Can Memrise help you learn the basics of a language?

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 26, 2013
Updated • Jul 26, 2013
Google Android

I like languages, and one of the things that help me a lot when I'm learning a new language is to use applications or web services. Memrise is such a service that is available on the Internet and as an application. For this review, I'm only taking a look at the Memrise application for Android which is limited in comparison to the website. First, the app makes available a selection of courses only, so that you may need to visit the Memrise website to learn languages it does not support, or to access additional courses of languages that it makes available.

You can add courses to the app but need to run them first on the website, which feels a tad bit too complicated. On the positive side of things, course progress is synced between the website and the application.

Lets take German as an example. You can select to learn German using the basic German course the application makes available. The website on the other hand offers hundreds of courses, not all as extensive as the basic course though. Some are just quick vocabulary courses that cover specific topics of interest.

Before you can start to use the application you need to sign in with your Memrise account or create a new one instead. This is done quickly though and should not be too problematic considering that you do not have to verify the email address that you enter.

Once that is out of the way, you are taken to the course listing. Here you can select one of the available courses the app has to offer.

This includes basic courses to learn French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Mexican Spanish, Upper-Intermediate English, and how to learn a Chinese menu.

Each course consists of several classes or chapters that you work your way through. You get options to download the course to make it available offline, which is suggested to avoid slow downs or additional charges when you are using a mobile connection.

The basic idea of Memrise is to use animations and photos to help you memorize vocabulary, signs and letters. In addition to that, sound is used to read out aloud every sign, word or phrase that you are being taught by the application.

I have looked at the basic German course to get a good understanding of how the program works, and the basic Japanese course to see how it would go about teaching you basic Japanese as it requires you to memorize many different signs before you can even get started to read or understand words.

The courses usually start of by visualizing a couple of words, phrases or signs to you. You see two examples of how that is done on the screenshots at the top. The Japanese sign for instance is an animation, while the German Hallo offers five different photos and images.

Native speakers pronounce the word, phrase or sign for you so that you also hear how it is pronounced correctly.

After that, the phase to hammer the new signs, words or phrases into your memory begins. The app uses two main types of quizzes for that. First multiple choice, for instance by asking you to translate a word into the language you want to learn or the other way round, and second by writing using letters, or by constructing the translation from a selection of words.

What I particularly like about the Japanese course is that the memorization technique works really well. As you may know, there is no correlation between the Latin alphabet and Japanese signs, so that you have to memorize hundreds of "alien" signs over the course of your study.

The animations create memory hooks for you that help you do so. It works surprisingly well at that, especially since the app is putting a focus on tests.

If there is one thing to criticize, it is the relatively weak selection of courses that the app offers, and missing hints that you can get all courses that are available on the Memrise website on the application. To do so, simply start a course on the website, exit the app on the device and open it again. The course that you have just selected is now available on Android as well.

More pressing than this is the fact that you are not learning any Grammar, which some may like. This is however very limiting as you may have big issues hoping over to the next step: building your own sentences.


The Memrise application for Android is excellent for learning a language's basic vocabulary or signs. It can teach you enough to complete basic tasks, such as ordering wine at a bar, in that language.

If you are currently learning a language but have troubles memorizing its vocabulary, then you may want to give Memrise a try as it can really help you with that.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. jay said on July 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Too bad it ain’t available on ios :/

  2. Henry said on July 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I just tried the website and I must say, it’s awesome!

    It’s really fun to learn a new language. I began with the German course.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Sehr gut ;)

  3. lainiwaku said on July 26, 2013 at 11:37 am

    that’s look better than duolingo !!

  4. Cattleya said on July 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Nice find, thank you :)

  5. Froyton said on July 26, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Thanks for sharing! I also want to thank you for sharing Duolingo last month. I’ve since been using it to learn German (something I’ve been meaning to do for years) and the Android app is perfect for my hectic schedule. Memrise looks like it will be a perfect supplement to this.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.