Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I grew up a trilingual person, speaking Arabic natively, French almost natively, and English since I was eight years old. I was quite happy with this versatile knowledge until I met my husband and he started teaching me some basic Spanish as well. I spent a few months analyzing Spanish organically — it’s relatively easy if you already speak French and someone explains the basic rules to you. Then I graduated from Duolingo to (supposedly) take my language learning to the next level. I’ve tried the app after trial, but the end result is unequivocal: Duolingo doesn’t work for me. So I moved my language learning to Memrise and I have nothing but good things to say about it.

Why Duolingo Methods Failed Me

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Duolingo’s boring and pointless repetitions annoyed me. I swear I learned that “mujer” means woman. Duolingo doesn’t care. The gamification-centric system wants me to come back every day and repeat the same exercises over and over again until I reach a new level. Only then can I unlock more lessons.

Read more: Gamification has taken away the fun of exercise and learning

Duolingo’s learning path is also geared towards useless phrases that I will never use. Things like “the cats drink milk” or “the monkey eats an apple”. When will I say that? (It should be noted that I’ve only tried a few Duolingo courses, namely French-Spanish, English-Spanish, English-German, and French-Italian, so things may be different with other language combinations.)

Duolingo was determined to teach me useless phrases about cats and apples.

Despite the boredom and lack of motivation I felt, I kept coming back to Duolingo and trying my best. I failed several times. Until I decided to see what other language learning apps were available.

Memrise’s approach to language learning is different

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Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

After a few hiccups, I landed on Memorize watching an English-German lesson while shrugging and thinking, “Well, how bad could that be?”

Not bad. No way. In fact, surprisingly excellent. After 10 minutes I had learned a few words and was watching a video trying to choose those words in the middle of a conversation. The next day, I came back for a second session, then the day after, and the one after.

In less than a week, I had a very basic understanding of the German language.

In less than a week and with just 15-20 minutes a day, I had a (very) general understanding of the German language — something I’ve never felt after countless, countless hours on Duolingo. I still use Memrise now and almost finished the first German course. I also started to learn some Italian, because why not.

The first thing I noticed about Memrise was the “I already know this” button when introducing new words. Tap it and the app will consider it a known word and ignore it (unless you’re reviewing). Plus, at any time, you can mark words as known or difficult, then choose to review learned words or continue learning new ones, progressing at your own pace. No more unnecessary repetitions.

To combat boredom, Memrise uses less repetition, local videos, adaptable learning, and multiple quiz methods.

The second thing that struck me is how Memrise teaches you words and phrases. It uses matching games, writing challenges and pronunciation tests. The best bits are the short videos of the locals speaking words in addition to the text-to-speech voice, and boy is there a difference between the two. Residents speak faster, softer, and skip or mix up certain letters, while robotic pronunciation is slower and more articulate. I learn how German is really spoken, which is infinitely more helpful in trying to understand a real human being.

Memrise also provides a literal word-for-word translation for each phrase. For example, many of us know that “Gesundheit” means “bless you”, but did you know that the literal translation is “health?” Literally, “es ist leider nichts mehr frei” translates to “unfortunately it’s not more free” but is used to indicate that a place is full. Take your time to check these literal translations while learning expressions and you will quickly expand your vocabulary and grammar without realizing it.

More options: The Best German Learning Apps for Android

Even better, the lessons first focus on tourist phrases such as “what’s the Wi-Fi password” and “where are you from?” instead of ducks eating apples. There are also grammar rules and lessons, which helped me understand sentence structure early on, instead of guessing over time.

The extra feature that sets it apart

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The one feature that made me fall in love with Memrise is the immersive video section. It’s unfortunately not available for all languages, but when it is, it makes all the difference. In it, you watch short 10-15 second TikTok-style videos where locals have a fake conversation with themselves (but dressed differently). It’s a bit difficult to explain, but amateur play, props and situations; everything is cute and funny. You’re not supposed to understand everything, but you’re supposed to understand if a character should go left or right, if they like sushi or pizza, if they’re local or from the United States, etc

Memrise’s super fun TikTok-style immersion videos increased my confidence in the words I had learned.

The app relies on your understanding of context and your ability to remember words you’ve already learned. And it works wonderfully. From the first video, I was able to grasp the situation and respond correctly even though I only knew a few words at the time.

As I said, this immersion mode is available from English to German, but I haven’t seen it in a few other courses. It’s a shame because it really makes the app infinitely more fun and useful.

After a month, I traveled to Berlin and was amazed at how much German I could understand.

After less than a month with Memrise for 10-15 minutes a day, I traveled to Berlin and was amazed at how well I understood the surrounding German. I wasn’t fluent in the language, obviously, but I could pick up the general meaning of conversations, announcements, and advertisements everywhere around me. Last year I went to Cologne and didn’t hear a single word except “bitte” and “guten morgen”, so I can fully credit Memrise for all this improvement.

Our choices : The best language learning apps on Android

Some missing features

Like any app, however, this one isn’t perfect. It took me a while to figure out how to skip review to learn more words or how to see the list of words and phrases I’ve already learned. I’m also annoyed by the lack of a search function. I would like to search for “noch” and see all the expressions in which it appears, for example. Also, I’ve noticed that some languages ​​don’t get the royal treatment like the English-German course does – they have fewer local videos and no fun TikTok-style quizzes.

But, luckily, the service is free for as long as you want, so you can test it out and see if the language combination you’re interested in offers everything you need. A pro subscription unlocks an offline mode, the ability to revise difficult words, and a few other extras; it’s a neat addition, but by no means essential.

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But is Memrise enough to master a language?

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Perfection aside, however, Memorize completely won me over, which is why I am writing this article and sharing my experience with you. The app is often overshadowed by its gigantic competitor, but I think it deserves credit for its different methods and fun approach.

But is it enough?

Honestly, if you’re serious about a language, I don’t think Memrise is good enough on its own. You’ll need a diverse mix of learning methods like videos, podcasts, grammar lessons, and interactions with native speakers. In this context, Memrise can be an additional tool in your belt.

ROI with Memrise is incredibly high, unlike Duolingo.

But if you’re looking to grab the gist of a language quickly, whether for a short trip or just out of curiosity, then this should definitely be your go-to app. The return on investment, meaning the number of useful words and language concepts you learn in a short time, is incredibly high and leaves Duolingo in the dust.

Other opinion: Do free language learning apps actually work?