Memrise manages to be both one of the most useful language learning apps and one of the most overused.
It works best when combined with other resources. Beginner students or those interested in learning about a specific topic would benefit the most from using Memrise.
What Is Memrise?
Memrise is a language learning tool that’s available as an app or from their website.
They are essentially flashcards that have a bit of a game element to them.
The strength of Memrise is that it’s a free, convenient, and fairly fun way to learn and review vocabulary in a manner that’s more fun than traditional flashcards.
They make heavy use of mnemonics to help make the words stick in your memory.
Some of the courses are created by Memrise but the majority are user-created courses. These can be as short as a few words and sentences or as long as thousands of them.
Some have audio and images while others don’t. Some use mnemonics and others don’t. Because so many of the courses are user-created, the content and quality can vary significantly from course to course.
The fact that there are so many user-created courses leads to some unique and interesting content.
Of course, there are the typical courses such as the most common nouns or verbs. But, you’ll also find some courses on grammar, food, conjugations, business, history, and slang.
As I mentioned earlier, Memrise uses lots of mnemonics to make the vocabulary easier to memorize. These are basically cues to make it easier to retrieve a memory.
Everyone is different and what works great for someone won’t work for another person. Luckily, for most of the more popular courses, there are around 7 user added aids that may help you.
Lessons And Review
Most courses start by showing you the English word, translation, and the most popular mnemonic.
After that, you’ll move onto a quiz.
For example, you’ll be shown the word and have to match it with the definition. They’ll test your comprehension by switching the question, so next, you may be given English and have to choose the word in your target language.
The words you’ve learned will also come up for review at appropriate intervals. Sometimes it feels like maybe it’s too frequently, but they really drill the new words into your head.
The speed review was one of the most fun parts of the app for me. You have to answer questions very quickly and have three lives to do it in. I found myself using this even when I didn’t want to necessarily review, just because it felt like a game.
How I Used Memrise And My Recommendations
When I first moved to China, I knew essentially zero Mandarin. Every time I went to a restaurant, I’d have to hope they had pictures and then I’d just point to whatever I wanted to eat.
When a restaurant’s menu didn’t have pictures, I’d either leave or more often, just point to a menu item and hope for the best.
In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the smartest idea considering I’m allergic to most nuts.
Anyways, I ended up using a “Restaurant Survival” course on Memrise. It basically gave me a better idea of what the different Chinese characters meant.
I was far from fluent, and still didn’t know exactly what I’d be getting, but it helped me to at least have some sort of idea.
Memrise is an incredibly useful app to learn any language but it’s a complimentary resource and will need to be used in addition to others.
I’ve seen many people try to go all the way to intermediate and higher levels of Chinese only using Memrise. It’s useful but not a comprehensive tool for learning a language.
I also think that once you get past the absolute beginner level, you should avoid learning based on of pre-made lists. It’ll be much more effective to learn new words from context and they’ll be much easier to retain in your memory. Plus, that would give you an opportunity to improve other important skills like reading and listening.
I think Memrise is great for beginners. At that stage, you need to get a foundation of new vocabulary before you’re able to learn from context. It’s really the only time when it makes sense to use a pre-made list to learn vocabulary from.
Should you consider the pro plan?
Everything I’ve written about so far is available for free but Memrise also offers a Pro plan for $9 per month.
The main benefits of the pro plan are that you get access to statistics about your studying and a way to practice difficult words.
For most people, this wouldn’t be worth spending money on. You’d be better using Memrise to review and getting a more structured learning plan from elsewhere.
If you’re willing to spend money, you’d be much better off subscribing to Babbel, purchasing a course from Rocket Languages (except for Portuguese and Mandarin), or finding another course in the language you’re learning.
The free version provides a ton of value but it’s important to make sure it doesn’t become the only resource you use when studying another language. When you first start studying, it makes sense to use Memrise to get a basic foundation of words.
But after that, I’d suggest looking into other resources and phasing out Memrise.