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- First Month Checkpoint - Memrise Challenge: Learn 10,000 new words in 3 months.

It has been now a month since I started my Memrise challenge at the beginning of May.
I'll now give you some information on how I've been doing this past month and some a bit general information on Memrise to those not very familiarize with it.

First, some statistics for the completed month of May:

Points earned: 2,214,683
Planted (new) words: 3,999
Points/words ratio: 553
Avg words per day: 129
Avg points per day: 71,441

Completed courses:

View here full status of completed courses, courses in progress, and courses yet to follow.

So, we begin.

The first month was a bit crazy. I can tell you that straight away. I was a bit overwhelmed doing it daily for a continues period. It's an acquired taste.
I was having a hard time keeping track on how much I study each day, and keeping up with the ridiculous number of daily reviews that were drowning me. The more you study the more you attacked by reviews in the next immediate hours.
At the mid-month point, I got a bit sick of it, not surprisingly, and took a break for a week +/- (I think), and at the month's end, I made some catching up, especially since I wanted to finish some courses that were nearing completion.

Since it really does take a lot of time (I guess I spend between 3 to 5 hours daily), you really must keep track of it, and use, constantly, a stopwatch to record your daily progress to really be on top of everything and make predictions for the future.
Without timing yourself, time also moves slower and seems to take longer, because it gets very repetitive and quite tiresome at times, especially when you over do it for a few consecutive hours.
Most of the time, it can be quite enjoyable, if you don't do it for more than 3 hours straight, I would say, which is definitely a lot too.

Though, I don't advise spending more than an hour a day on one particular language. Your performance will deteriorate as it's hard mentally and you will also get bored.
By switching and learning multiple languages each day I can keep myself entertained and engaged for a very long time. That's how I can also up my new word count by giving me the motivation to proceed, without overwhelming myself too much.

As you can see from the picture and link above, most of my time was spent on German (6 courses completed) following with an equally time spent on Spanish and Swedish. After that, whatever time I got left, I do the other stuff that I got going on (Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Franch, and Russian).

My plan of attack (when I'm following it...) is spending 1 hour a day, on the 3 main languages, if possible, with German always taking priority in everything. Complementing that is at least 1 hour a day of reviewing, which is a must as the words stockpile extremely fast, and if I still hadn't had enough, then 1 hour “play time”, as I refer to it, to experiment with other languages, or do additional reviews, as I deem necessary, as you sometimes need 2 hours or even more.
For completing this challenge, I estimate that only 3 hours a day are really what required, so I'm doing a bit over the necessary amount.
5 hours a day is more like a pace of 200 words a day.

Review plan is waiting until 100 words per course are accumulated (because it drills you on 100 per session for speed review), and then doing speed reviews on the phone until I reach the sub 50 count for that course.
The 50 words I got left to review, I try to spend on Classic Review and Listing Practice, so I can diversify a bit, and get different kinds of exercises.
I use the speed reviews to quickly get a handle on the situation when I have hundreds if not thousands to review and it just keeps escalating… scary.
Typing exercises take longer but are really useful to solidify information and really test yourself.
There is a script for the web version that turns all exercises to either typing exercises or listening exercises. I intend to use it once I reach a more "stable" state.

I'm doing most of my study on the app, which I think is quite better than the web version (many users on the Memrise website will swear differently but to each their own).
I find it looks pleasant, helps me recall better, and avoid being distracted. I also do some on the web, to be familiarized with it, as it has some different features which can also come in handy.

The first courses on the agenda were the Memrise staff created courses, following that (or at the same time) the community created Duolingo courses. I don't think there is too much overlapping between them and they complement each other quite well. Lastly, doing the 5000 or 8000 most common frequency lists for each of the languages I'm studying. I'm only looking for courses with complete audio as much as possible and picking them over the others. You really need to check the community created courses and filter them as the quality can vary quite significantly.
For those massive courses I mentioned, I will be utilizing a lot the "ignore feature", to unmark words which I already covered in the previous courses quite extensively and I don't want to repeat.

I find the Memrise staff created courses to be very good, smartly made and enjoyable, but I can only really say that for the Latin-based ones.
I was having trouble with their Japanese, Arabic and Russian courses, which are not very well suited for beginners, require prior knowledge and exposure and are a bit intimidating quite frankly. Memrise starts you with hard phrases and words and expects you to spell complex words and sentences in a foreign script from the start. At the Japanese course, some key grammar points are used extensively likeです and others, and since no sufficient explanation given, what you don’t understand you find hard to recall. So you start quite slow, not sure of yourself, and without understating much.
Duoligo choice of vocabulary, starting you with simple words and cognates, is much better and reasonable I think. The Memorise courses seem to follow a common pattern and a shared word list, so you will find many familiar repeating sentences and words when you switch from language to language.

For a given lesson Memrise courses follow this learning pattern. To "plant" (learn) each word you required to do 6 exercises. After that, the word moves into their SRS repetition cycle.
Each lesson (skill) is starting with simple words or phrases per card, and the last items in a lesson are sentences, which usually comprised of the words and phrases that you just learned put together to build quite complicated and long sentences. It is a very effective method to teach and help you remember. It gives you quite a nice context to see the words in action and understand them better. The sentences quality and complexity is also very good and better than what you will find in duolingo in general.
So saying Memrise is just flashcards and words out of context is not quite correct. However, this is less commonplace in the community created courses, from what I’ve seen thus far. I would say, usually, it’s best to stick with the official courses when you start.

Here some screenshots of example sentences and types of exercises:


The vast majority of exercises are multiple choice selections. For each planted word they also give you 1 typing exercise before it's planted. There are also listening and tapping exercises.


Those long sentences can get quite complicated. This is the most common exercise for sentences. The other types are multiple choice and listening comprehension. You don't get typing exercises when you do sentences (on the web I think you can do it with a script).


An example of a tapping exercise.
There is a setting in the app to turn them off if you wished.
If you wondered why they bothered to teach you the word "haystack", previously, then this is the reason.


How the first introduction of a new word or sentence looks.
The "literal translation" part is extremely useful. I wished we had it on duolingo.


"Meet the Natives" - the most fun part for me, which really test your listening and put you on the spot, but you only have about a couple dozens or so per course. It only exists in the official courses.

Some information about the courses levels according to Memrise statements:

Our courses are made up of a series of 7 parts. E.g. French 1, French 2, and so on. Courses 1 to 3 roughly equate A1 level (beginners). A2 level (intermediate) equates to courses 4 and 5. Courses 6 and 7 are at B1 level (upper intermediate/advanced)

I’ve started, since 4 days ago, keeping a record of my daily time expenditure and I intend to keep doing that for this month in order to collect some useful statistics.

Some insights and estimations for now:

  • You can review roughly 600 words per hour, with the speed test on your phone, which is quite a nice substantial amount, if you think about it. You can do quite a lot with such high number. 600x3 hours this equates to many duolingo courses entire word list and you can go over all of it in approximately just 3 hours.

  • The max review cycle by Memrise is scheduling a word to be revised in 180 days, so, "potentially", you can learn 108,000 words, and still keep reviewing all of them with just 1 hour per day, which sounds pretty exciting if probably not so realistic. :)

  • You can plant between 60 to 70 words per hour for a course made by Memrise staff. That's at least 120 words after just 2 hours. This estimation also seems to match the number specified by Memrise as the Avg time it takes to complete a course.

Typing and tapping exercises are things that are slowing you down quite a bit, with regards to words planted and gathering points, but I find them very helpful to internalize the information, so I don't think I'll try to skip them and take some "no typing" courses, or something like that.

I’ve also started following the top 10 overloards (Top rank achievable - users with more than 100 million points) to learn how you do it from the masters, tap into my competitive side and instill some motivation and a hopeless fighting spirit.

You can see them displayed in this leaderboard:

Any Idea how there’s a user up there with already close to a million points this week? pfff... crazy numbers. It's like they're spending 10 hours a day!

Well, that is all. I hope you find the somewhat over-elaborated information useful. I wasn't sure how experienced the rest of the community are with Memrise so I went a bit overboard to cover all the bases. I myself wasn't aware of many of those things before.

If you have further questions or advice on how to improve my routine and make it more effective, I would be glad to hear about it.

I'm happy to report that, albeit a bit of a struggle, the quota for this month was met successfully.

Up and onwards to the next thousands! :)

June 1, 2017

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