Memrise or Duolingo: which is better for language learning?

Martin Brinkmann
May 23, 2017
Updated • Nov 18, 2019
Mobile Computing

Memrise and Duolingo are two language learning services that are both free to use, and available for various platforms including Android and iOS.

If you want to learn a language, one option that you have is to use an application for that. Apps offer several advantages over language cassettes, tapes, CDs or books. Probably the most important ones are that they are interactive, that you can take them with you wherever you go, and that you can learn different languages using them usually.

But if you want to use an application, which should you choose? Two popular choices are Memrise and Duolingo.

We start with a review of both services individually, and compare the features and functionality of them afterwards.


Duolingo supports 23 languages currently, among them French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. The service supports several instruction languages, but not all supported languages are usually available.

German speakers may only learn English, Spanish and French for instance, while English speakers have access to all target languages supported by Duolingo.

You may set a goal during account creation which ranges from casual to insane. These are not difficult to reach, and should not take longer than 30 minutes a day even on the insane level.

Duolingo uses a progress based system that is based on topics. You unlock new topics, phrases, food, or possession, as you progress and complete previous topics.

Most topics are made up of multiple lessons, and a training part in the end. You need to finish all lessons to complete a topic, and may run the training part at any time.

Lessons mix various methods, for instance translations from and to the language you are learning, multiple choice questions, listening and speaking exercises, or matching pairs.

The app focuses heavily on words and the translation of phrases or sentences. All words and phrases of the language that you are learning are spoken, so that you get to know the pronunciation as well while you learn.

One downside of using Duolingo is that its focus on words, phrases and sentences ignores grammar for the most part. While you pick up some while you learn, for instance the use of articles, plural, declension, or tenses, it is not as easy as learning those in groups.

Another downside is that some of the sentences that you translate don't make a whole lot of sense, and that you will never use others ("Yes, the cat eats ducks", "I'm a duck. I speak English", or "Yes, we are cats".) You are bombarded by ads after every lesson on top of that.



Memrise supports over one hundred languages, and even other topics that you may learn. Among the popular languages are the same that you may learn using Duolingo, but also others such as Japanese (coming soon to Duolingo), regional languages, e.g. Spanish (Mexico), or Arabic.

Memrise focuses heavily on learning words and phrases. Lessons begin usually with a couple of new words or phrases. These are pronounced, translated, and you may add your own "mem" to them to better memorize the word or phrase.

The app uses multiple choice, translations that you type, or understanding what native speakers say.  One strong feature of Memrise is that it ships with native speaker videos. This means that you will listen to a wide variety of native speakers while you learn the language.

Free users gain access to three of the six different language learning modules, while pro users access to all six of them.

The three free modules are "learn new words",  "classic review" and "speed review". You learn new words in the first, strengthen already learned words and phrases in the second, and play a game of "quick answer" in the third.

Memrise pushes its Pro service as much as Duolingo pushes its.

Which should you pick? Duolingo or Memrise?

The answer to the question may surprise you. First of all, it depends on the language that you want to learn. Duolingo does not support as many languages as Memrise so that you are left with Memrise as the only option in those cases.

If both support the language, I'd suggest you use them both. The benefit of doing so is that you are exposed to different learning methods, pronunciations, and systems.

Memrise focuses a bit more on words and phrases, while you learn that and sentences when you use Duolingo.

If you are in a hurry, you are probably making faster progress when you are using Memrise, as you learn conversational skills in the beginning for the most part. Both are not super useful when it comes to grammar though.

As far as pro versions are concerned: you can get a Memrise Pro subscription for €23.50 per year, or a lifetime payment, and Duolingo Plus for €10.99 per month. Both paid versions support offline access to the app, and an ad-free environment. Memrise adds access to the Pro only learning modules which improve the app significantly.

Now You: do you use apps to learn languages? If so which and why?


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Memrise or Duolingo: which is better for language learning?
Article Name
Memrise or Duolingo: which is better for language learning?
Memrise and Duolingo are two language learning services that are both free to use, and available for various platforms including Android and iOS.
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