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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 Spanish-Only.com and The Language Dojo, and isn't even thinking about quitting language learning; it's in his blood!

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13 Comments…

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.

Cheers,
Andrew

Reply

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.

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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. http://www.freetechforschools.com/2013/03/memrise-great-website-for-learning.html

Reply

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.

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Ramses January 21, 2014 at 12:06 am

Thanks! I didn’t know that. Valuable info if you ask me :-)

Reply

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.

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Brian Hanney January 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Katie,

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

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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.

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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.

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jerik October 2, 2013 at 7:49 pm

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

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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.

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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!

Reply

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.

Reply

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