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Memrise Review

Monday, May 20th

2024 Chinese Lesson Reviews

Memrise Review 4 Star Rating


4 Star Rating
  • Free version available, Pro membership for $27.99/month or $130.99/year, Lifetime Pro access for $249.99
  • Allows users to pick a proficiency level that matches their knowledge
  • Combines pinyin, English translation, literal translation, and Chinese characters for an intuitive learning experience
  • Authentic pronunciation from native speaker videos
  • Lessons categorized by vocabulary and phrases from realistic scenarios
  • Engaging, rapid-fire Speed Review quiz to test memory and recall
  • Fun supplementary videos contain the words and phrases users have been learning
  • MemBot AI allows users to practice conversing in Chinese without the fear of making mistakes
  • High ratings with an average of 4.5 to 4.8 stars across Google Play Store and Apple App Store

Memrise kicked off in 2009, aiming to make learning languages (including Chinese) engaging and effective. With founders like a Grand Master of Memory on board, it was poised to be a game-changer. Their motto? "We push you to learn another language. If you want to pretend to learn, choose another language learning app" . Cheeky, right?

Memrise removed community language courses in questionable move

Previously, Memrise was popular among linguistics nerds and users seeking instruction in less common dialects thanks to its community-created courses. For example, in addition to Spanish and French, learners could find courses on conlangs like Toki Pona and Trigedasleng (from the hit show The 100). However, if you were hoping to dive into rare Chinese dialects on Memrise after February 2024, you'll be in for a disappointment. Despite its community-driven roots, Memrise has now shifted away from user-created content. Initially, they moved these courses to a separate website without app access, faced backlash, reverted the decision, and then, by 2024, removed them again. These changes have taken away a lot of what Memrise's dedicated user-base and active online community loved about the platform, although it still enjoys a few advantages over competing language-learning apps.

Start where you're at

When you sign up, you can pick a proficiency level that matches your knowledge. There are four levels. You can pick "Learn from scratch" if you don't know any Chinese. Choose "Beginner" if you've learned a bit but can't really speak it. Opt for "Elementary" if you can converse about simple things in Chinese. Go for "Intermediate" if you know some Chinese but want to improve.

Scenarios replace traditional learning model

Memrise has tossed the traditional "HSK 1, HSK 2" playbook, delivering Mandarin Chinese lessons in a single, streamlined course. Instead of trudging through endless levels, now you navigate "Scenarios." These Scenarios are your ticket to real-life conversations, covering everything from ordering coffee to talking about the future. We appreciate that the scenarios are practical and progress logically in the order you might encounter them in real life. You'll start by learning how to introduce yourself, then move on to vocabulary related to travel scenarios, such as ordering at a restaurant. You also can preview the words and phrases you'll learn in each Scenario before you jump in. For example, "xiǎohuā de xinglǐ chāozhong le" translates to "Xiao-hua's luggage is overweight." These are phrases and words you might actually hear in China, unlike some other apps that teach you random phrases like "My horse is not an architect."

Best Chinese Lessons

Transcribe in pinyin, match Chinese characters to vocab

Each Scenario is split into "Learn" and "Review" parts. In "Learn," you pick up new phrases and vocabulary. When you're introduced to a new word, you'll first see the pinyin, followed by the English translation, the literal translation, and then the Chinese character. For example, the phrase "bu yong xie" translates to "you're welcome" in English, but literally, it means "no need thank". This approach is useful for intuitively learning grammatical rules. When asked to transcribe an audio clip, you're prompted to do so in pinyin. While it doesn't seem like you can transcribe in Chinese characters, you will sometimes be asked to select the correct character for a new word. Unfortunately, Memrise doesn't support learning the stroke order of Chinese characters.

Hear it from a native speaker

When you're learning a new word or phrase on Memrise, you often get to hear it straight from native speakers in the form of short videos filmed like street interviews. It's like taking a virtual tour; you get to hear the authentic pronunciation and catch glimpses of intriguing locations in China. Imagine seeing the bustling streets of Shanghai or the serene landscapes of Guilin as you learn. You're not just learning the language; you're peeking into the culture and geography, making it a richer experience.

Hear multiple recordings of the same phrase

Another cool feature: for many phrases or vocab words, you can listen to multiple recordings by different speakers. Just look for the speaker icons at the bottom of the page. This is super handy for a tonal language like Chinese, where the pitch can change the meaning of a word. It seems like Memrise doesn't offer graded pronunciation practice anymore, so you'll need to find another way to get feedback if you don't trust your own ear.

Race against the clock in Speed Review

Then, in "Review," you get to practice and polish what you've learned, making sure those tricky words don't slip through the cracks. Speed Review is especially engaging, offering a rapid-fire quiz on words you're familiar with. It's designed to be a quick, fun test of your memory, where you race against the clock to answer questions correctly and keep your hearts from running out. As you progress, getting answers right in a row can earn you extra lives, adding a layer of challenge and excitement to your review sessions.

Best Chinese Lessons

Watch short-form videos that utilize your vocabulary

As you progress through Memrise, you'll be suggested supplementary short videos that contain the words and phrases you've been learning (a 15 second sketch where two people introduce themselves and talk about the weather). As you get more advanced, these video suggestions might include news segments or music videos pulled from YouTube. After each video, you'll be asked how much you understood.

Practice with artificial intelligence

To learn a new language, you have to apply your knowledge. That's where Memrise's AI chatbot, MemBot, comes in. It uses artificial intelligence to let you practice speaking a language without the fear of making mistakes. This way, you can try out what you've learned all by yourself, getting comfortable with the language before you move on to real-world conversations. MemBot is like a practice buddy that's always there, ready to chat, correct your grammar, and suggest what to say next, making it easier for you to gain confidence in your new language skills.

Free version available, Lifetime access for $249.99

Memrise offers a free version that lets you explore all its language courses, including the basics and some interactive features. However, to fully dive into everything Memrise has to offer, like removing ads, unlocking all vocabulary lessons, accessing all native speaker videos, and engaging in unlimited conversation practice, you might want to consider upgrading to Pro membership. The regular cost for Pro is about $27.99 a month or $130.99 for a year. But keep an eye out because Memrise often runs promotions that drastically reduce the price for Lifetime Pro access from its price of $249.99 (which, by the way, was recently bumped up from $199.99 - ouch). Opting for the Lifetime Pro means you won't have to worry about monthly fees again. It's worth comparing this one-time cost with other monthly subscriptions you have to see if it's a good fit, especially if you're serious about mastering Chinese. Just remember, some of the advanced scenarios and features will be locked behind this Pro paywall.

Highly rated by users

Prepare to be wowed by the sheer number of people who've given their two cents on Memrise - we're talking about more than 1.5 million reviews on the Google Play Store and close to 200,000 on the Apple App Store. It's clear that users are over the moon with Memrise, as it showcases an impressive average rating of 4.5 to 4.8 stars across these platforms. Users often highlight its effectiveness as a language learning tool, even suggesting it tops the charts in this category. However, it's worth noting that no platform is perfect. The latest updates and features introduced by Memrise seem to come with their own set of glitches, such as lessons that don't end automatically, interrupting users' streaks. This serves as a gentle reminder that even the most beloved services have room for improvement.

Best Chinese Lessons

We miss the community courses

Memrise shines as a top-notch language learning app, blending traditional and innovative techniques like spaced repetition, native speaker videos, and an AI chatbot to make learning Chinese engaging. However, the decision to remove community courses has left us - and clearly, many others - with mixed feelings. The community courses were a gold mine for those looking to learn less mainstream languages or dialects, and their removal feels like a significant step away from what made Memrise so special. It's a classic case of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone," and in this instance, it seems Memrise may have underestimated the value these courses added for a substantial portion of their user base.

Still a solid choice despite changes

Even with this change, Memrise continues to update and add new features, making it a strong option for learning Chinese. Whether Memrise is the right tool for you really depends on if you're okay with these changes. If you're looking for a fun and interactive way to learn Chinese, Memrise is worth considering, even though it's moved away from its community-driven roots.

Where Can You Get the Best Chinese Lessons Online?

The motivations for learning Chinese are as diverse and compelling as the language itself. Perhaps you're fascinated by the rich history and culture of China, eager to read its classical poetry or modern literature in its original form. Maybe you're looking to expand your business skills and communicate directly with the vast Chinese market. Or, you might dream of traveling through China, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes, all while engaging with locals in their native tongue.

Learning Chinese, however, presents a unique set of challenges unlike those found in learning languages like Spanish or French. For one, there's the intricate system of Chinese characters, each carrying its own meaning and pronunciation, which can seem daunting at first glance. Then, there's the tonal nature of Mandarin Chinese, where the meaning of a word can change dramatically with the pitch of your voice.

The Best Chinese Lessons Compare Chinese Lessons Compare Chinese Lesson Reviews What are the best Chinese Lessons Best Chinese Lesson Reviews

Chinese Lesson FAQ

With China being the most populated country in the world, it will come as no surprise that an estimated 1.31 billion people speak Chinese - approximately 16% of everyone on the planet! And, that only includes those whose first or native language is Chinese, not those who are learning it as a second (or third!) language.
There are seven primary dialect groups in Chinese: Mandarin, Yue (or Cantonese), Min, Kejia, Gan, Xiang and Wu. Mandarin is the most widely used and is the dialect you'll most likely use if you travel to Taiwan, Singapore, or China, particularly in the northern regions. Most Chinese lessons are based on Mandarin.
Chinese is one of four languages ranked as a Category IV by the State Department's Foreign Service Institute: a designation that means that, for native English speakers, Chinese is "exceptionally difficult" (along with Arabic, Japanese, and Korean). However, if you're patient and hard-working, you can learn to speak and write in Chinese!
Many experts recommend focusing first on learning how to speak Chinese. The written language is extremely complex, because it's based on pictographs and not a phonetic alphabet, and most learners have a bigger need to communicate orally than in writing. Chinese is a tonal language, where shifting the "shape" of one's voice can change a syllable into a different word. (In Mandarin, for example, the syllable "ma" can mean everything from "mother" to "horse" and even "to scold" depending on the tone!) That can be very tricky for non-Asian learners to master, making it a great place to start.
There's no way to study Chinese that's more convenient than online lessons. You don't have to worry about making it to class on time, being able to register for a course, or turning in homework! Studying Chinese online is also much more affordable, and it lets you take things at your own pace.
Depending on whether you're using a Mac or PC (or an iPhone or Android), there are different steps you can take to enable a Chinese keyboard. Your best bet is to do a search based on the operating system you've got and follow the steps to turn on the Chinese language functionality.
No! You can choose classes with one-time fees for a complete course or a monthly subscription for continuous access, but both types of Chinese lessons are very affordable. For example, one popular program has a 12-month membership for just $16.66 per month, and another offers two levels of Chinese lessons for $249.90. You'll have a hard time finding an in-person class for less than that!
Sometimes. If you've subscribed to a monthly plan, you'll probably be able to cancel future recurring payments. If you've paid for a package of Chinese lessons, some platforms will allow you to request a refund within the first 30-60 days of use. However, your best option is to use any free lessons or resources that the language program offers prior to purchase: many sites have partial or full lessons you can try before you buy, or a 7-day trial you can use before your payments kick in. That's a great way to find out if the Chinese lessons you're considering are a good match for how you learn and what you want to get out of your studies.
Compare the Best Reviews

Continued from above...

But don't let these hurdles deter you. With commitment and the right resources, you're on your way to fluency. Mastering Chinese opens up a universe of cultural, professional, and social opportunities, allowing you to connect with over a billion speakers worldwide.

Online Chinese lessons offer a variety of approaches to suit different learning preferences. For auditory learners, there are programs focused on immersive listening practices, helping you attune your ear to the nuances of the language. If you're game for a challenge, gamified learning platforms make acquiring new vocabulary and grammar points engaging, rewarding your progress with points and badges.

For those who prefer a more structured learning path, comprehensive courses provide a blend of video lessons, interactive quizzes, and writing exercises, ensuring you develop a well-rounded skill set, from character recognition and writing to speaking and listening.

And if personal interaction is what drives your learning, tutoring services connect you with native Chinese speakers for real-time conversation and cultural exchange, enriching your study with authentic experiences.

Feeling overwhelmed by the options? Here's what to consider as you begin your journey to learn Chinese:

  • Current fluency level. Assess whether you're starting from scratch or if you have some knowledge of Chinese. Choose lessons that align with your starting point.
  • Learning medium. Determine whether you prefer app-based lessons, audio files, desktop platforms, or another format that fits your lifestyle and learning habits.
  • Skill focus. Decide if you want to concentrate on listening and speaking, reading and writing, or a combination. Remember, Chinese characters are essential for reading and writing, and tone practice is critical for understanding and being understood.
  • Pinyin vs. characters. Consider if the app emphasizes learning through pinyin (the Romanization of Chinese sounds) or focuses more on teaching Chinese characters. Some learners may prefer starting with pinyin to master pronunciation before moving on to characters, while others might want to dive directly into character recognition and writing.
  • Cost. Evaluate whether the lessons are priced as a one-time payment or require a subscription. Consider the value of free options and the benefits of paid upgrades.
  • Learner reviews. Look for feedback from other learners. Their experiences can provide insight into the effectiveness of the platform and the time it may take to see progress.

To guide you to the best Chinese lessons for your goals and preferred learning style, our team at Top Consumer Reviews has tested today's leading options and provided honest feedback on what each one offers. So, what are you waiting for? Embark on your Chinese learning adventure today!

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