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Let’s Get Wordy

As a language learner, I have to admit my desire to amass words is unnatural. I devote a good amount of time each day to reviewing and adding new words in my target language. While I’ve tried duolingo.com, Anki, the Goldlist Method, spreadsheets, and various other flashcard apps on my iPhone, I always return to memrise.com and on occasion, I ask myself why.

The Numbers Say It All

  • I started using memrise around March 2015 with Spanish.
  • I’ve “missed” one day of review since then, during a work trip to California where I forgot that the time change affected what I thought was “today”.
  • Although memrise only tracks the last 365 days, I’m on ~900 day learning streak.Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 7.06.16 PM.png
  • I currently have 30,367,697 points.
  • With French, I’m currently adding about 75,000 points a day. You can see when I added French because it skewed my average word counts and everything before French quantized to powder blue.
  • Memrise says I “know” 18,040 words. I don’t know the real count because there are duplicates between the various lists.
  • I currently maintain:
    • Spanish — 8,250 words
    • German — 1,800 words
    • French — 4,937 words (I’m actively adding to this one)
  • I’ve stopped maintaining Mandarin (~1,000 words), Afrikaans (~500 words), and various lists that I grew bored with.

Why Does It Work For Me?

I am extremely habit-based and memrise makes that easy for me. Let’s step back a second. How did this start? Well, the add1challenge is a program to “learn” a language in 90 days. And after the first few newbie weeks, you quickly realize that “learn” does not mean you’ll be fluent. While the end goal for the challenge is to record and upload a 15-minute video with a native speaker to youtube, the real goal is to set daily routine that helps you achieve the objective of fluency, which you quickly learn takes a long time. Memrise falls easily into daily routine for me. Every morning I drink coffee and eat breakfast at the kitchen table in front of my laptop and it seems like a easy way to pass 20 minutes. (Big disclaimer: I’ve been on a binge trying to revive French and it’s taking other 20 minutes to get through my French reviews).

What Advantage Do I Get Out Of It?

That’s hard to say. Twenty minutes a day * 365 days a year adds up to real time, time that I could spend doing something else. Would I while eating breakfast? Maybe, though not likely something related to language learning.

But do I get benefit? I think so for a variety of reasons:

  1. With a new language (and with a challenge like add1challenge), the goal is to speak. For me, spending a few weeks filling my head with vocabulary lets me take language classes on italki way before I’m able to hold an hour-long conversation. I may be brief in what I can produce myself, but I can follow along conversation. More importantly, I’m not afraid to take the classes.
  2. With a language like French, which I studied in high school, using an application like memrise helped re-load my active memory. During the first few classes, pulling words out of ancient memory was impossible, but as soon as the teacher said the word, I remembered it from before. Heavily using memrise for French rocketed that reconnection of old memories to new.
  3. When I hear a new word from a teacher, I find myself often asking why I’d use this word rather than one that popped into memory from memrise.
  4. I love to read. I started Spanish from zero in March, read El Marciano in July and La Sombra Del Viento in August. I did the same with German (mind you, I recall it being an easier book), and intend to do the same with French.

Is it all from memrise? No, I’m a youtube and glossika addict as well, so clearly watching a lot of youtube videos in the various languages helps with comprehension.

Has It Always Worked?

No. One big example where memrise really served me little value: Mandarin. No amount of vocabulary acquisition through memrise was going to help we with the struggles I had understanding the spoken language.

How Does It Really Fit In To Language Learning For Me?

Memrise is just a tool, and as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are quite a few. It’s the one that worked for me, and in combination with reading, watching videos, and taking classes has helped me achieve an important motivator in language learning. I can talk conversation classes with community tutors early on in my language learning. Both a win to my moral, and a win to my wallet (since professional teachers cost more!)

See you in the next post…

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