About a month ago I discovered a site called Memrise.com. They are a new startup with a different spin on practicing vocabulary words. It is the brainchild of Greg Detre, a PhD neuroscientist from Princeton, and Ed Cooke, a Grandmaster of Memory.
This mix of these two great minds is clearly evident in how the system is setup. This isn’t your typical drill them until you drop way of practicing. It is well thought out and just generally a fun system to use. If they get an iPhone app, I might just quit Anki cold turkey.
So, let’s take a quick tour of what Memrise is all about. First off, deck selection:
Selecting a Deck in Memrise
You’ll notice at the time of this writing, there are only two featured languages on Memrise.com, Chinese and English. They are currently working hard to change that by working to implement some new features that are needed for Japanese. In the meantime though you can still practice Japanese vocabulary, which just so happens to be the category with the second most number of words Hurrah!
It’s my dream to some day surpass French. If everyone contributes a word, we can do it!
After clicking Japanese, you’ll go to a sub-menu with several different kinds of decks. Currently there are a few unofficial wordlists for the different levels of the JLPT here. Although these decks are added (and edited) by users, they are generally pretty reliable and contain the standard vocabulary that you see in most of the JLPT wordlists floating around the net.
After selecting a deck to study, you’ll be sent off to your garden area, where you’ll have some seeds to plant. Seeds are new words that you haven’t learned yet. With memrise.com when you first learn a word, you ‘plant’ the word in your garden. After the seed has been growing awhile (usually at least 4 hours) you can then harvest the whole plant. Once it is harvested you’ll have to water it from time to time to keep it from wilting.
This is a clever disguise for another concept you might be familiar with, Spaced Repetition Systems or SRS. The difference here though is that it has been built into a game, so that it suddenly becomes a whole lot more addictive.
Another cool feature of Memrise is that they will email you reminders to come back and water your plants to keep them from dying. This makes it so much more helpful and interactive then some other systems.
Once you’ve selected a deck, you need to practice it or ‘plant the seeds’.
Practicing Vocabulary Cards in Memrise
By clicking on the ‘plant now’ button, you’ll be whisked away to drilling mode. Here new words will first be shown to you with the Japanese and English. There is also a section for mems. Mems are devices that help you to remember the word.
There are currently 4 types of mems: mnemonic, sample, etymology, and pronunciation. Here you can add text, pictures, as well as embed links to other resources such as videos. This is apart of the memrise system to help connect the word in your brain in every way possible.
There is also a handy stats bar off to the left that keeps track of all your stats for that particular session. You can also see your total rank in the system. I’m currently trying my best to stay in the top 1000. It can be a little difficult to stay there though.
The stats bar also keeps track of how many words you have seen this session. A typical session of drilling includes about 7 words to learn. The bar above the words seen stat is your progress through the current session. Below words seen, you can see how many points you’ve earned. You currently get 20 points every time you answer a multiple choice question correctly and 50 points for every type-in answer you get perfect. You get partial points for a type-in question if you misspell the word slightly.
After you’ve completed your first session you’ll be whisked off to a tally screen that tells you how many points you scored as well as lets you know how much time you have before you can harvest your new words. As you can see, I’ve been neglecting my garden of late. I need to do some watering!
The Future of Memrise
Memrise is still in its early days, but it is a powerful way to practice vocabulary and kanji. They are constantly improving the system, and pretty soon will be adding some more Japanese specific features like separate fields for kana and kanji. That way you can practice either typing in just kanji or just kana (currently some decks require you to type in both).
I’ve been speaking with the folks at Memrise, and I’ll be helping to contribute to the site over the next few months. If you’d like to see something added to the site or changed, I’d love to hear about it. I’d especially like to hear what kind of decks you’d like to see.
Over the coming months, I’ll be contributing featured decks that correspond to the different JLPT levels. The first one is currently available at https://www.memrise.com/set/10002844/n5-vocab-list/. Currently this deck is a bit buggy, because they are testing it and implementing new features. However, I encourage you to stop by the site and give it try. The people at Memrise are really interested in getting some feedback on how the deck looks. So, if you’d like to see something added, be sure to leave some feedback at their site (in the handy feedback window at the bottom of the garden) or leave me a comment and I’ll pass it on.
Put it to Work
Are you practicing vocabulary? Get on over to Memrise and see how you like it. Let me know your thoughts about it in the comments below.
P.S. Do you love vocabulary? Great! Join my newsletter and learn more ways to learn vocabulary.