Learning tool of the week: Memrise

It seems like anyone who’s anyone is talking about Memrise these days… So it was about time I gave it a go.

What is Memrise?

Memrise is a pretty simple online program for learning vocab via flashcards. Nothing new, but it’s a classic learning method for a reason. Memrise takes out the work of cutting and writing your own cards, and gives you loads of pre-made banks of vocabulary if you don’t feel like inputting it yourself (I don’t). It’s completely free, which is a big bonus! There is a premium version, which sounds interesting as it gives you loads of stats and insights on how you learn. This is only 5 USD per month. Memrise can be used to learn anything, not just languages, so if you use it extensively for school or university study, the premium package could be useful. But you can use the flashcard system for nowt.

How does it work?

Well it’s pretty simple. Choose your language and find an appropriate level of vocabulary pack. I went for intermediate Italian, which seems like a reasonable approximation of the type of vocabulary I’d like to learn.

Then, the program will start throwing words at you to learn, using spaced repetition. You’ll see a couple of new words with their translation, then it’ll start quizzing you on those ones:

Either you have to select the correct word from a list

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or it asks you to type it in, which is a bit more useful for actually checking that you know the word actively rather than passively. You have a time limit for doing this, so you kind of have to keep moving through it without thinking too much.

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As you go through a vocab pack you’ll start getting some stats on which words you’ve made mistakes on.

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All your pinned courses come up on your Dashboard that shows your progress and what you’re currently learning.

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Any good?

I’d say Memrise has pros and cons. It’s a very quick and easy language-learning method that you can use for just ten minutes or so whenever and wherever you feel like. It’s also quite fun and a good tool for when you don’t feel like studying too hard. Flashcards are also proven to be a great way to memorise things, and I find it works well for me.

The vocab packs are nice and convenient and there are some quite fun ones on there – I was particularly pleased to find this gem:

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 12.23.37

Obviously Memrise will only help you with vocabulary, it won’t teach you anything about how to use it, so it’s really an intermediate language tool, and to be used alongside a couple of other methods. I also find it a very slow method. Whilst I get that repetition is the way to cement things in your brain, I find that most lists contain a large amount of words I already know, and seeing them over and over is just a waste of my time. There’s no way to skip words or mark that you already know them. For very simple stuff it seems like a drag to keep going over and over it when in reality I learn faster than Memrise thinks I do. But I can take a little frustration with the pace when at least I know that I’m memorising things effectively.

The second issue is the same issue with other systems like Duolingo, which is that the method of typing things in at a fast pace leaves you open to crappy little typo errors that scupper your score even though you know the word. Maybe I just need to get better at typing, but I’m always getting messed up on Duo and Memrise by tiny typing errors or even autocorrect deciding to stick its oar in and cause trouble. But nonetheless the typing is a bit more progressive than just clicking on words which really only encourages basic passive recognition.

On the whole, Memrise is fun, simple and effective. The interface is fantastic and allows you to manage your projects and track your results really well. If I was a bit less lazy I’d probably be better off putting my own word banks in there rather than relying on pre-made ones, as I can’t control the content of those and I find many of them too basic. It’s a great idea if your teacher has set you a list of specific vocab to learn, or you’re revising a particular topic or preparing for an exam or presentation using a certain vocabulary field. The other massive benefit is that it’s so easy to just dip in and out whenever. You can easily do 15 minutes a day and find your vocabulary bank increasing rapidly. Oh, and it’s free – thanks for that, Memrise guys. So it’s definitely recommended!

2 thoughts on “Learning tool of the week: Memrise

  1. “There’s no way to skip words or mark that you already know them.”

    Except for the “ignore” function that allows you to skip any word you want.


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