Memrise—a free language learning website—uses its community of users to teach and improve language learning for everyone involved. It uses audio, images, and memory techniques to help you associate words with one another for easier recall, as well as regular tests to ensure you remember the concepts. In addition to the website, you can also use it from their language learning app.
You can learn 23 languages: Chinese (Simplified), Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese (and no script Japanese), Korean, Mongolian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Russian, Slovenian, Spanish (Mexico and Spain), Swedish, Turkish, and Yoruba.
The Unique Way Memrise Works
Memrise uses elaborate encoding to help you remember different concepts. Instead of having you read through words and translations, and trying to memorize these in raw form, it creates an association between the translation and words you are familiar with.
One example the site gives for this method is using "it's aburrido to eat a burrito with every meal" to associate the Spanish word aburrido with its English translation of boring. This is great because the sentence makes sense to you as an English speaker, but the Spanish translation is easily placed in it to help you build a connection between the two words.
As you use it more, you can help others learn by submitting the memory aids and mnemonics that you have. This helps grow the service and keeps the material fresh.
You're tested in different ways. For example, you may get a question and answer problem to solve and then a multiple-choice question later on, though both test you on the same concept. This variation keeps the questions unique but also serves as a quick way to ensure you retain what you learn.
Spaced repetition is used for regular reviews. It does so more often in the beginning with easier tests as you learn new words, and then less often, but with harder tests, as those terms commit to long-term memory. These precisely spaced reviews keep you learning and remembering without overdoing it.
Visit the Courses page to select the language you speak and the one you want to learn. Next, you can start as a beginner who doesn’t know anything about the language, or if you do have some experience, you can jump ahead to avoid rehashing all the easy stuff.
After choosing a course, you can create a new account or log in easily with your Google or Apple account. Once you're in, the lesson will begin immediately, but you can also browse all courses available for your language.
For example, for American English speakers, the list of courses you can take are here. They’re separated into categories by language, and each lesson indicates the number of users taking it and how long it might take to finish. You can also filter the results by other things like arts, memory training, entertainment, and trivia.
There's even a game element to learning with Memrise. As you finish courses and learn new words, you collect points that transition you into different ranks as an incentive to keep moving forward. Also, off to the side of the website is a small flower that grows in stages as you progress.
Another area of interest, if you like to learn with your friends, is the Groups area of the site. According to Memrise, a group is helpful because the members can compete against each other for the first place in the leaderboards and can view the weekly, monthly, and all-time high scores.
There’s also a whole page dedicated to just phrasebooks. Not every language is supported, but you can use it to, for example, learn all sorts of Japanese phrases. Categories include dining out, lost in space, small talk, exploration, peace offering, and lots more. You can see the translation and even listen to a native speaker say it.
Everything you've read about so far is free. The company offers a Memrise Pro subscription for as little as less than $5 per month if paid annually. If you plan to use it for more than a few years, you might be better off getting the lifetime membership, which is a one-time fee.
A paid subscription provides full access to all languages, unlocks all lessons, and removes all ads.
Our Thoughts on Memrise
We love the techniques Memrise uses to teach new language concepts. Using the website and app is visually appealing and seems to work well because of the mnemonic techniques added by users.
One thing we don't like about the website is that it's difficult to follow what you're doing. Thousands of courses span the website, and though several popular languages are categorized into common sections like Beginner and Advanced, you must search the site to find other languages, most of which don't offer the material as the more popular ones.
Also, while there are many free resources available, some require a paid membership. That said, this limitation didn't hamper our ability to use the site nor stop us from accessing useful material.