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.


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  1. Albert said on August 18, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the tip Martin.

    It is for these kinds of posts that I follow GHacks.

    1. Mike Williams said on August 26, 2023 at 8:55 pm

      What’s up with the generic comment, are you a bot?

  2. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:23 pm


    Where on the planet is that still in use? I was forced to give up using my RAZRV3 years ago because 2G was phased out by AT&T.

    1. arbuz said on August 20, 2023 at 5:02 pm

      Everywhere 3G has been turned off and you don’t have LTE coverage, and believe me there are many developed countries where this is the case and if it weren’t for 2G you wouldn’t even be able to make a phone call.

    2. Doc Fuddled said on August 31, 2023 at 5:55 pm

      Maybe I missed it, but I don’t believe tha term “2G” is in the article. Perhaps you are referring to “AGM G2”??

  3. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:27 pm


    Your website has gone insane.

    When I the post button I then saw my comment posted on a different article page. When I opened this article again, it is here.

    1. Martin P. said on August 31, 2023 at 4:39 pm

      @Tachy @Martin Brinkmann

      ” Your website has gone insane. ”

      Same here. Has happened several times.

      1. owl said on September 1, 2023 at 3:42 am

        @Martin P.,

        For over two weeks now,
        I’ve been seeing “Comments” posted by subscribers appearing in different, unrelated articles.
        For the time being,
        it would be better to specify the “article name and URL” at the beginning of the post.

  4. Anonymous said on August 18, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    @tachy a lot of non-phone devices with a sim in them rely on 2G, at least here in europe.
    Usually things reporting usage or errors/alarms on something remote that does not get day to day inspection in person. They are out there in vast numbers doing important work. Reliable, good range. The low datarate is no problem at all in those cases.
    3G is gone or on its last legs everywhere, but this stuff still has too much use to cancel.

    Anyhow, interesting that they would put that in. I can see the point if you suspect a hostile 2G environment (amateur eavesdroppers with laptop, ranging up to professional grade MITM fake towers while “strangely” not getting the stronger crypto voip 4G because it is being jammed, and back down to something as old ‘stingray’ devices fallen into the wrong hands).

    But does this also mean that they have handled and rolled out a fix for that nasty 4G ‘pwn by broadcast’ problem you reported earlier this year? I had 4G disabled due to that, on the off chance that some of the local criminals would buy some cheap chinese gear, download a working exploit and probe every phone in range all over town in the hope of getting into phones of the police.

  5. Andy Prough said on August 19, 2023 at 3:04 am

    >”While most may never be attacked in stingrays, it is still recommended to disable 2G cellular connections, especially since it does not have any downsides.”

    The downside would be losing connectivity. I spend a lot of time way out in the countryside where there’s often no service or almost none. My network allows 2G, and I need it sometimes. I have an option on the phone to disable 2G, I may do that when I’m in the city and I have good 5G connectivity, but not out in the country.

    I would imagine that the stingray exploits, like most of the bad things in this world, are probably things you will run into in the crowded big cities.

  6. owl said on August 21, 2023 at 3:40 am

    I stopped using it in a mobile (Wi-Fi line) environment, so I’m almost ignorant of the actual situation,
    But the recent reality in Japan makes me realize that “the infrastructure of the web is nothing more than a papier-mâché fiction”.

    It is already beyond the scope of what an individual can do.
    What we should be aware of is the reality that “governments and those in power want to control the world through the Web”, and efforts to counter (resist and prevent) such ambitions are necessary.

  7. Anonymous said on August 26, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    Why do you want people to disable the privacy features? Hmmmmm?

  8. Anonymous said on August 27, 2023 at 2:30 am

    Now You: do you plan to keep the Ads privacy features enabled?

    I’d like to tell you, but apparently if you make a post critical of Google, you get censored. * [Editor: removed, just try to bring your opinion across without attacking anyone]

  9. Tachy said on August 27, 2023 at 5:15 am


    You website is still psychotic. Comments attach to random stories.

  10. John G. said on August 28, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    @Martin please do fix the comments, it’s completely insane commenting here! :[

  11. ECJ said on August 28, 2023 at 5:37 pm


    The comments are seriously messed up on gHacks now. These comments are mixed with the article at the below URL.

    And comments on other articles are from as far back as 2010.

  12. Naimless said on August 29, 2023 at 12:57 am

    What does this article has anything to do with all the comments on this article? LOL I think this Websuite is ran by ChatGPT. every article is messed up. Some older comments from 2015 shown up in recant articles, LOL

  13. Paul Knight said on August 31, 2023 at 3:35 am

    The picture captioned “Clearing the Android Auto’s cache might resolve the issue” is from Apple Carplay ;)

  14. Anonymous said on August 31, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    How about other things that matter:
    Drop survival?
    Screen toughness?
    Degree of water and dust protection?

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