Learning vocabulary in a new language can be tough. What is the trick to making information actually stick rather than slipping away into the ether after two days?
A guy named Ed Cooke, a Grand Master of Memory (that is a real thing), created Memrise: basically an advanced flashcard system which takes all of the effort and organisation of of vocabulary learning.
As long as you commit to using the system long-term, the program’s design means that you will never forget the words that you learn. Not kidding.
The Science behind the Application
Why does Memrise work? The secret is threefold: repetition, active recall, and mnemonics. Let’s take a look at what these mean and how they help you study Spanish vocabulary.
Techniques developed by scientists from the University of Oxford and a Grandmaster of Memory, the app uses a series of algorithms to devise a system of repetition to build the word into your memory.
You learn words in groups of 5-15. In your initial session the app will test you on the words, having you translate them both to and from your target language, until you correctly translate a word six times.
The best way of learning something permanently is through repeated testing, and the app aims to test you on the words just as they are on the point of disappearing from your Long Term Memory.
If you get the word right, the app will test you again after a longer period of time, gradually burning the word into your Long Term Memory. If you get the word wrong, the app will make you repeat it after a shorter period of time, building up the word once again until you never forget it!
Do you get bored easily? Memrise has a built in gamification approach, but uses mnemonics to keep the process fun and rewarding. The app calls these mnemonics “mem”s, and defines them as:
anything that helps you create a connection between a word and its meaning. Often colloquially called “educational memes”, a mem could really be a photo, GIF, mnemonic, video, cartoon, example sentence, etymology or even a witty remark.
How to Choose a Spanish Course in Memrise
Ready to start studying? Below are some courses you have to choose from.
Official Memrise Courses
Right now there are two of these courses. There is a Spanish ‘A1 Beginner Course’, and an ‘A2 Beyond Beginner Course’. They are relatively new to the Memrise world and represent Memrise’s expansion into the realm of actual language teaching, rather than just being a flashcard service.
They are divided up into bitesize thematic sections like ‘Family’, ‘Irregular verbs ‘Querer’ and ‘Tener’’ and ‘What I like and what I don’t like’. These courses are a good place to start if you are starting out on your Spanish learning career.
The courses consist of a mixture of single words and very short phrases, designed to show how individual words would be used in more useful and idiomatic contexts.
You do not have to start on course one level one; learning them in order can be a nice and satisfying way to do it, but if you fancy a bit of ‘Section 37: Crime 3’ on day one, go for it.
Courses made by other users
There are some really good courses made by Memrise users, ranging from beginner to highly advanced. Sometimes you just need to spend some time scrolling through and browsing courses that meet your interests. Here are a few that come recommended.
Those sneaky mothers that look like friendly cognates, but are actually out to get you.
There is a man on Memrise called Ben Whately who makes loads of really good courses. In Spanish there is a series of 4 courses from ‘Intermediate 1’ to ‘Advanced 2’, which consist of the most common Spanish words by frequency of usage from numbers 1350 to about 4600. Perfect if you’re getting out of the beginner zone and want to beef up your vocabulary.
A course created by another prolific Memriser, RabbitWho (for those of you in the know), this is really good for the more advanced speaker who wants to get their C1 on.
(Watch out for Spain-Spanish slang and obsolete words. E.g. Colombians don’t use ‘precintar’ nowawdays, which means ‘to seal (a letter)’, because there just isn’t any post here in Colombia!)
1Direction in Spanish (!!!)
Niche. Includes: five separate cards consisting of the phrase ‘me encanta’, followed by each of the names of the five members of the band, One Direction.
Or…. Make your own course!
You can make your own course in Memrise as well. Write down words you don’t know, words you hear in films or see in newspapers, and turn them into your perfect learning tool. Find the green box at the top of the courses section and away you go.
Well, we hope you’ve found this guide helpful. What recommendations do you have for Memrise users? Do you have any other favorite apps?