Fantastically Addictive Vocab Learning Site – Memrise.Com

Wow – I’ve been absorbed the last week. Last Thursday night I visited a new site – It was a link from an article on learning mandarin. They have word lists which can be collaboratively edited and site users can add hints, sound, pictures, etc. You get points for correctly remembering words 20 for multiple choice, 50 for write in the blank answers. There’s a daily, weekly, and all time leaderboard and numerous word lists already there. I’ve tackled in this week 1413 words from spanish, french, italian, german, swedish, mandarin as well as the russian alphabet and greek alphabet, morse code and a few other various and sundry things.

Admittedly I have about a 5000-8000 word spanish vocabulary already, so I’ve only run across a few new words there, but this provides a nice way to review them. Site speed has been a problem at times, they’ve had a massive influx of traffic in the last week which is largely responsible for some sluggishness. I like the nice clean interface, when you start learning a word you are first introduced to it with it’s information card and any “mem”s or memory hints associated with it. Then, you’ll see multiple choice selections to identify the word. As you progress you move on to fill in the blank answers. If you lose one and miss it enough you move back to multiple choice.

There’s also the option to have pronunciation tested. (Typed in, but a good addition anyway.)

So why is it addictive? One, you have such easy access to so many word lists. Any user can create a list and so there’s a healthy selection to start with. Swedish and Mandarin were both random tangents “because they were there”. With mandarin I got swept in because it was much easier than I expected to identify many characters with the mem’s that were used to introduce them. Swedish, I’ve been interested in, but haven’t had a good resource for learning vocabulary. Having a pre-made list makes it easier to dip a toe in and learn your first 14 words of a language without a huge time commitment.

Why else is it addictive? Competition. The first night I worked on it I saw my numbers climb up the daily leaderboard and it egged me on towards doing more. Then as I saw my all time numbers climb I just had to keep trying to get one more step higher on the ladder so to speak. In one week I made it up to 26th all time on the site and have over 250 chinese characters under my belt (most with pronunciation) and I’ve picked up a few new words in spanish, french, italian and german. Probably more in french and italian then german and one or two new spanish words.

In one week I’ve accumulated 17 hours and 24 minutes on the site reviewing words…. so I’ve almost spent 1/7 of my time there. (I don’t know if that’s good or bad…) In some ways it has rekindled my interest in language learning. Right now I’m reading another book in spanish and quite frankly I’m getting a bit bored with it because the challenge has disappeared. I know most all of the words I read, what I don’t know I can get easily from context and this has made for a new challenge by quickly, easily and cheaply (it’s free site by the way) branching out into another language or two and expanding my vocabulary there.

Now, it hasn’t replaced mnemosyne, my desktop flashcard program. Mnemosyne is so very fast in comparison that I don’t expect to leave it anytime soon. After all I have a huge card database there of words that I collected through reading, listening, watching tv, etc. One downside of something like mnemosyne is that you grade your own memory of an item. With memrise you need to learn how to spell it (although they are forgiving with diacritics which means you don’t necessarily have to change your keyboard mapping – although for something like the russian alphabet it’s almost a necessity.)

All in all, this is a great new tool in my arsenal.

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