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An Über-Honest Memrise Review

For my new German project I’m constantly on the hunt for cool sites and apps to help me learn faster. Even though I know there are no magical ways to learn any language faster than light, there are certainly ways to make my life easier. Memrise is supposed to be such a way. Here’s my über honest Memrise review.

Basically Memrise is a community-driven flashcard site, with some neat features. For one it supports audio, images and mnemonics. It’s also a bit, eh… quirky. You don’t simply learn words, but rather “plant” and “grow” them. This is a great analogy which will certain speak to the more playful language learners out there.

That’s all super cool, but implementation is everything.

The short and dirty honest Memrise review


Memrise Review

What’s cool

This sh– is community-driven to the max, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the decks sucks. Somewhere there are some natives checking everything and quality stuff is clearly promoted on the site by the developers.

I also like the fact there’s audio and images. There are also mnemonics for several items, but I find I never use them (this says more about me, as I know more than enough language learners who love them). Most audio (for the German deck at least) is very crisp, although the volume differs. One time I was blown out of my chair when suddenly a loud male voice came through my headset. I almost died of a heart attack, true story.

Another thing I like are the different options to practice. Whereas with many flashcard programs you sit passively and just click around, Memrise offers you more options.

You begin with seeing the word for the first time, and then it cycles between multiple choice cards with English-target language, target language-English, and typing the word in the target language. This certainly keeps me engaged, although I’d like to see some kind of CLOZE option and sentences.

Memrise Review

Memrise Review

Memrise Review

What’s not so cool

Now, my beef with Memrise is that it looks very cool and web 2.0, but that too many mouse clicks are required.

As I’m going through the list of 1000 most common German words, I don’t just want to see words but also complete sentences. Luckily those are available, but only when I move my cursor and click a link.

Memrise Review

You see, my time is precious. I like the stuff I use to be super intuitive, not force me to take any additional steps.

Also, when there’s audio for single words, why can’t there be an option to include audio for sentences? This sucks!

Is it an Anki killer?

Unfortunately, it’s not. Anki is still king of the hill, especially now Damien has rolled out version 2.0.

Memrise is certainly a great introduction to spaced repetition-based learning, but there is much room for improvement. I get it that a developer needs time to fit a product to the needs of its audience, and Memrise is still in beta.

Still, all this means I will keep an eye on Memrise, but that I still recommend Anki to every serious language learner out there.

What’s your experience with Memrise?

This is simply my experience using Memrise for a week. I know there are peoplenout there that absolutely love it, and I’m curious if they can make me change my mind.

Tell me what you do and don’t love about Memrise!

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A Spanish teacher by trade, Ramses is a true language learning addict. He started and The Language Dojo, and isn't even thinking about quitting language learning; it's in his blood!


Andrew November 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Great review, tweeted!

Agreed on having to click for sentences, agreed on Anki still being King of the hill, agreed on the interface being “friendler” in a web 2.0 way, but not in any way that I care about, haha.



Joseph November 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

I’ve been using Memrise for a while now, for Chinese, and while I find it useful in some ways, there are definitely a few problems.

As you mention, there’s the issue of focusing too much on isolated vocabulary. You are basically forced to work with one-word English glosses which strip the vocabulary of their nuance. Luckily I can counter-balance this with my Anki deck, which consists mostly of full sentences. But the fact that I have take measures against this superficial treatment of vocabulary means that Memrise has a significant design flaw.

There are also numerous small bugs that grow more and more irritating over time. Sometimes you are given multiple choice questions where more than one answer is correct, and thus can be marked wrong for giving the “wrong” correct answer. And in Chinese the multiple choice questions are often rendered pointless when the question is X syllables of Pinyin and there is only one option that has X syllables of characters. I imagine you could bluff your way through most of a course just by counting syllables.

But my biggest gripe is that the developers hardly ever reply to issues on the forum. Just as one example, the Memrise leader board was closed because there had been reports of cheating. Many people asked on the forums for an estimate of when it would be restored. As far as I can see, not a single developer has bothered to reply. This is typical of most issues that come up on the forum. Someone says there’s a bug or other problem, and then there’s dead silence on the Memrise end. Not even a “be patient, we’re working on this”.

Partly you can excuse a lot of this because Memrise has only just left beta. You wouldn’t expect everything to be ironed out yet. But I find myself going there less and less, for the above reasons. I would possibly recommend it to people who want to reinforce their vocabulary, or otherwise use it to supplement their primary method of study. But Memrise has a lot of room for improvement.


Jonny March 16, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Nice article. I’m hoping to collate ideas about how people are using it in the classroom through the comments at the bottom of my blog post here.


Isarian April 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I’ve been using Memrise for a while to test it against Anki, and I’ve found that Memrise does NOT require many mouse clicks. You can use the numpad or number row to specify which number of a multiple choice answer you want, or use the arrow keys to select between them. You can use the arrows to select between different mems when choosing one, and use Enter to confirm choices. When text entry is prompted, focus is automatically placed in the edit control. Almost no mouse is required.


Ramses January 21, 2014 at 12:06 am

Thanks! I didn’t know that. Valuable info if you ask me 🙂


Katie July 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Thank you for this review. I tested memrise after I read an article about in in the Guardian. I find it way too difficult and slow (although I used my keyboard). I also truly dislike that there seems to be no overview of what I’m going to learn, no way of “thumbing” through the material and skipping stuff I already know. I might have to create my own course for that, but by the time I’ve created my own course, I’ll have studied twice the amount in a good old textbook. I haven’t used ANKI, might give it a try. Apart from the community aspect, everything I can do on memrise, it seems, I can do much faster with real flashcards. Of course, I won’t have colorful memes, but I like using my imagination.
And I really missed reading words in context as well as conjugations for verbs.
I don’t know if memrise is good for people not used to studying languages. If you know how to study a language, memrise will consume to much of your time.


Brian Hanney January 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm


You can skip stuff you already know -there’s an “ignore” button. I teach French with Memrise and the students love it.


jan August 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I’m working on my German, and was happy to find that Memrise includes a number of “Advance German Vocabulary” options. One problem is that the different “decks” are not co-ordinated.
For example, some verbs have the prepositions with the case after them, some don’t, and some have them in different formats. For example, some “decks” want you to write A for Accusative, some want you to write(AKK). Some require no preposition and case at all. So, if you’re working with different “decks”, you keep making mistakes in formatting the answers, which results in you getting the same words sent back to you over and over for “watering”.
Some decks translate 2 words with the same English word (for example “aufpassen auf” and “achten auf” are both translated “to take care”, so you never know which to write as your translation. So I get this wrong half the time, even though I know both words and will never forget them. Again, this results in my wasting time with “watering” words that I already know.


Benjamin August 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I have a very mixed feeling about memrise. The interface is great, and I honestly enjoy more learning on memrise than anki. But at the same time, using sentences on memrise is very unpractical, the base language always has to be English which is irritating for non native English speakers.

So now I only use memrise when I start learning a language, to acquire basic vocabulary. Then I switch to anki when it gets more serious.

It would be awesome if anki implemented some of memrise’s features. Such as the cloze or the easy way to add a picture.


Az November 10, 2015 at 8:11 am

I believe memrise is now available in multiple languages.


jerik October 2, 2013 at 7:49 pm

for me is just a complement for my german classes and is a very good tool


Charlie October 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Nice review. Thanks! I’m new to both Anki and Memrise, but at first glance Memrise is streets ahead of Anki. For one thing, the mnemonics in Memrise are right in your face, which isn’t the case in the decks I’m using in Anki. (Maybe that’s down to the authors of the decks and courses.) And the Memrise interface is much nicer and I like the fact that it gives me points for my progress so I get a sense of achievement. What helps Memrise’s case a lot is the fact that its app is free, while Anki is charging about $30 for their app.

I’m just using them to build up my Russian vocabulary to the 2000 to 3000 word level so that I can then tackle reading and listening without being completely lost. Both seems to be effective, but limited in that the meanings of high frequency words can be quite ambiguous (especially prepositions) until you meet them in speech and writing.


learn hangul January 17, 2014 at 5:03 am

Heya! I know this is kind of off-topic but I had to ask.
Does operating a well-established website like yours take a massive amount work?
I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write
in my diary daily. I’d like to start a blog so I can
share my personal experience and thoughts online. Please let
me know if you have any kind of recommendations or tips for
brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!


Ramses January 21, 2014 at 12:04 am

Well I can answer your question, but first answer my question: is this a genuine question or are you just here to spam? I’m not hating, just curious why you would ask something like this in a non-related discussion.


Damon May 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm

I have to say that I think Memrise has the edge in my favor when comparing it too Anki. It’s just more user friendly and the approach is more automatic. But I do agree it has some limitations at this point (hopefully they will improve on this in time). I agree it’s best for single words or short phrases at this point. If they gave you more control over a few things (like allowed time, more display options and audio import features) I think it would greatly improve it’s diversity. There is no doubt that Anki is much more customizable but it’s so user unfriendly and takes a while to get the hang of it. I also like the option of not having to rate my own progress (in Memrise) sometimes. In addition Memrise seems to have much more content (at least with Brazilian Portuguese) with the languages I am primarily studying. Perhaps I have not worked with Anki deeply enough. I like having a bunch of lessons ready to go, although a lot of them have errors and or formatting problems that aren’t compatible with Memrise’s limited options.


Phyni July 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

I’m using memrise now for 2 months and in the beginning I rarely checked the website and only did 2 courses. But it changed when a friend of mine joined and we kind of had a competition going on then. Who can score more points in a week/month and who leads in this and this course.

After I started learning there, my points I had earned in 2 months doubled in a week. I took more courses and watered my plants everyday. The gamification with the flowers, points and memes is just awesome. It motivates me to learn more, water frequently and make memes. 🙂 I haven’t heard of anki so now I will give this a try :)!


BigJonMX July 29, 2014 at 11:12 am

I joined memrise to learn Spanish. Spain Spanish. From what I read this was possible. so I signed up and navigated to EUROPEAN languages -> Spanish, only to have the option of learning MEXICAN Spanish.
So fcuk you very much for wasting my time memrise. If you don’t understand the ENORMOUS difference between these 2 then you’re obviously completely crap.


DJensenMX August 2, 2014 at 9:02 pm

1) Spanish is an European language, doesn’t matter which “dialect” you speak or learn.
2) I use “dialect” with apostrophes because the differences between Mexican Spanish and Spaniard Spanish (and actually with all Spanish variations) are very little: It all gets down to some vocabulary (that at least as a native speaker of Mexican Spanish took me next to nothing to learn), pronunciation of the letters c & z and an extra pronoun with all its conjugations. Spanish is quite a stable language across geographical boundaries.
3) The fact that the intro course is for Mexican Spanish doesn’t prevent you to find other courses and not taking the intro one….
4) If you don’t understand that the differences are minimum, you should consider what completely crap means.


Jon August 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Thank you for proving my point. According to everyone here IN SPAIN the differences are huge.
I’m sure you know better than the millions of Spanish people here in Spain. I guess the numerous people i’ve spoken to, and the schools i’ve investigated, and the reviews and comments i read online, are just wrong.
Clearly you have more knowledge and experience than the thousands of people who have said otherwise.
Maybe you could help your fellow mexicans as i see them (firsthand!) having no end of trouble negotiating life here in spain.

i suppose anyone with a basic and limited education, and a very narrow vocabulary, wont see the difference in dialects seperated by hundreds of miles and hundreds of years.
But this is clearly not you. you are without doubt the authority on languages. May i pass you details to this country of ‘catetos’ so that all Spaniards may be educated?

Lets discuss this over a pincho. Thats how the locals here order a tortilla. thats a potato omlette. Etc.

Some serious advise: if you dont want the world to know you’re an idiot, dont tell everyone!


DJensenMX August 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I lived in Spain for many years, but suit yourself…


DJensenMX August 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

PS: The one acting high and mighty and rude is you. I was just trying to point you to that there are other courses in the Spanish section of Memrise that may suit your interests, therefore no need to devalue what is at the end a great application.

And also that whether you use the Mexican course or not, it will still be relevant to you.


DJensenMX August 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm

A final thing, this may be useful to you, and qualm your fears about Latin American Spanish:

Basically says what I said in the first post but in a more detailed manner.

But enough with the topic stealing. Bottom line is Memrise is a great application to memorize vocabulary and I love it 🙂


BigJonMX August 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for the link. They also do courses of colonial spanish and not castellano. But hey, maybe i start with it to see if this memrise is for me. I didnt realise you work for / created Memrise. (why else would you defend them). As such a person of authority perhaps you could correct the misleading and inaccurate statement that these different versions are ‘very similar’ – i understand you just want to promote (and sell?) your work, but by misleading people is rather unsavoury.
Like English, people should be told there is mainland British English and colonial English which is a truely bastardised form, from different grammar ‘rules’ to very different vocabulary…
But like you said – you know best; as you lived in Spain (and i assume nowhere else).


Az November 10, 2015 at 8:19 am

I realize this comes more than a year late, but you’re more likely to get better information if you aren’t rude.

As for English vocabulary and grammar, the amount of bastardization varies from colony to colony. Thank you for being so douche-y about language acquisition, you make it a joy for the rest of us.

I’m honestly surprised DJensenMX bothered to give you such helpful information.


Bz November 10, 2015 at 11:16 am

Haha. Leaving a reply to a year old comment. It must have really annoyed you.
I reckon BigJonMX was right to be annoyed at the ignorance of the earlier posts.
The difference between castellano and other varients (colonial – hahaha) is HUGE, and anyone not knowing this is clearly an ignoramous.

Add these to your vocab: Pichar, Boludo, Cabrón, Concha, Tortillera, Coger, Venirse, Pendejo, Pinche and you’ll quickly realise how naive your comments are. These fine examples will be used without incidient in one country and get your face slapped in another!

And referenceing a ‘blog’ ? How can i express, without soundind ‘rude’, how childish and naive that is!! That ‘language expert’ is Alex Hammond – a British television presenter, reporter and horse racing expert, working currently for Sky Sports News and At the Races.

Me? I like memrise lots.


Dakota August 24, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I had a good experience wiht this, until life got in the way and I forgot things and wanted to review a few times, but memrise locks you out for hours or even days at a time. You want to review a few times? Tough, you’re locked out of the course.
Not very good for learning with the inability to go back and review whenever.


Az November 10, 2015 at 8:19 am

I believe they have corrected this! 🙂


anonymous February 16, 2015 at 4:30 am

The typing requirement is killing me and there is no option to disable it. Especially since Korean requires a special keyboard. I don’t wanna type moreso when the question is Eng>Kor..


Adam Kaan October 23, 2015 at 10:52 am

I’ve been using, memrise for a while, and I love the features. I’ve recommended it at the school I teach at and most of the teachers have adopted it. Does anki have a facility to create and manage groups (classes)? I agree that learners need to be able to see words in the context of sentences. The way I tackle that on memrise is by adding a sentence in the mems section. I’ll check out Anki. Thanks


John January 26, 2016 at 12:59 am

Does anybody have any comments on Babel, frantastique, Rosetta Stone or other premium apps? I would like to use something that remembers my mistakes and helps me improve my weak areas. How do these compare to memrise and any other free apps.?


Wjbudd September 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I have beeen using memrise German A2 for three months. The author needs to tone it dowh a bit. The German A1 course is excellent and certainly doable. The A2 course is very frustrating as it starts out being very difficult and keeps getting worse!. The difficulty gap between A1 and A2 is huge and will cause many students to quit the A2 course. I really like the computer implimentation but the A2 course starts out assuming you are at A2 level instead of bridging the gap between A1and A2 level. Very very frustrating at best!


William budd October 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm

I have been working on the memorize German A2 course for 3 or 4 months now and I am very frustrated. The exercises where you get words to put in order to make a sentence seem impossible. What am I to do, memorize sentences? There has to be some way to deal with the word order exercises that is consistent and makes sense but I seem to be just guessing at the answers. Any suggestions are appreciated.


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