Just the other day I did a review on Duolingo’s Japanese course for the phone. But they are certainly not the first people to release a Japanese course through a mobile app. There are quite a few others, for example there is the Memrise app. But is Memrise for Japanese any good? I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and I’ve got some feelings on it.
But you know, I feel kind of bad for people who have had to learn Japanese anytime over ten years ago. It must have been a lot harder than it is today! Think about how much technology all of us have at our fingertips that we can use to learn Japanese. Things like YouTube, podcasts, mobile apps, websites, and so on.
On top of that, a large amount of it is totally free! Now, that doesn’t mean that you can become fluent in Japanese by only using the trial versions of products, but it does mean that anyone can get started and make progress with the language on a low budget.
If you take those two things into consideration, today’s technology and the free version of Japanese language courses, you can come up with a list of tools that you can use. And one of them is definitely Memrise. Let me tell you why.
How Does Memrise Teach Japanese?
The slogan on Memrise’s website is “Learning, made joyful”
I think that gives you a pretty idea of their method. They want to make learning a language fun for you, which I think is great. In fact, you can learn over 200 languages with them (holy crap!) and there are multiple courses within each language.
Memrise uses a scientific approach to encoding. That is, they use some pretty sophisticated methods to get the new information into your brain’s long term memory. This is accomplished by presenting the same information to you, through the use of a few different techniques.
On one screen you might hear the new word and have to select it from four different choices. On a different screen you might see the same word written in Hiragana and have to identify it based off of that visual information. Other times you have to do a little translation work and spell it. Like I said, there’s a lot of variety!
There are actually quite a few different ways that they test you while you are learning so that you interact with the new information a lot, and in many ways.
Bottom line: You are going to spend a lot of time learning each new word and phrase.
This is kind of similar to Pimsleur’s philosophy of language learning. You will have a limited vocabulary, but it will be locked in and ready for you to use at a moment’s notice.
I personally think that this is a great approach for people who are just starting off with Japanese, as too much information at the beginning can be detrimental to learning. But once a student is at the intermediate or advanced level, they don’t need as much repetition to learn new material since their brain is used to learning new Japanese words and phrases. At this point, the method can turn from helpful, to slow/boring.
In addition to their encoding methods, they also incorporate a Spaced Repitition System for reviewing words. That means that the system remembers the words that you’ve had more trouble remembering and makes you try them again more often than the ones that were easy for you.
It’s kind of like having a tutor who makes custom review sessions specifically tailored for you each day. It’s nice!
Memrise also makes leaning Japanese a fun game! You can earn experience points by progressing through the courses, gain levels so that you can compare your stats to other people, and work on maintaining a daily or weekly learning streak.
This is especially great if you’re learning with a group (like in a class) or with some friends as you can be held accountable for your studies with Japanese. I mean, who doesn’t like to see their names at the top of the leader boards, right?
It’s also a lot easier for the human mind to absorb new information when it’s in a relaxed and curious state. So it’s great that Memrise incorporates those facts into it’s approach to teaching.
What I Think of Memrise Japanese
When I first tried it out on the phone (I haven’t use the web version) I started with the first main course that Memrise offers. It starts off by teaching you to read Hiragana and a few words like “hello” in Japanese.
I have to say that the level of repetition made it kind of slow for me, but if you are brand new then it’s probably for the best.
Memrise is free, but there is a premium version that you can pay for to unlock additional features. Every now and then you get a sneak peek at these features to see if you would like full access to them. Things like listening to natives speak Japanese (with video), personalized audio reviews, and some others.
From what I saw, I didn’t really think it was necessary to go full premium as the free version gave enough information to learn and any of the additional stuff that you had to pay for was more like a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.” But I think that just shows how great Memrise is, since they are willing to help out people who can’t spend a lot of money learning a new language.
What I actually think is really cool is that in addition to the main courses that are created by the company, there are user created courses too! Some of them are theme based like information from the Genki grammar books, JLPT levels, etc. and others are just a lot of vocabulary.
Probably my favorite user creased course is Anime Japanese for Beginners. Someone took the time to create a course for people who are interested in learning Japanese by using anime. It’s not extensive by any means, but like the name says it is great for people just starting out.
If you are trying to learn Japanese by watching anime, then this particular course is a MUST HAVE for you!
All in all, I think that Memrise is an awesome resource for people to use in order to learn Japanese. Check it out sometime to see if you like the methods it uses for learning Japanese.
So if you’d like to try out Memrise for Japanese yourself, then all you have to do is check it out by clicking the link below:
I don’t really know how far Memrise can take you on your journey to fluency as I haven’t gone through all of it myself. And while I really like the way it teaches, I think that once you get to an intermediate level or higher, there are actaully some other ways that are better, and faster that you can use.
Other than that, I think it’s time to hand the discussion over to you!
Have you used Memrise to learn a language before? What are your thoughts on how they teach? Let me know with a comment below!