Learning Languages and Other Stuff at Memrise

November 23, 2012 @ 8:12 am | Filed under: ,

How I Learned a Language in 22 Hours” — Joshua Foer describes how he used Memrise.com to learn Lingala, an African trade language, in 22 total hours of study (over a three-month period). Memrise uses visual memory techniques and modern computer gaming incentives to make such a feat possible.

If five million people can be convinced to log into Zynga’s Facebook game Farmville each day to water a virtual garden and literally watch the grass grow on their computer screens, surely, Ed believes, there must be a way to co-opt those same neural circuits that reward mindless gaming to make learning more addictive and enjoyable. That’s the great ambition of Memrise, and it points towards a future where we’re constantly learning in tiny chunks of our downtime.

Naturally, I leapt straight from that article to the Memrise website and, two days later, am happily up to my eyeballs in German vocabulary. The kids and I are working our way through a course on the trees of England. (I always wondered what yew and rowan looked like.) Highly, highly, highly recommended.

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9 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Wendi Gratz says:

    This looks fantastic! I’ve been looking for something for language learning for my daughter and this will be right up her alley.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I’m trying to get started. Looks interesting – thanks for the tip.

  3. Harmony says:

    This is intriguing! Thank you for the tip. Will have to give it a try.

  4. Sarah says:

    Really it is amazing. I learned 15th century art masters, and now my dd and I are having a race to see who can memorise the English monarchs first. She loves it, and I can see she’s learning so many things, not just English monarchs and memorising skills. There’s speed typing, for one thing! And spelling! Quite a shock when you realise they don’t just want “William I” for an answer but “William I, William the Conqueror or William the Bastard.” Try remembering that then typing it with no spelling mistakes in a few seconds! At least punctuation doesn’t matter – which means that I will forever now know John (John Lackland) as John John.

    I swear it’s addictive.

  5. Sophie says:

    If you want to learn the English trees (from quite a long way away) then you just need Monty Python: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ug8nHaelWtc I’ve just started using it to learn Latin. I did a year of it at school but that was a long time ago now.

  6. sarah says:

    Could this finally be the answer to my prayers about learning a foreign language?! Looks promising. Lissa, do you all just use one account or are your girls learning under a different user ID? I just signed up and was a little disappointed that it doesn’t have the option for multiple users.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Sarah, so far we just have the one account, but the kids haven’t started doing German on it yet. Just me. Beanie is doing state capitals. We’re all doing the trees of England. I think we’ll wind up creating separate accts for each of them, for languages. BUT—it’s likely they’ll encounter an off-color mem or two somewhere along the way (“mem” is the site’s term for the mental images/memory aids people suggest for each word). I’ve only come across one or two so far that aren’t really kid-appropriate, but parents should know there’s a chance. Most Memrise users seem to be adults.

    You might also want to take a look at Earworms, too. That’s been the BEST jumpstart for my girls. (And such a good refresher for me.) R & B are just about to finish Earworms Rapid German 1 and they’re really speaking and comprehending conversational phrases beautifully now. I’m so pleased.

  8. Melissa Wiley says:

    Oh!!! And for Earworms, enter code RAPID at checkout for a discount! Earworms