Russian Memrise Courses … a list designed for beginners
What is Memrise?
For any of you who are not yet familiar with Memrise, a really helpful, free, online program that makes a great supplement to Duolingo, I recommend you read the article I posted to my LinkedIn account a while back:
It was written for a survey of German Memrise courses, a list which I posted here at Duolingo. I posted the article on LinkedIn after I realized not everyone may be familiar with Memrise (especially those who don’t use Duolingo), and though you can probably find an entry for it on Wikipedia (yes, you can, the link to it is here, or visit the site’s FAQ page, sometimes you get a clearer picture of something when viewed through the lens of a user. If you already know about Memrise and want to view the Duolingo post I’ve referenced, the link to it is below. Keep in mind that it may not be that interesting if you’re not planning on learning German, but I add a few general comments as well.
A comparison of studies — German vs. Russian
I have recently turned my attention toward gaining a greater mastery of the Russian language. Why? Well, a lot of reasons, one of which is that I think it is good to take a break from a language every once in a while and return to it later. So, I’ve had plans to study Russian again for a while now. Coincidentally, however, those of you who pay attention to current events know that Russia has been mentioned in the news a lot lately. If this has spurred your interest in taking up the study of Russian or dusting off the books and brushing off the cobwebs in your mind from previous study, or if you’ve just always wanted to take up the study of this language, you may be interested in taking a look at my survey of Russian Memrise courses.
This survey of Russian courses was done a bit differently than the survey I did of the German ones. For starters, Memrise doesn’t have as many Russian Duolingo courses as it does for German, but those few I did find, were included on my list. In some ways, this survey I took of Russian courses was more rigorous than the one I did for the German courses; in other ways, not so much. For example, I did not look at every German course available. The same is true for the Russian courses, but I at least did get to the end of what was available. If I did not take a look at a particular course, it was due to a conscious choice on my part and not simply due to ending my search after looking at a certain number of courses (as I did for the German study). To help me narrow down which courses to examine further, I paid attention to indications of the course designer’s meticulousness (or lack thereof). Namely, if a course had a misspelling in English or Russian, in its title or elsewhere, it was not likely to be included on this list or even reviewed.
Biases and other course details
For the record, I am partial to courses with eye-catching, but tasteful course covers; interesting and informative course descriptions; as well as some appearance that an attempt at organization was made. For the German study, I’m guessing I scanned through at least 300 courses. For the Russian study, I probably scanned 1,000+. For the most part, I was looking for general courses for beginners, but you’ll find some more advanced courses on the list, here and there, as well as some courses with specific topics. Those types of courses are listed at the end of each respective category.
After my initial run through of the list, I went back and conducted searches for some specific courses on special topics such as numbers, telling time, declensions, and verbs,* mainly because these are somewhat more complex than in other languages and can be a weak area for many beginning students of Russian.
*My search for courses on verbs was not as exhaustive as my search for the other topics. If memory serves me correctly Memrise had approximately 70-80 courses specifically focusing on Russian verbs. I probably looked at about half of those — the ones that were listed in the top half of the Memrise search program.
As for my rating system, there really isn’t one (at least not one similar to the one I did for the German courses). However, I did try to list the courses by categories — Courses, Vocabulary, Special Vocabulary, Verbs, and Aspects of Grammar (i.e., various parts of speech, declensions, spelling rules, …). If a course appeared to be just a list of words and not a course that also attempted to teach declensions, then it was categorized under Vocabulary and not an Aspect of Grammar, but these were subcategorized by part of speech as well.
I also listed, in descending order within each category, the courses that I thought would be good to take first, and this could have been because the course was more introductory in nature or was better than the others. Just so you know, I do tend to favor courses with audio over those that do not, but if a course had something unique or special about it and something not covered, or presented as well, in the courses with audio, I added it.
I also tend to favor “active” courses over “inactive” courses. What I refer to as an “active” course is a course with lively competition. It is a course that showed at least 10 users who used the course during the week I conducted this study (the week of March 21, 2017). If you take the time to look at the list I created, you’ll see a column for “Active,” and in that column you will see either a “Y” for “Yes” or an “N” for “No.” Toward the end, I decided to add in another category — S — which stands for “Some.” This indicates that there were users who used the course during the week I conducted this study, but not a full 10. For courses that have less than 10 subscribers, it just didn’t really seem fair to consider them inactive for not having a full 10 active users. Plus, I wanted to make a distinction between courses that had no activity during the week I took a survey of them and those that had at least some, even if it was only one user. I wasn’t always consistent with the “S” rating because I didn’t apply it at the beginning of the list, so you may find that some have more activity than the list notations indicate. In addition to that, activity is subject to change. A course that is active one week, may not be the following week. After all, some courses can be completed within an hour and aren’t of the type that you would need to revisit every single week. Courses that have been categorized as “active,” however, are likely to be active from week to week, so if you’re looking for a consistently, steady forum to unleash your competitive urges, you might want to choose the active ones rather than those that don’t show much activity.
So, though there is no real strictly defined rating system, I did make notes on each of the courses on the list. If you see “CD,” know that it stands for “Course Description.” Otherwise, the notes are mine. I also did add in a color-shaded system indicating which courses I thought were best. The darker the shade of blue, the more I thought well of the course. This shading reflects some of the biases I have already made known to you.
Finally a note on word count. You will notice that I included a column for this feature of a course. Having pointed that out, you need to know that this count is not an actual count of words. It is a count of “prompts.” In other words, if you are tested on the word “мама” that counts as one word, but so does “мама и папа,” and “Мама пьёт воду.”
A select few
The full list includes more than 100 different courses, each with a direct link to the course itself to make it more convenient for you. The link to the full list will be added at the very end of this post. If you choose not to view it, I’ve added a direct link to some of the best Russian Memrise courses below. If you want to see my notes on them, you’ll have to view the full list.
Russian Comprehensive Courses
Aspects of Grammar
Some numbers for perspective
What would a study/survey be without a bit of number crunching? Below you’ll find some charts of the courses on my list, which I am estimating is approximately 10% of the entire courses available for Russian through Memrise. I would be surprised if it isn’t fairly representative of the entire number of Russian courses Memrise offers.
After all, nothing about these charts should be all that revealing. For example:
- The comprehensive courses and courses on the Cyrillic alphabet naturally have the largest number of users
- The more specific vocabulary courses are shorter (have fewer “words”) and take less time to complete than many of the others
- The more advanced the vocabulary, the fewer number of users
It may be surprising to those who have never studied Russian before (or those who are just starting out) that the average duration on courses related to verbs is as high as it is, but those who have dabbled a bit in Russian won’t find that surprising at all.
If you happen to find anything unusual or surprising about what you see in any of these charts, please post your thoughts in the comment section.
I should add that I am not a native speaker of Russian, nor even a teacher of it, so if any of you near fluent/native speakers/teachers out there have reviewed any of these courses and agree or disagree with my assessments, please post a comment.
Also, if you happen to be a course designer who made the list, a big hat tip to you for the time and effort you put into creating a course. Having created some myself (for other languages), I know how much time and effort some of them can require. And, if you happen to be taking any of these courses and have any additional comments of your own to make about them, please post a comment in the comments section of this post. For those of you who do use Memrise, I am sure you will agree that like a set of матрёшка, it makes a nice supplement to Duolingo by helping to uncover the intricacies of the Russian language and synthesize them by drilling them into your brain like a fine piece of wood.
And finally, a link to the complete list: