Memrise Review: Great for vocab, not for grammar

Updated: August 12, 2022
Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm

Memrise is one of the biggest names in the language-learning arena. But, does its popularity speak to the quality of the programme, and should you use it for your language learning needs? Our Memrise review will walk you through all that the platform has to offer, its pros, cons and alternatives, so you can decide for yourself.

Our Verdict

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Much like a glorified flashcards app, Memrise is extremely helpful when it comes to learning vocabulary and phrases through repetition. Lots of its content is also free, which is why it's definitely worth trying out.

There's no doubt that Memrise is a useful supplementary tool for language learning. But will it ever get you fluent in a language? Not even close.

TL;DR Memrise Review

In case you want the quick pros and cons of Memrise, here's a list.

PROS

  • Lots of free content available.
  • Huge amount of language content from both Memrise itself and a community of users.
  • Useful for memorsing vocabulary and phrases quickly.
  • Game-like elements make learning much more fun.
  • More than 22 languages to choose form.

CONS

  • Not ideal for learning grammar or language structure.
  • Needs to be used as a supplementary course with other platforms.
  • Limited access on desktop.
  • Games and exercises can get repetitve.

What is Memrise?

Memrise is a language learning app that aims to take the rote-memorisation technique, otherwise known as the repetition technique, found in traditional language classrooms and turn it into something fun and engaging. Founded in 2010, the app has evolved from humble beginnings and now boasts over 50 million users. Its main selling point is that there are hundreds of lessons both official from the Memrise team, as well as those created by its user base to connect learners with native speakers all around the globe. 

What Can You Do On Memrise?

Memrise focuses on four core types of lessons: Learn, Review, Immerse, and Communicate. Though similar in their design, each type of lesson has a specific goal in which to help you learn and retain your target language. 

Upon login, you will immediately see your dashboard. You can use the dashboard to easily navigate between courses, monitor your progress, and access the next lesson in your target language. 

Memrise uses a points system to track your progress both individually and comparatively against other users progressing through the same language. You will be able to set daily goals for yourself based on the amount of time you want to spend on lessons each day. 

Learn: Introducing New Vocabulary 

This is the core of your new lesson plan. Each lesson will introduce a handful of new words and phrases, giving you the word itself, the English translation, and a literal translation. These new vocabulary options will have a computerised voice in male and female to let you hear how the word is pronounced. 

Following that, you will progress through a handful of different activities to reinforce the new vocabulary or grammar point. You’ll learn a new grammar point about every other lesson, though Memrise takes a very hands-off approach in terms of learning grammar. To quote their own material, “learning grammar too early slows progress.” 

A unique feature of Memrise’s content is that, in addition to the computerised narration, lessons also include video clips of various native speakers in order to expose learners to different accents. 

Review: Retain What You’ve Learnt

This part of the lesson offers more options to help you retain what you’ve already learned. In addition to the exercises available in the Learn section, there are speed tests to drill yourself with, as well as a special section dedicated to the words you’ve struggled with in earlier lessons. These words are determined by Memrise’s adaptive engine, designed to achieve that crucial long-term retention. 

Immerse: Learn With Native Speakers

Fundamentally the same as the review portion, the Immersion feature of Memrise simply drops the computerised narration and gives you a wider selection of native speakers to learn from. 

The Immersion feature is broken down into two activities: one that features video to clue you in to the words or phrases based on body language, and one that is a listening-only lesson designed to encourage comprehension. 

Communicate: Practice Your Pronunciation

This is the feature in which Memrise encourages its students to speak aloud. One exercise allows the learner to test their pronunciation. The other exercise challenges you to lip-sync to the videos of the native speakers.

The only downside to this feature is its simplicity. Rather than tell you exactly how good or bad the pronunciation is, it simply tells you whether it’s close enough to pass, or if you need to try again. 

Of course, the thing that Memrise encourages you to do is speak aloud at all, even if it’s not entirely accurate. Getting comfortable hearing yourself speak in another language is one of Memrise’s key goals. 

What's Included in Memrise Pro?

When you pay to access Memrise Pro, you'll unlock a number of new features to help you on your language learning journey. While these aren't essential, they can elevate your learning experience when you use them. These features include a difficult words feature, in-depth learning statistics and full access to all of the Memrise courses.

The difficult words feature groups words that you're struggling to remember. You can then choose to study just these ‘difficult words' rather than going through your whole flashcard set.

The learning statistics in Memrise Pro are much more detailed and work as an effective motivational tool.

What Does Memrise Look Like?

Although Memrise is available on both desktop and smartphone, its interface is optimized for use on a smartphone to the extent that certain features are unavailable on the desktop version of the app. 

That being said, both the desktop and the mobile app are intuitively designed for easy navigation. The fast-paced learning modules make it a breeze to work through the lessons, and the dashboard contains all of the information you need to track your progress.

Who Is Memrise Best For?

 Regardless of where you stand in your language journey, Memrise has a lesson fit for you. When you create an account with Memrise, and choose your target language, you’ll be prompted to choose your level. Here you can opt to start from scratch or start from a more advanced level.

What Languages Can You Learn On Memrise?

Officially, Memrise offers 22 different languages with official courses on its platform.

  • French
  • German 
  • Spanish (Spain or Mexico) 
  • Arabic 
  • Korean 
  • Japanese (with or without script) 
  • Portuguese (Portugal or Brazil) 
  • Simplified Mandarin 
  • Dutch 
  • Italian 
  • Russian 
  • Norwegian
  • Polish 
  • Danish 
  • Icelandic 
  • Mongolian 
  • Slovenian
  • Yoruba
  • Swedish 

That said, Memrise also offers courses created by its user base, opening up the language options considerably. 

How Much Does Memrise Cost?

The free version of Memrise gives you access to a huge amount of features and material. However, if you want to unlock all of the extra features, you'll need to go pro.

Depending on your budget, Memrise has a number of different payment options. You could choose the $8.99 monthly subscription, or pay a one-time fee of $139.99 for lifetime access to all of the content Memrise has to offer. 

It’s not unusual for the platform to run a sale on its annual subscription. On some occasions, this has halved the price of the subscription making the annual fee $3.75 per month, or about $45 per year. While admittedly steep, the cost of lifetime access is less than half of the other programmes available on the market and may save you money in the long run.

You can try any of the languages for free, but several of its key features are locked behind the subscription, and there is a limit to how many of the lessons you can take before it asks you to pay the premium. 

What Are The Pros and Cons of Memrise?

Pros

  • Huge amount of courses between the official Memrise courses and the user-created ones
  • Video and audio of a variety of real native speakers to expose you to different accents
  • Fast-paced reinforcement helps keep vocabulary fun and interesting
  • Adaptive engine determines which words and phrases you need more help with

Cons:

  • Certain functions aren’t available on the desktop version
  • Encourages memorising words and phrases over grammar and sentence construction
  • Exercises can feel repetitive after a while

Are There Any Alternatives to Memrise?

Memrise vs Duolingo

DuoLingo offers learners very similar learning methods to Memrise, with interactive exercises and a primary focus on vocabulary over grammar. Unlike Memrise, DuoLingo’s content is completely free, with the paid option simply removing ad content. Our review goes more into the pros and cons of DuoLingo.

Memrise vs Rosetta Stone 

Following that, Rosetta Stone is a more expensive but much more immersive option, as it uses only the target language in its lessons. Both programmes use a methodical approach to language learning; you can learn more about Rosetta Stone in our review of the software.

A Round-Up of Our Memrise Review

With its fast-paced content and plethora of courses, Memrise is a great stepping stone to expose yourself to a language. Its unique offering of native speakers allows you to hear what the language actually sounds like rather than just a computerised rendition of it.

While some people may prefer the app on their smartphones, others may feel disappointed by the restricted options on the desktop version of Memrise. Additionally, the lessons tend toward encouraging memorising words and phrases over learning how to actually form your own sentences. 

Memrise is best used as a supplementary tool with another programme. For that reason, we’d probably recommend looking into Babbel or Pimsleur if you’re looking to gain full mastery of a language. 

Ori Starling

Ori Starling is a writer, editor, and translator based out of the United States. Their interest in languages began over 25 years ago, teaching themselves Spanish at a young age from tapes so that they could speak with family. Since then, they've studied Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese, with plans to continue their lifelong language learning journey.