After years of failing to learn languages ​​on Duolingo, I switched to Memrise

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Rita El Khoury / Android body

I grew up as a trilingual person, speaking native Arabic, semi-native French and English since I was eight years old. I was so happy with this diverse knowledge that I met my husband and he started teaching me some basic Spanish as well. I spent a few months analyzing Spanish organically – it’s relatively easy if you already speak French and someone explains the basic grammar to you. Then I graduated to Duolingo to (presumably) take my language learning to the next level. I’ve tried the app after trying, but the end result is ambiguous: Duolingo doesn’t work for me. So I transferred my language learning to Memrise and have nothing but positives to say about it.

Why did Duolingo’s methods fail me

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The boring and useless repetition of Duolingo bothered me. I swear I learned that “mujer” means woman. Duolingo doesn’t care. The gaming-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 more lessons.

Read more: Gamification has taken the place of exercise and learning

Duolingo’s learning path is also geared towards pointless sentences that I will never use. Things like “the cats drink milk” or “the monkey eats an apple.” When will I say that? (It should be noted that I tried only a few Duolingo courses, namely French-Spanish, English-Spanish, English-German, and French-Italian, so things may differ with other language combinations.)

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

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

Different Memrise Language Learning Approach

memrise duel prost

Rita El Khoury / Android body

After a few missteps, I land on Memrise staring at the English-German course while shrugging my shoulders and thinking, “Well, how bad can that be?”

not bad. not at all. In fact, surprisingly excellent. After 10 minutes, I’ve learned a few words, and I’ve been watching a video trying to pick out those words in the middle of the conversation. The next day, I came back for a second session, then the next day, and then after that.

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

In less than a week and with only 15-20 minutes a day, I had a (very) general understanding of German – something I hadn’t felt after countless hours on Duolingo. I’m still using Memrise now and I’m almost done with my first German course. I’ve also started learning a little Italian, so why not?

The first thing I noticed about Memrise was the “I already know this” button when entering new words. Tap on it and the app will consider it a known word and skip it (unless you’re reviewing it). In addition, at any time, you can mark words as known or difficult, and then choose to review learned words or continue to learn new words, thus progressing at your own pace. No more useless repetition.

To combat boredom, Memrise uses fewer repetitions, videos for locals, adaptive learning, and multiple testing methods.

The second thing that struck me is how Memrise teaches you words and expressions. Uses matching games, writing challenges, and pronunciation tests. The best parts are the short videos of the locals speaking the words as well as the text-to-speech audio, there is a difference between the two. Locals speak faster and more fluently and skip or mix some letters together, while automated pronunciations are slower and clearer. I learn how German is really spoken, which is infinitely more useful when trying to understand a real human being.

Memrise also provides a word for word transliteration for each expression. For example, many of us know that “Gesundheit” means “God bless you,” but did you know that the literal translation for it is “health?” Word for word, “es ist leider nichts mehr frei” translates to “unfortunately not freer” but is used to express that the place is fully booked. Take the time to check these literal translations as you learn expressions and you will quickly expand your vocabulary and grammar without even realizing it.

More options: Best German language learning apps for Android

Even better, the courses focus on tourist-friendly expressions first such as “What is your Wi-Fi password” and “Where are you from?” Instead of ducks eat apples. There are grammar and grammar lessons too, which helped me understand sentence structure from the start, rather than guessing it over time.

The additional feature that distinguishes it

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Rita El Khoury / Android body

The only feature that made me fall in love with Memrise is the immersive video section. It’s unfortunately not available for all languages, but when it is, it makes a world of difference. In it, you watch short 10-15 seconds of TikTok-style videos where locals have a fake conversation with themselves (but differently dressed). It’s a bit hard to explain, but the amateur acting, props, and situations are; It’s all cute and funny. You’re not supposed to understand everything, but you’re supposed to realize whether the character should go left or right, whether they like sushi or pizza, whether they’re local or coming from the US, etc.

Immersive videos like Memrise’s super fun TikTok have increased my confidence in the words I’ve learned.

The application relies on your understanding of the context and your ability to pick up words you have already learned. It works beautifully. Even from the first video, I was able to recognize the situation and answer correctly despite knowing only a few words at the time.

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

A month later, I traveled to Berlin and was astounded by the amount of German I could understand.

After less than a month with Memrise 10-15 minutes a day, I traveled to Berlin and was amazed at how much I understood the surrounding German. I obviously wasn’t fluent in the language, but I could understand the general meaning of the conversations, announcements, and advertisements all around me. Last year I had been to Cologne and didn’t get a single word besides ‘bitte’ and ‘guten morgen’ so I can fully share Memrise with all this improvement.

Our picks: Best language learning apps for Android

Some missing features

Like any app, this one is not perfect. It took me a while to understand how to skip the reviews to learn more words or how to see the list of words and expressions you’ve already learned. I’m also annoyed by the lack of a search function. I’d like to search for “noch” and see all the expressions it appeared in, eg. Additionally, I’ve noticed that some languages ​​don’t get the royal treatment like an English-German course – it has fewer local videos and no fun TikTok-style quizzes.

But luckily, the service is free for as long as you like, so you can test it out and see if the set of languages ​​you’re interested in offers everything you need. The pro subscription unlocks an offline mode, the option to review challenging words, and a few other extras; It’s a neat addition, but by no means necessary.

Have you used a free language learning app?

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But is Memrise enough to master a language?

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Rita El Khoury / Android body

Perfectionist aside, though, Memrise has totally taken over, which is why I’m writing this article and sharing my experience with you. The app is often overshadowed by its giant rival, but I think it deserves credit for its different approaches and fun approach.

But is this enough?

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

The ROI with Memrise is incredibly high, unlike Duolingo.

But if you are looking to quickly grasp the basics of the language either on a short trip or out of sheer curiosity, this is definitely your go-to app. The return on investment, i.e. the number of useful words and language concepts you learn in a short period of time, is incredibly high, leaving Duolingo in the dust.

second opinion: Do free language learning apps really work?

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