Memrise’s language learning courses leave Duolingo in the dust

Memrise’s language learning courses leave Duolingo in the dust

Memrise Duolingo main user interface

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I grew up trilingual and have spoken Arabic as my first language, French as my first language and English since I was eight years old. I was pretty happy with this versatile knowledge until I met my husband and he started teaching me some basic Spanish as well. I’ve spent a couple of months analyzing Spanish organically – it’s relatively easy if you already speak French and have someone walk you through the basics. Then I did Duolingo to (allegedly) take my language learning to the next level. I tried the app little by little, but the bottom line is clear: Duolingo doesn’t work for me. So I switched my language learning to Memrise and I have nothing but positive things to say about it.

Why Duolingo’s methods failed me

Duolingo app on the smartphone, photo 4

Duolingo’s boring, useless repetition annoyed me. I swear I learned mujer means woman. Duolingo doesn’t care. The gamification-centric system wants me to come back every day and repeat the same exercises over and over until I reach a new level. Only then can I unlock further lessons.

Continue reading: Gamification has taken the fun out of training and learning

Duolingo’s learning path also caters to nonsensical phrases that I will never use. Things like “The cats are drinking milk” or “The monkey is eating an apple”. When would I ever say that? (It’s worth noting that I’ve only tried a few Duolingo courses, namely French-Spanish, English-Spanish, English-German and French-Italian, so other language combinations may differ.)

Duolingo was keen on teaching me useless phrases about cats and apples.

Despite the boredom and lack of motivation I felt, I kept coming back to Duolingo and doing my best. I have failed repeatedly. Until I decided to see what other language learning apps were out there.

Memrise’s language learning approach is different

memrise duolingo cheers

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

After a few failures, I ended up on Memrise, staring at an English-German course with a shrug and thinking, “Well, how bad could it be?”

Not bad. Not at all. Actually surprisingly excellent. After 10 minutes I had learned a few words and was watching a video trying to find those words in the middle of a conversation. I came back the next day for a second session, then the day after, and the day after that.

In less than a week I had a very basic understanding of the German language.

In less than a week and with only 15 to 20 minutes a day I had a (very) general understanding of the German language – something I never felt after countless and countless hours on Duolingo. I’m still using Memrise now and I’m almost done with the first German course. I’ve also started learning some Italian, why the heck not.

The first thing I noticed about Memrise was the “I know that” button when introducing new words. Tap on it and the app will consider it a known word and skip it (unless you check). You can also mark words as familiar or difficult at any time, then review learned words or learn new ones to progress at your own pace. No more pointless repetitions.

To combat boredom, Memrise uses less repetition, videos from locals, customizable learning, and multiple quizzing methods.

The second thing I noticed is how Memrise teaches you words and phrases. It uses matching games, writing challenges and pronunciation tests. The best parts are the short videos of locals pronouncing words in addition to the text-to-speech voice, and boy is there a difference between the two. Locals speak faster, more fluently, skipping or shuffling some letters, while robotic pronunciation is slower and more articulate. I’m learning how German is actually spoken, which is infinitely more useful when trying to understand a real person.

Memrise also provides a literal word-for-word translation for each phrase. For example, many of us know that “health” means “bless you,” but did you know that the literal translation is “health”? Word for word means “unfortunately there is nothing left” translated as “unfortunately it is no longer available”, but is used to express that a place is fully booked. Take the time to check these literal translations as you learn phrases, and you’ll quickly expand your vocabulary and grammar without realizing it.

More options: The best German learning apps for Android

Better still, the courses initially focus on tourist-friendly phrases like “What is the WiFi password” and “Where are you from?”. instead of ducks eating apples. There are also grammar rules and lessons that helped me understand the sentence structure from the start instead of guessing it over time.

The extra feature that makes it stand out

learn memrise with locals 2

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The only feature that made me fall in love with Memrise is the immersive video section. It’s not available for all languages, unfortunately, but if it is, it makes a big difference. In it, you’ll watch short 10-15 second TikTok-style videos of locals having a fake conversation with themselves (but dressed differently). It’s a bit difficult to explain, but the amateur game, the props and the situations; everything is cute and fun. You’re not supposed to understand everything, but you’re supposed to understand if a character should go left or right, if they like sushi or pizza, if they’re local or from the US, and so on.

Memrise’s super fun, TikTok-style immersion videos boosted my confidence in the words I had learned.

The app relies on your understanding of context and your ability to pick up on the words you’ve already learned. And it works wonderfully. From the very first video, I was able to grasp the situation and answer correctly, even though I only knew a few words at the time.

As I said, this immersion mode is available from English to German, but I haven’t seen it in some other courses. It’s a shame because it truly makes the app infinitely more fun and useful.

After a month I traveled to Berlin and was amazed at how much German I understood.

After less than a month using Memrise at 10-15 minutes a day, I traveled to Berlin and was amazed at how much basic German I understood. I obviously wasn’t fluent in the language, but I was able to grasp the general meaning of conversations, announcements, and advertisements all around me. Last year I was in Cologne and didn’t hear a single word apart from “bitte” and “good morning”, so I can fully credit Memrise for all these improvements.

Our selection: The best language learning apps for Android

A few missing features

Like any app, this one isn’t perfect. It took me a while to understand how to skip repetition to learn more words or how to see the list of words and phrases I’ve already learned. I also don’t like the lack of a search function. For example, I want to search for “still” and see all the phrases that contain it. Also, I noticed that some languages ​​aren’t treated as royally as the English-German course – they have fewer local videos and no fun TikTok-style quizzes.

But luckily, the service is free for as long as you want, so you can try it out and see if the language pair you’re interested in has what you need. A Pro subscription unlocks an offline mode, the option to repeat difficult words, and a few other goodies; It’s a nice addition, but by no means essential.

Have you used a free language learning app?

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But is memrise enough to master a language?

learn memrise with locals 1

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Apart from the perfection, however, Memrise has completely convinced me, which is why I am writing this article and sharing my experience with you. The app is often overshadowed by its huge competitor, but I think it deserves to be recognized for its different methods and fun approach.

But is it enough?

Honestly, if you’re serious about a language, I don’t think Memrise alone is enough. You need a varied mix of learning methods such as videos, podcasts, grammar lessons and interactions with native speakers. In this context, Memrise can be an additional tool in your belt.

In contrast to Duolingo, the return on investment with Memrise is incredibly high.

But if you want to get the gist of a language quickly, whether for a short trip or out of curiosity, then this should definitely be your first choice. The return on investment, meaning the number of useful words and language concepts you learn in a short amount of time, is incredibly high and lets Duolingo down.

Different opinion: Do free language learning apps actually work?

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