
A Premium subscription costs $9.99 for one month, or $8.33 per month for a three-month subscription, $5.82 monthly for a six-month subscription, or $5.41 per month for a yearly subscription.
Premium Plus comes in at $13.99 for a month’s subscription, $19.66 per month for three months, $6.66 per month for six months, or $5.74 monthly for a year’s subscription.
For Memrise, the user-created courses are all available for free. The Premium version includes their official courses, grammar and chatbots, among other things. But, for most people, the paid courses probably aren’t worth it.
Subscriptions cost $8.99 per month on a monthly basis, $5 a month (paid upfront) for an annual subscription, or $99.99 for a lifetime membership.
How languages are taught with Busuu
Like the majority of language learning resources, Busuu starts you off by giving you the option to take a placement test, which puts you at your predetermined level, or you can start as a beginner. If you take the placement test, you’ll be able to skip around levels as you please if you feel you’ve been placed too high or low.
Busuu’s lessons section gives you access to all the content they provide. Lessons generally flow well from one topic to another, utilizing vocabulary that has been covered previously to build on learning.
The exception to this was their Chinese course, which had a myriad of issues. We would expect languages like Japanese and Arabic would probably have similar issues, as such, Busuu would be better avoided for those languages.
At the beginning of a lesson, you’ll be introduced to new vocabulary, with a translation and audio recording. You’re asked to memorize the word or phrase. This works well, apart from on the occasions when the exercise asks you to remember too much all at once.
After that, you’ll move onto one of several exercise types – fill-in-the-gaps, unscramble-the-word/sentence puzzles, and basic listening activities are all popular. There’s a good variety of content, which keeps learning from becoming too predictable.
One of the most helpful and enjoyable exercises on Busuu is the simulated conversation practice.
This allows you to listen to a recorded conversation and fill in the gaps with the right responses. The conversation plays all the way through, without pauses between sentences. This makes it feel natural and life-like, but it would be useful to have the option to pause the recording at times.
Another of Busuu’s offerings, aside from language courses, is its “Social” feature. You can’t send or receive direct messages on this platform, but you can receive feedback from other users on your pronunciation or writing, which is pretty handy.
How languages are taught with Memrise
Each course begins with vocabulary, presented in video form by native speakers, and English translations. The app provides literal translations of phrases, even if they don’t quite make sense. While we enjoy this element, it may be confusing to some people.
There are eight different forms of lessons for each course:
Memrise suggests the type of lesson you should do, whether it’s practicing new material or going over previously-covered content. You can opt to ignore the suggestion, but it makes sense to follow Memrise’s chosen path.
You’ll be able to frequently review what you’ve already learned. Memrise uses spaced repetition to make it easier to remember the words you most struggle with.
Lessons start with a native speaker saying a word. You’ll need to listen to the recording, then find the right match. The videos make a refreshing change to a simple audio clip. You’re shown the English translation of the word and can choose to make a mem of the word.
Mems help you to better remember a word. They’re all user-created, so if you can’t find the mem you’re after, you can make your own. A mem is essentially a personalized flashcard that lets you associate a word or a phrase with an English word, picture, or another thought.
Other elements of a course include Classic Review, which lets you go over vocab and phrases; speed review, a fun multiple-choice quiz using vocab you’ve learned so far; and Listening Skills, which consists of a number of audio review activities. There’s also Learn with Locals, which gives you access to videos of native speakers saying select words and phrases.
As part of Memrise’s paid subscription, you’ll have access to Difficult Words, a personal collection of words that the app has identified as especially difficult; and Chatbots and Grammarbots, a chat-style activity that lets you choose what you say from available options.
If you opt to take a user-generated course instead of a Memrise official one, keep in mind that quality varies greatly. Some user-generated content is very specific, and some are missing important features like audio components.
Both Busuu and Memrise are useful resources for beginner learners of a new language. They make learning more accessible to the masses by providing a low cost, easy way to study.
Memrise is fine to use if you’re looking to grow your vocabulary when getting started with a language – but you don’t need to pay for its premium version to get this. Busuu offers very similar content to other language learning apps, but the quality of the courses can sometimes be suspect.
Both platforms are useful but neither is phenomenal. As such, if you do choose to use either Busuu or Memrise, you should use them alongside other language learning resources.
You can find our favorite resources for some of the most popular languages from the table below.
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