Servus! My name is Matthew and, in this article, I will be informing you about how the language-learning platform Memrise can help you on your journey in conquering the often intimidating German language.
As a former German learner myself, who now lives in Austria and communicates and works in German on a daily basis, I can attest to the power of Memrise in many aspects of the language learning process.
As with any review, the following article will include insights and critiques as a result of my learning style. However, in an effort to generalize the information as it pertains to the average learner, I will emphasize how Memrise can provide a service suitable to any learning style.
I will also provide ways in which Memrise can be used together with other language learning tools and strategies to bolster your language learning plan and supplement Memrise in areas where it is limited.
But first, I will briefly describe what Memrise is, what sorts of learners it’s intended for, and how it’s structured.
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- What is Memrise?
- Is Memrise Good for Learning German?
- Memrise German Courses
- How to Learn German with Memrise
- Pros and Cons
- Is Memrise Pro Worth It?
- Memrise Vs. Duolingo
- Additional Resources and Tips to Best Assist Memrise Learners
What is Memrise?
Founded in the United Kingdom in 2010, Memrise is a language learning platform that offers a variety of languages, including German, and is available on mobile (it’s optimized for mobile) and desktop.
The platform is powered by artificial intelligence and spaced repetition, which enhances users’ experience in reviewing and practicing the language.
Not only does it offer an optimal learning path with seven developer-curated courses (from the language levels of beginner, A1, to intermediate, B1), but it also comes with user-generated courses that increase the size and scope of the learning catalogue.
The large community of users also makes it greatly conducive to practice, interact, and ask questions with fellow learners or benevolent natives who are willing to help.
Is Memrise Good for Learning German?
Memrise is best for those who wish to learn German and who wish to have a semi-structured learning experience, which can also be adjusted to their learning style preferences.
Thanks to the lack of precise scheduling, the capacity to review on the go and the ability to learn more or less according to day-to-day or general availability, you can progress at your own pace no matter how busy your schedule gets.
With Memrise, there are no barriers to inhibit German learning — you can study for five minutes three times a day on the bus, or two hours every evening on the couch, and eventually succeed in reaching your goals.
Additionally, you would best benefit from Memrise if you thrive on independence and self-motivation and are not bothered by the lack of human interaction.
With no teacher to structure your schedule or provide you with tasks, and no native speakers interacting with you in a live environment, you must be comfortable with pushing yourself based on your own passion for the language.
This independence also offers the benefit of a more private language learning experience; for instance, you can review flash cards in your pyjamas from the comfort of your own bed.
Memrise German Courses
Memrise is structured in three main sections: learn, immerse, and communicate. This structure fosters an engaging learn-review-practice experience.
Whereas traditional textbooks or language learning websites might provide simply the material to learn and leave the reviewing and practice to yourself, Memrise actively provides an environment in which learning, reviewing, and practicing occur simultaneously.
There are hundreds, or even thousands, of German courses available in Memrise that can help those who’ve just started learning German as a beginner, to those intermediate learners who want to be fluent in the language.
In the Learn section, lessons are sorted by increasing difficulty, employing audio, video, and written learning material.
A recommended path is already curated by the Memrise developers, but you can choose any path you wish to proceed with, be it occasionally venturing outside of the recommended path to learn about football or Harry Potter vocabulary, or skipping sections you find boring or already know.
In the Immerse section, you will be presented with video content curated for your level.
It is indicated on the thumbnail for each video what percentage of vocabulary used in the video you have already learned, thanks to the storage bank of vocabulary you have already generated by taking lessons in Memrise.
The clips are accompanied by subtitle options (English, German, and an option to turn off subtitles altogether) and a vocabulary list.
In the Communicate section, Memrise employs AI (GPT-3) to generate a human-like dialogue with a chat-bot named MemBot. These dialogues are organized in thematic subjects, each beginning with a MemBot-prompted question or statement regarding the theme that you choose. For example, one dialogue is about “Sending a Parcel”.
The GPT-3 technology recognizes the text you provide, corrects it, and responds in a realistic manner. In fact, the realism is of such high quality that the bot can actually surpass the written competencies of a native speaker, essentially never making grammatical errors or factual errors.
The speech input possibility allows you to practice pronunciation.
Finally, Memrise employs a spaced repetition algorithm that can detect when you are struggling or excelling in certain areas and adapt the course reviews accordingly, in either increasing or decreasing frequency.
This can mean a frequency of a matter of seconds to minutes when you’re actively studying, to days or weeks when reviewing lessons you’ve already learned.
How to Learn German with Memrise
In this section, I will briefly describe the experience of how to learn German with Memrise, starting with creating an account and on to reviewing the quality of the introductory material.
The first step in the process involves signing up for the platform, which is completely free.
Of course, you can upgrade later, but the idea of a free “trial” is a good start.
This allows you to test the features and the platform itself before a potential upgrade, which I discuss later in the section about membership plans.
The account can be linked to Google, Facebook, or Apple account, or an email address.
After signing up, a very concise video summarizes the format of the platform. It’s under a minute and very informative.
Set Your Daily Goal
After the introductory video, you will be asked to select your daily goal.
Whereas a student who is learning a foreign language for the first time might wish to select the “standard” five new words per day option in order to gain confidence, an advanced learner who already recognizes the difficulty and intricacies of language learning and feels determined and ready to confront a more challenging task could choose the 10 or 15 new words option.
However, note that if you initially choose the five words option and wish to learn more on any given day, you can change the option at any time. It is simply a completion bar which will be filled if you reach your goal, and by doing so, create a streak out of how many days in a row you accomplish the goal.
The goal can also be modified at any time in the settings.
Learn Your First Lesson
Immediately after selecting the goal, the first lesson appears. As you can see in the photo below, I see and hear a native speaker pronouncing the word, I see the translation in my native language, and I am prompted with the ability to continue or say, “I already know this”.
The latter is very important for two reasons.
The first reason is the ability for the system to recognize your level and optimally curate your learning material.
This means you can start as a complete beginner, someone who already took one semester of German, or someone who previously learned German and wishes to continue, and recalls some of the basics.
The second reason is to give the learner alternative learning options besides Memrise (for example, conversations with native speakers, vocabulary lists, etc.) without having to waste time re-taking lessons that were already taken in Memrise.
Continue Your Lesson
After the first lesson, you will be brought to the home screen where you can decide to continue learning, choose a random lesson, immerse, or communicate.
From there, the day-to-day usage of the app will be similar. You can choose between the options to study, review, or practice as you wish.
Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick look into pros and cons of using Memrise.
There are many pros of using Memrise to learn German.
Effective Learning Methods
While Memrise does not offer live lessons with teachers, the platform is just about as dynamic and engaging as an independent learning platform can be.
Memrise excels in its offering of video material, multiple response types (answering in German or the native language, typing, selecting words in the correct order, speaking, and more), the ability to mark words or expressions as difficult or “already know”, and both developer- and user-created lessons.
Memrise generates its reviews with the power of a spaced repetition algorithm, and each day you will be prompted to review words and phrases that you have already learned in the “Practice” subsection of the “Learn” tab.
The longer you use Memrise and the more words you learn, the system will build and maintain a log of your learnings and generate more and more reviews (both in quantity and in variety) each day based on your goals and your frequency of correct or incorrect responses.
Huge Learning Lessons
The large number of topics clearly organized in categories provides a tremendous catalogue of learning material which will cover all the essentials of German learning, whether that be for tourism goals or even basic working proficiency.
The user-generated lessons are a huge plus. The Memrise community is massive, as is the German-language community, and this results in an overall massive quantity of user-generated material.
You can search through the material and find myriad, often highly specific subjects.
And if a course doesn’t exist, you can create it yourself!
Great Learning Community
In addition, a community of users consisting of both learners and native speakers will be at your disposal by simply creating a post where you can ask questions and get answers.
Here is an example of a user who posts a question and gets an answer on the same day the question was posted.
The quantity and variety of conversations about realistic themes within the Communicate section has numerous benefits.
One benefit is the ease of finding a conversation-starter and not having to think of what to talk about.
Another benefit is the naturalness and relevance (to your experiences) of these conversations. Participating in these communities not only prepares you for real-life scenarios but also makes you realize where you might be lacking in terms of vocabulary.
For example, if I begin the conversation about ordering food in the restaurant and suddenly notice that I can’t express myself with my limited vocabulary, I can search for a course to learn more restaurant-related vocabulary and return later on to speak to MemBot.
The Level of Engagement and Entertainment
This aspect of the platform is a huge differentiating factor for me. The learning material and exercises are simply quite fun.
The actors in the videos are lively, funny, and passionate. The videos’ contents are interesting and entertaining.
The activities in the Communicate section are engaging and flexible in terms of what direction you want to take the conversation.
To engage learners even further, Memrise offers vocabulary lists in every video (accessible at any time and automatically integrated into your daily reviews), subtitles in both German and the language which you’re learning German from (which can be turned on or off), and pronunciation- and text-corrections in the communicate chats.
The high level of engagement and entertainment that Memrise provides serves as a strong motivating factor for learners, encouraging them to return to the platform with enthusiasm for continuous learning and review.
Speed of Learning
Memrise provides a platform that allows you to seamlessly immerse yourself in learning without wasting time searching for appropriate learning material or dealing with technical delays, such as finding photos for flashcards. Additionally, you can put aside concerns about optimal study plans as Memrise takes care of that for you.
Additionally, because you can browse the course material before beginning a course, or review the video vocabulary before viewing the video, you can quickly assess if the content you’re about to learn is suitable for you.
Unlike the time-consuming and less dynamic process of creating flashcards manually, which may contain errors and perpetuate false learning, Memrise offers instant and 100% accurate generation of reviews based on the material you learn. This eliminates the need for manual flashcard creation and ensures reliable learning without any inaccuracies.
This way, you spend more time learning and less time inputting. For example, when encountering a word like “hund” (dog) in a beginner course, instead of having to find an image of a dog and potentially making spelling or gender identification errors when creating a digital flashcard, Memrise automatically generates the flashcard for your daily reviews as soon as you encounter the word for the first time. This eliminates the need for manual card creation and ensures a seamless learning experience.
The videos in the Immerse section are short and easily selectable, providing the perfect bite-sized lesson for someone on the go or for someone who loses focus quickly and needs multiple shorter videos instead of a series of long videos.
Let’s take a look at some cons of using Memrise.
Lack of Conversation Practice
Memrise will provide you with plenty of practice for listening, viewing, reading, and writing. However, the lack of human interaction on the platform is a major downside.
While Memrise offers a dynamic interaction with MemBot and realistic text and videos, this form of interaction can be pretty limiting. You’ll need to put into practice what you’ve learned, whether it be with teachers, tutors, other learners, or native speakers.
If you want to learn with a German teacher, it’s better to use Lingoda instead.
Lack of Grammar Explanations
One of the most frequently cited difficulties in learning German is the grammar, which for speakers of many other Western languages feels very backwards.
While grammar lessons and explanations can be found within Memrise’s learning materials, learning the German language’s complicated grammar structure isn’t suitable for a language learning environment where interactions with other humans are limited.
For learning German grammar, a classroom or private lesson setting is more suitable as it provides opportunities to ask questions, receive immediate corrections along with explanations, and hear various examples, with the possibility of requesting more specific ones.
This is a common drawback found in all language learning platforms: the inability to learn the precise words you need within your own unique context.
For example, if you plan to move to Villach, Austria for one year to work as a hotel receptionist, Memrise can’t provide you with the language learning courses that will be useful in this specific situation.
In addition to needing vocabulary specific to your work, you will also require regional vocabulary since German is known for having the most diverse range of dialects and regional differences among all European languages.
But perhaps I’m nitpicking. After all, these aren’t necessarily major cons but standard limitations. Ultimately, you must recognize your own need to seek other learning materials and tools on top of using Memrise to learn German.
Potential for Error in User-generated Content
While user-generated content can greatly enhance the vocabulary learning opportunities on the platform and provide a means for asking questions and receiving answers in forums, it’s important to note that there is no guarantee that users won’t make errors.
And while the Memrise courses are created by professionals, user courses can be made by anyone.
The blind shouldn’t lead the blind, and although users create their content with good intentions, the Memrise team cannot guarantee the quality of user-generated content. So, if you are studying a user-generated course about “The Lord of the Rings”, just be aware of the possibility for errors.
Memrise only offers one membership level, namely Memrise Pro, which can be paid in monthly ($14.99 USD) or yearly ($89.99 USD) installments.
Alternatively, a lifetime membership can be purchased via a one-time payment of $199.99 USD.
With Memrise Pro, you can learn an unlimited amount of languages, unlock all lessons and videos, and remove ads.
The free version is quite extensive and provides plenty of material for beginners to assess both their desire to continue learning German in general, and their desire to continue learning German by upgrading to Memrise Pro.
In addition, Memrise Pro has a 30-day money-back guarantee. Note that there are specifications based on iOS, payment installment plan, etc., so make sure to check out Memrise’s FAQ for more details.
Is Memrise Pro Worth It?
As far as language learning apps are concerned, Memrise is at the top in terms of quality.
The review system and the speed at which a new lesson can be undertaken provides a learning experience in which you can spontaneously begin learning or reviewing within a matter of seconds — simply turn on your phone or computer, open the app, and click ‘review’ or click on a new lesson.
Whether you lead an active, on-the-go lifestyle, enjoy learning before bedtime out of curiosity, or seek to replace social media scrolling during lunch with German learning, Memrise’s format is tailored to accommodate your lifestyle and meet your needs.
Memrise offers the flexibility to start learning German at any stage, thanks to its easy initiation process and the quick assessment of your level.
The pricing of Memrise’s pro plan is fairly reasonable considering the substantial amount of material provided. Additionally, the company’s continuous growth and extensive user base ensure that your investment is worthwhile.
Overall, if you are a beginner, upper-beginner, or lower-intermediate learner seeking a step-by-step but time-flexible approach to mastering German, Memrise is an ideal choice for you.
This link will take you to Memrise so you can start learning German pronto.
However, if you have already reached the upper-intermediate level, I don’t think you will find enough challenging content in Memrise’s curated lessons, videos, and MemBot activities to further advance your proficiency. User-submitted content might still be interesting, but in my opinion, Memrise’s effectiveness is limited to the mid-intermediate level.
Beyond that level, you would be better off seeking other forms of practice.
Memrise Vs. Duolingo
While an app like Duolingo might be more popular due to its user-friendly interface, cute leveling system, and almost social-media-like scoreboard and sharing system, Memrise offers a much more comprehensive learning experience.
It provides expertly curated and user-submitted learning materials, incorporating multifaceted multimedia such as videos, texts, audios, and bot-powered communication.
- The Complete Guide to Learning German Online and Available Courses
- An In-Depth GermanPod101 Review: Is it Good?
Additional Resources and Tips to Best Assist Memrise Learners
In this section, I will discuss the additional resources you should consider incorporating into your German learning journey. These alternative resources can complement the materials found in Memrise, helping you enhance your learning experience and progress more efficiently.
iTalki is an online tutoring platform with over 650 German teachers (professionally certified) and tutors (fluent, non-certified speakers) that offer affordable prices and 24-hour availability.
If you use Memrise regularly during the week and have more time on the weekends, engaging with a native speaker is an ideal option to put your knowledge into practice and interact with someone who speaks the language fluently.
Reddit is an online forum where users can interact anonymously about any topic. These topics are broken down into sub-forums called “subreddits”, which provide a central hub for all discussions about a topic.
German learners can benefit from subreddits for general language learning techniques, language exchanges, German learning, and German-speaking communities (for language and cultural immersion).
I will list a few key subreddits below and briefly describe how you can use them to assist in your German learning with Memrise.
This is a fantastic method to find a language exchange partner, as you can specify your native language and the language in which you wish to practice, and you are sure to find someone who fits the criteria. For example, if your native language is English and you want to practice German, German natives who wish to practice English will respond to you.
Once you get past the beginning stages of Memrise, it’s advisable to begin conversing as soon as possible, even if it feels embarrassing and hopeless at first. You have to start from somewhere.
Like r/languagelearning, this subreddit has an extensive catalogue of resources for learning German. Additionally, you can ask any question about the German language here, and both learners and natives will respond. This community is quite welcoming and active.
Memrise users who can’t find the more detailed explanations or answers to unclear concepts presented on the platform can turn to this subreddit for more clarity.
r/germany, r/Austria, r/Berlin, r/Wien, r/de
These are examples of region-specific German-language subreddits where you can not only practice reading and writing in German but also learn more about the culture. It’s a great way to immerse without physically being in a German-speaking region of the world.
Wiktionary is a fantastic open-source dictionary with user-submitted (and reviewed) definitions, conjugations, declensions, synonyms, antonyms, and example sentences.
I highly recommend using a German-language dictionary as opposed to translation dictionaries whenever possible.
If you’re reviewing vocabulary on Memrise and want more detail about a certain word, looking it up here will provide you with more than enough information to solidify and expand your knowledge with regards to that word.
Reverso is a powerful translation dictionary which shows words in the context of a sentence. Memrise already provides you with context, but if you’re looking for even more context, here is a great solution.
If a translator is necessary, Deepl is often cited as the most powerful, surpassing the quality of Google Translate, Yandex Translate, and other popular online translators. If you’re simply stuck during a conversation with MemBot, or wishing to quickly understand a sentence you saw on r/Wien, Deepl will suffice.
Video and Audio Media
When you’re ready to challenge yourself to more advanced learning or native content (or simply seek viewing and listening challenges outside of Memrise’s platform), there are numerous free solutions available.
YouTube is a fantastic resource for both learning-specific channels (e.g., Learn German with Anja, Learn German, Easy German) and channels targeting native speakers (e.g., Galileo, MrWissen2go).
For more engaging video content, Twitch is a platform in which you can watch streamers play video games or just chat, and most often the streamers are actively involved in communicating with the viewers via the in-stream chat box.
If you prefer auditory learning techniques due to your busy lifestyle, you can turn to podcasts and audiobooks.
Podcasts are a huge area of business and entertainment in the German-speaking world, allowing endless possibilities to practice your listening comprehension skills while enjoying your favorite subjects.
For example, a dog-lover might try “Hundegeflüster – Der Podcast für Menschen mit Hund”, or a scary-story nut might go for “Geschichten aus dem Altbau”. Audiobooks are also immensely popular (e.g., Harry Potter translated in German) and are available via popular audiobook providers like Audible, websites of local libraries, or public domain.
As you can see, you can easily supplement your Memrise learning with any material to best suit your interests and lifestyle.