You may not be able to travel anywhere at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t study a foreign language. If you’ve spent your time searching for a language learning website, you must have heard of Memrise — a language app. Let us begin the Memrise Review 2021!
Over the last decade or so, language apps have been getting more and more popular, and for genuine reasons.
Online language education benefits are apparent — they are convenient, affordable, and simple to use.
Of course, there are several drawbacks of language apps.
For instance, no single app can get you fluent. It should be a starting point, not the end.
You can use these smartphone apps to supplement language classes with a teacher or for fully independent practice.
I’ve tried and tested an array of language apps in the past.
Some were great, but most were just absolute garbage. This post is my first language app review, with many more to follow.
Irrespective of your goal, you will probably find an Android or iOS mobile app for you. One of such language learning apps is Memrise.
I take a detailed look at this app in my never-ending quest for the best language learning resources, weigh the pros and cons, and Memrise review.
Table of Contents
- The History of Memrise
- What is Memrise?
- Pros and cons of Memrise
- 3 Benefits
- 5 Disadvantages
- Free Vs. Paid — The Pro Version is not worth it
- If it is terrible, why is it so popular?
- My Memrise Review: Below-Average – 2/5
The History of Memrise
Ed Cooke launched Memrise in 2010, along with other Co-founders Ben Whately and Greg Detre. Similar to Duolingo, Memrise makes language studying a game through plenty of fun activities.
As you’d expect, Memrise is available on Android and iOS since 2013, and there is also a browser version.
After a decade of presence, the British language platform claims to have grown to over 40 million user bases in 189 countries.
It’s important to note that these are all-time total registered users since inception.
Regardless of whether the number is exaggerated or fact, the current monthly active users (MAU) would be significantly low.
I tried to practice some vocabulary on Memrise a few years back. I had the impression that one day it will become a surpassing platform for language enthusiasts.
They had the head start, funding, and all the elements to make that happen.
To my surprise, it hasn’t changed enough today. The critical updates are still missing. The user interference design and features all look the same.
It is Déjà vu all over again.
The expected improvement and innovations haven’t happened yet, and that is an enormous disappointment.
What is Memrise?
In its essence, Memrise is a flash-card app. In its oldest classical form, this is a piece of paper with a word or phrase in your target language written on one side and the translation written on the other.
It’s mainly focused on studying languages online. Still, you can also use the app to memorize and practice words from other subjects and fields.
To sum up, this is a vocabulary-learning tool, and Memrise perfects it with the modern technology.
Memrise ingrains unfamiliar words and phrases into your brain by using mnemonics and spaced repetition, which they show through planting flowers.
You will see unlearned vocabularies as seeds. Then, you plant them (i.e., learn) and finally turns them into a flower.
Suppose you desire to hone in on vocabulary and want to expand it further in the language of your choice. In that case, you can use ten-minute engaging exercises to drill new terms.
It helps you gain a basic knowledge of a foreign language.
How it works
Let us take a closer look at what using Memrise like.
The interface of both the website and the app is relatively intuitive. It is easy to see what you need to do, and you will get the hang of using the app after just a few minutes of clicking around.
If you need any assistant, you can check out the comprehensive FAQ section.
Similar to other language apps, signing up is free.
You can do it either using your email or with your account on Facebook or Google.
On the ‘Courses’ page, you can select the language you speak and the language you wish to study. Then, you will see all the courses available for this combination.
There are other categories available, such as Maths and Science or Trivia, but Memrise is primarily useful for language learning.
Courses Available on Memrise
There are two kinds of courses on Memrise — the official curated programs created by the Memrise staff and the user-created content developed by the Memrise community members worldwide.
The topics vary: some courses feature basic vocabulary for this or that level.
In contrast, others have a more focused approach, like ‘500 most common Portuguese words’, learning German conversation skills, or grammar from a particular Italian textbook.
Earlier, it was a member-driven-only platform where language-lovers, linguists, and teachers from far and wide used to make content for learners.
They eventually produced tons of great content for learners with a diverse combination of native and target languages.
As per the design, not all community courses are visible from the “Search” function within the Memrise mobile app.
You need to use the browser version to see the full range of the programs and modules available. It will be accessible in the app once you start practicing through the website.
Later, the Memrise team cultivated a variety of language learning products and kept user-designed content untouched.
They divided the entire official course into many levels, and each has several small-size lessons based on various topics.
If it does not satisfy you with any of the courses offered, you can create your own program. This feature is available in the browser version only.
You can also copy a deck to make your own by some modification as per your requirement.
Memrise can come in handy when you want to concentrate on learning the meanings of a particular set of words and phrases. For instance, vocabulary from a book you are reading or your favorite TV show and Movies.
Languages offered by Memrise
Memrise features an immense option for learners.
From popular foreign languages like French and Arabic to rarely taught tongues like Polish and Mongolian to some challenging languages, such as Cantonese and Persian, you have all the choices at your fingertips.
You can also learn Spanish dialects, for example, Mexican or the one from Spain, or learn Russian Cyrillic or one of the artificial and sign languages.
If we merge official and community-driven courses, it would be more than 200 language courses in dozens of different tongues.
Memrise offers lessons on Bahasa, Dutch, English, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Finnish, Japanese, Turkish, Vietnamese, Nordic languages, among many others.
The list is endless, and many are in development, too. Whatever you need, the chances are you will find one on Memrise.
Types of activities
When you start a program on Memrise, you get introduced to new words: their spelling, definition, pronunciation, and/or translation into your native language.
The practice of new vocabulary includes the following types of exercises: match the word to the correct translation and interpretation or vice versa; spell the words (you can use the keyboard or a smaller set of letters provided by the app); matching the terms to the correct pronunciation.
There is an activity for learning new vocabulary and one for revising what you’ve acquired.
Memrise uses spaced repetition for language learning through daily lessons and quizzes. It means that the app regularly brings words up for revision.
If you keep making mistakes on a word or phrase, it will keep coming up for revision again and again.
But if you make it all correct, you will see it less often. It allows you to concentrate more on the trickier words.
Other activities include speed review, challenging words, pronunciation practice, listening skills through audio and video, learn with the locals, voice-enabled speaking practice, grammar.
Apart from the speed review, these are available in the paid version. Not all the activities are available on all courses.
You can choose how many words you want to learn or revise in one go.
It tracks your progress and gathers some learning statistics (although most are only available in the pro version). You can also set daily goals and reminders to track your progress.
Pros and cons of Memrise
Like any other language learning resource or method, Memrise as a language app has its advantages and disadvantages.
Some of them may be subjective, depending on what your goals are.
For example, Memrise primarily focuses on vocabulary and beneficial for someone who needs to add to their vocabulary practice or brush up on some words and phrases.
However, it is a negative for someone who needs a more comprehensive plan.
Here are some of the known benefits.
1. The free version offers everything
Many apps are free to download but have a paid subscription and have a limited free version, which is more like a trial version.
On the other hand, the free version of the Memrise is not too limited: you get access to all the courses in full, just not all the activities.
You can only do the first few exercises in a course and need to pay to go on.
If it is a flash-card software, and only a couple of initial sets of cards are available for free.
With Memrise, you can explore everything as a free member.
2. It uses a spaced repetition system
The strength of Memrise lies in two things: Spaced repetition system and mnemonics. It enables you to memorize language material more effectively.
That is how our brains work: we need to repeat words a few times before remembering them well. Memrise provides it.
It helps you focus more on the complicated words that need more repetition and move the terms you have learned well ‘out of the way.’
It relies on plenty of activities that encourage connecting words with their meaning through associations.
3. Plenty of programs, languages, levels
Although Memrise is generally vocabulary-focused, it still has a lot to offer. On this app, you can learn several languages concurrently for different levels and on diverse topics.
The interface is appealing, and the program is also a game-based system that makes learning an enjoyable activity.
You can move from beginner to intermediate to advanced without changing for another app.
You can find courses on specific subjects that may interest you, like travel or business vocabulary.
The app supports offline learning, as well.
As with everything, nothing is quintessential. Here are five pitfalls of Memrise.
1. Quality of user-created contents vary a lot
Memrise offers courses curated by the staff. But also, any user can create their own program. And that results in too much content – you can quickly lose yourself in the sea of courses.
While it creates a welcome variety, however, these lessons differ in quality, sometimes a lot. There is no authenticity and quality check.
While it depends on the language, the audio quality of the words’ pronunciation can vary with strange voices, and that can be not very clear for many.
Some can have brilliant examples and detailed explanations, while others have barely anything – and even, occasionally, mistakes.
Plus, it covers only a small section of the language and leaves a lot to be desired.
2. The exercises can get repetitive
For any course, any word or phrase, the set of exercises is the same (see ‘Types of activities’ for more detail).
They expand it a little in the premium version. But anyway, after a few repetitions, it may get boring and annoying.
It is one area Memrise failed to improve. You will get exhausted by doing the same thing again and again.
Despite a big team, they didn’t care to optimize their lessons. And that is the one reason I had to quit midway.
3. Memrise is only vocabulary focused
As mentioned above, it is not necessarily a con if all you need is to brush up some vocabulary.
But it is worth mentioning that the Memrise format is not suitable for much else.
You can find the courses with ‘grammar’ in their title. But it is not proper grammar training – just the same flash-cards, but with grammatical constructions instead of vocabulary.
There is also no speaking or listening, and seldom any reading and writing.
4. It is not user-friendly
One thing I don’t like about Memrise because it’s confusing to follow what you’re doing. Website navigation is clunky and poorly designed.
Moreover, you will shuffle between app and web just to get access to everything, and you’ll still be baffled separating the curated material from user decks.
The search feature is undoubtedly horrible and doesn’t give the correct result.
Sometimes, it makes no sense. There is no undo or cancel button, either. So. be careful what you do with the Memrise app.
Tones are essential when learning one of the East Asia languages.
By adding characters with translation without explaining the meaning and homonyms isn’t the right strategy.
If you wish to learn Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin, you won’t be happy.
5. Not meant for Advanced level learners
Not specifically with Memrise, but one of the notable limitations of online language learning is the lack of human interaction.
Languages are about people.
The apps like Memrise won’t get you anywhere close to fluency.
You’ll need to communicate with real people to conquer a language — for example, face-to-face interactive sessions with a teacher.
While Memrise has a vast selection of courses, its modules and resources may not be varied and sufficient to propel students towards upper-intermediate or near-native proficiency.
While it’s possible to reinforce what you’ve already covered, forward advancement is much more restricted.
Free Vs. Paid — The Pro Version is not worth it
The app is absolutely free to download and sign-up. Thus, the entire languages it supports are available for no cost from beginning to end.
But Memrise also has a pro version.
You can choose a monthly, quarterly, or yearly plan. There is also an option of a one-time payment for lifetime access to the paid subscription perks.
The price ranges from a few dollars to over a hundred dollars.
As per their sale page, once you take the premium subscription, you get to try a few more distinct types of activities like:
- Learn as fast as humanly possible,
- Get a personalized learning experience, and
- Learn from real locals.
The pronunciation practice and studying with natives are pretty much vague.
I’m sure that you get most of these addons for free as well, or not?
I wasted ample time to find the benefits of a paid subscription, but it was a futile effort.
The offline mode and some stats might be beneficial, but not compelling reasons either. I straight out refuse to believe that the Memrise Premium version adds more value than the free version.
It doesn’t do it for me.
If it is terrible, why is it so popular?
For three reasons:
- Memrise began very early, nearly a decade back. It had the head start to gain most of the learners on the fence looking to learn a language online.
- It provides a wide variety of materials for many languages. It is simple in helping people expand their vocabulary, which is one of the essential aspects of learning a foreign language.
- It is free, and everyone loves free stuff. Plus, the website is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. The big button forces you to click and initiate the journey without spending a single penny. In the end, it’s a wastage of precious time.
My Memrise Review: Below-Average – 2/5
At the moment, Memrise is one of the most popular apps for language learning, and it has been for quite a while.
It is instead natural, as the app offers some good perks.
Of course, Memrise is far from perfect. And like other language learning apps and resources, it has its own shortcomings. However, some of them are subjective.
The best thing to do for you would be to check out memrise.com for yourself.
It is free and will take only a short amount of time. Still, you will see if you like the interface if it has any courses that interest you, and find the activities offered quite helpful.
If you like Memrise, it can become a great language learning instrument in your toolbox. And if you use it to its power, you will learn your target language a bit more efficiently and progress faster.
But don’t expect to be fluent with Memrise. That would be a pipe dream. Here is my rating.
The efficiency of Memrise teaching techniques is not good. The best you can learn is some basic skills. Don’t expect anything meaningful fluency with Memrise. By taking everything into considerations, I’m giving a rating of 2/5, i.e., “Below Average.”
Let me know if you have questions about my Memrise review.