Memrise vs Duolingo
Memrise is currently going through a lot of changes. This review does not reflect Memrise’s changes since April 2019. I look forward to trying the resource again after the changes are finished being rolled out, but Memrise has been updated since the writing of this post.
Two of the most well-known language learning resources on the internet today are Memrise and Duolingo. They’re pretty similar: both have vocabulary practice in a variety of languages, both have cute little graphics and motivations for being consistent, and both are available both on mobile and desktop. But what happens when we look at Memrise vs Duolingo?
Let’s address the differences between the two. Which one will work for you? Duolingo and Memrise both have their shining moments, and both have something that the other just doesn’t do so well. So let’s jump into it: Memrise vs Duolingo.
Memrise vs Duolingo: how does Duolingo work?
Basically, Duolingo is a free program that works in what they call “trees”. Trees are collections of little mini-lessons, ranging from beginner vocabulary to intermediate-beginner (as in yes, they’re technically intermediate concepts, but you can still conquer them in just a couple of minutes) concepts.
Duolingo advertises the ability for its users to learn a language in just 5 minutes a day using Duolingo. While that’s obviously ridiculous, Duolingo lessons are about 5 minutes long. You go through each and every one of these tiny little lessons until you get to the end of the tree, and there are no more lessons to be had.
Duolingo mixes up lessons with both plain memorization and constructing sentences. Some of these sentences don’t make any sense and you’ll never actually use them, but the idea is using the vocab you’re learning in grammatically appropriate ways. So you won’t learn things like “where is the bathroom” from Duolingo, but you’ll be able to figure out how to piece the sentence together technically.
(I mean seriously, who says that???)
If you’re not an ultimate beginner when you start your Duolingo tree, you can just take quizzes at “checkpoints”, so you don’t have to waste your time learning vocabulary that you already feel comfortable with. You can just go right to lessons that are actually worth your while, which is nice. Each lesson in the tree is named with its content, so you can more or less figure out where you should be.
Once you finish your tree, Duolingo uses an algorithm to tell you which lessons to review, so you do see these lessons consistently. However, you only need to see beginner concepts so many times before it’s just a waste of time and you need more advanced lessons.
Memrise vs Duolingo: Memrise courses
Memrise courses are also very heavy on the vocab side of things. Memrise is also free, and also has their own beginner vocab “courses”. If you stick to the courses made by Memrise itself, you’ll learn vocabulary and a few key conversational phrases. Basically, simple rote memorization.
There isn’t really a strict system to Memrise content; they don’t have a tree to go through. If you want, you can go through whichever lessons to want at whatever time, though they are organized from ultimate beginner to intermediate-beginner. Unlike Duolingo, they’re not really titled in a way that you can see at a glance what exactly you’ll be learning, so if you’re not an ultimate beginner, it might take you a sec to figure out where to start.
Like Duolingo, you can also set your goal to spend 5 minutes a day learning…which, like I said, is not enough to actually learn a language, but Memrise also doesn’t claim fluency in that amount of time. So there’s almost an implied trickery, but no formal advertisement stating that.
Once you make it through the Memrise courses, Memrise will also remind you to review the content you’ve learned. They don’t do it as well as Duolingo though – you’re basically reviewing the same exact content every day, which isn’t how your memory works. If you get one wrong you’ll get that card repeated, but that’s about it.
Duolingo now has its own paid service (if you’ve ever asked yourself “how does Duolingo make money if it’s always free?”). It’s a pretty wholesome concept: pay a few bucks a month if you want to:
- Remove ads without an ad blocker (meaning Duolingo still gets paid, but you don’t see ads)
- Use Duolingo offline
- Support free education
It’s not really incentivized for hardcore language learners, but Duolingo isn’t for hardcore language learners, anyways. It’s a nice little option for you if you want to support free language learning education, which is an idea that I personally like. I’m all for financially supporting language learning!
If you want to try it out, you can opt for a free 7 day trial. But, again, it’s not a heavy investment, so if you’re going to be using the product anyway, I would throw a few bucks at it if you’ve got it!
Memrise also comes with a paid option, Memrise Pro. Memrise Pro is a bit more bang for your buck, in my opinion. You’ll get a couple more tools to enhance your language learning:
- Difficult word review
- Video/audio files in Memrise courses
- Learning statistics
The first two of these are definitely really helpful for taking in languages. Difficult word review is pretty self explanatory: Memrise Pro knows which words you have a hard time with, so you have the option to study only those and shove them into your brain.
The video and audio files are also a nice touch. It’s a step closer to immersion, learning your words by hearing a native say them, and not in a robotic way. It’s a decent way to start training your ear to hear the language, and it’s another method of learning the new vocabulary. Honestly, it is a much better way to take in new words.
The statistics can also be helpful for some, but it doesn’t make a big difference to me, personally. These stats can be helpful to keep yourself consistent if it works for you, and it’s great that Memrise makes a bit more of an effort here to keep you consistent. Problem is, you don’t get much of these stats at a glance – you have to click onto another page. I know, I know, first world problems, but efficiency is important for this stuff!
Duolingo’s member content
My favorite thing about Duolingo is the forums. The lessons themselves are pretty simple, but they each connect to a thread on their forum where members have talked about the questions. There’s so many members that there’s a pretty good chance that any questions you may have about your lessons have already been answered.
In this way, Duolingo goes way above just simple question and answer, and directs you to think more about grammar and how the language actually works, which goes into more intermediate and sometimes advanced concepts. If you still have questions, you can ask them yourself, and the forum is pretty active.
The Duolingo community is super helpful, and have answered all of these questions pretty well, from what I can see. They also link to other resources online that explain these things well. If anything, it’s a good way to find this other helpful content online, so you can branch out on your studies.
Memrise’s member content
Memrise lessons themselves are decent, but they only go so far. Fortunately, Memrise isn’t just a language learning resource, but also just your basic flashcard app, so members have created flashcards for the words and phrases that they’re learning outside of Memrise itself.
So, depending on your language of choice, you might find the vocab or grammar that you’re looking for, even if it’s not available on Memrise itself but on their sister site, Decks (their new domain for all user-generated content). There’s lots and lots of content, so you can take in almost endless amounts of vocab just on Memrise.
And, since it’s a flashcard app, it will probably never stop growing. So keep an eye out for new decks, and even make your own decks to share with the world. Where Duolingo is limited to the lessons they create themselves, Memrise grows whenever members share their own content. That’s a lot of vocab for you to learn, so if you want to stick with it, you can go far!
Duolingo app review
It’s hard to find another website that does desktop and mobile as well as Duolingo. It’s definitely built to go wherever you go, so Duolingo’s app is convenient and easy on your eyes. It’s actually meant to be more of a mobile app, so that’s where you’ll get your push notifications reminding you to get your studying in every day.
I think I personally prefer the desktop version, just because I like going through the forums and figuring out why I’m getting things wrong, but you can also see the forums just as well on mobile. It’s a super handy mobile app for you to open up for a few minutes, learn some new vocab on your off time, and go straight back to your day.
It’s super seamless, so you don’t have to think about it at all – just let the app remind you every day to get your studying in and keep up your streak. The more you get back to it, the more you learn!
Memrise app review
Unfortunately, mobile is where Memrise fails. Honestly, I hate the app. It’s so restricting! You can’t search for any new content…you can’t even choose the lesson you’re learning. It automatically gives you the last deck you were studying on desktop, and doesn’t give you the option to switch it up anywhere on the app. If you want to work on something else, you’ve gotta go to a computer.
As far as consistency, the Memrise app doesn’t help with that, either. While they passively remind you to practice every day on the computer, there’s no motivation on the app whatsoever – no push notifications, no little number letting you know how many days in a row you’ve studied, nothing. This is a big deal since consistency and motivation are key in language learning.
On top of that is the section where they talk about Memrise Pro. Yes, while you’re on the free version, I absolutely understand pushing the paid content. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is when you do pay for Memrise Pro, and not only does that section stay the same, but it doesn’t link to paid content! It literally just says that you’re a subscriber, and reminds you what you get.
If you want to access your paid content, you have to make the effort to tap the little ellipses on your study screen and tap the option to study with video. And while I don’t blame Memrise for not having all of their content video-enabled (I get it, it’s time-consuming and expensive, so it takes time to cover everything in every language), I kind of wish they’d gotten all of their content covered before they unveiled Memrise Pro. I imagine it’s pretty frustrating to go into Memrise with a specific language in mind, pay for Pro, and….Pro options aren’t available in that language. What a letdown!
And another thing, you know those learning stats that you get with Memrise Pro? You don’t get them on the app. At all. You have to go to Memrise on your desktop to see them. Again, not so helpful for motivation and consistency, especially if you’re not on a computer every day, or if you forget. I really wish they’d do some sort of push notifications if they’re not going to add this paid content onto the app itself.
Memrise vs Duolingo
Comparing Duolingo vs Memrise…whichever one you use definitely depends on what works for you. If you’re always on the go and need something that you can easily carry with you that will remind you to work on your language learning, Duolingo will definitely come out ahead for you. The Duolingo app and the push notifications can’t be beat.
However, if content is king for you, Memrise is your best friend. As long as people use Memrise, the amount of content you can find on it will never stop. If you’ve got a desk job like most of us, it’s not hard to keep a tab open to Memrise and drill new and old vocab in your down time. Not a bad way to take in new words if you ask me!
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer. Both Duolingo and Memrise fulfill very specific needs and are the answer to different learners’ questions. So, whatever lifestyle you have, and whatever you’re looking for in an app, Memrise and Duolingo are both very good resources. Learn away!