Why I don't like Memrise
Since Memrise keeps being recommended in this forum again and again, I thought I'd speak out and express some reservations.
(1) While Memrise offers a number of Japanese flashcard lists (I'm not sure why one would call them "courses"), most of them consist of single words. Imo, single words don't get you far in language learning, and especially not in Japanese where you have to string them together with the adequate particles, and remember the correct form of the verb etc.
(2) You cannot modify existing lists for your own use. So let's say I have found a vocabulary list on Memrise that has the words of the current chapter of my textbook. In Quizlet, I can copy this list and make it mine - by incorporating the words into sentences, by putting little hints (or Kanji) in, by doing whatever I need to help my learning. Not here.
(3) I find the learning set-up ultra annoying. You do you, obvs, and if you find it helpful that fireworks go off every third (?) time you remember a word, so be it. For me, it gets on my nerves, and I resent the time this stuff takes away from my studying. (And I haven't even talked about the comments accompanying updates. Gosherini, the staff think they are God's gift to the realm of humor, and you know what? They are not.)
In sum: I don't use Memrise, and I am baffled that, apparently, so many others do. Me, I've been happily using the "Write" function of Quizlet for years. So know, at least, that there are other, and possibly better, flashcard possibilities out there.
Well, the most important thing to remember is that everyone is different and prefers learning in different ways. There are many different roads to the same destination (learning a language).
That said, I personally haven't tried Memrise mostly because of some the reasons you stated above. I prefer to learn words in the context of a sentence or groups of sentences. When I have used flashcards (Anki), I created them myself. I can add sentences, sounds, and so on. I like the flexibility to modify it as I see fit. I haven't tried Quizlet (maybe I should).
I kind of wish I had taken the plunge into Anki when I started learning Japanese. They really annoyed me with their $25 fee for the iOS app, and Anki also seems to have a fairly steep learning curve. But, from what I've heard, the spaced-repetition feature is really good.
(Tangent: I am not that impressed with the spaced-repetition here on Duolingo - the intervals seem too far apart for someone like me who is still in the early stages of learning. Yes, I can fake knowledge because I am good at recognition and at multiple choice, but that doesn't mean I really know what, say, 引く means because I last saw it weeks ago.)
I've never managed to get along with Memrise for a number of reasons, but not any of the ones you mentioned.
There are loads of great looking courses on there. And I really like the competetive, game-like EXP system. However, I've tried numerous times to get over the reasons why I don't like it without any success.
I can't stand the way it has mixed answering modes alternating between multiple choice (mouse) and typing (keyboard). Sure, you can just use the number keys to select the answer choices, but that's the next thing I don't like—the answer choices are listed in a way that confuses my brain like crazy:
Bearing in mind that the number keys are all in a horizontal row on the keyboard, and that your left hand does 1-5 with its four fingers in pinky-to-index order, while your right hand fingers are the oposite order (index-to-pinky) with index doing 6-7 and middle doing 8.
I've tried rearranging the order of the eight answer choices with userscripts, but it feels confusing and I forever accidentally hit wrong answers no matter how I arrange them.
But it's also the typing answers that are annoying too. The two weaknesses ID-007 mentioned are what I mean. Here's an example:
- Question: 月
- Answer I typed: moon, month
Wrong! Says I should have typed "month, moon" !! XD
I also dislike the two second delay between each question where it pauses to let you see whether you were correct or wrong. For a flashcard system, this delay is annoying. You can click "next" or hit enter to force it to immediately get on with it, but this gets tedious to keep clicking enter a second time after every question. It should just display both simultaneously: show the next question and show whether your previous answer was correct.
There are other things. Mainly, I just wish they'd add an option to have only a single answer mode per session.
In fact, the "Speed Review" feature is actually really enjoyable. The only problem is that it requires you to first learn the words in the lessons, so this doesn't really help. I tried setting all the words to ignore, but that won't let me speed review them... ^^;
I'd happily pay for pro, but I don't think it offers anything that would address any of my issues with Memrise? I think I'd be better off paying someone to complete some courses for me, so that I can simply use speed review without having to do the tedious lessons. :P
This is really interesting because I was planning on doing something like this about Duo Lingo itself, in other place. I've been using memrise for some years now (on mobile), and although I'm currently trying pro, I will go back soon to my usual way of using it. And same, no financial ties whatsoever to either of those. Disclaimer: I use mainly both mobile apps! so I know little to nothing about memrise in pc. I also haven't use Duo Lingo for as long as Memrise.
(1) Even though the courses made by Memrise itself do include some basic grammar, I believe Memrise is fundamentally a Vocabulary app, that is not intended to learn the mechanics of the language. If anything, maybe you get an idea by pasive learning and association. Pro version has some grammar points that still would be lacking if you planned to use it as your only source of language learning.
So I think it comes down to how and why to use it, and if in that case, it's the right app for you. Flashcards in their classic version bore me to death. I appreciate having different settings for learning the same word, because it helps me ground them better. Many courses have audio, and in the Memrise ones, its by natives and recorded, not any sort of robot voice. That's an extra for me, because I worry a lot about reading things right. The way it spaces learning and how it does it feels more natural to me, as well.
Languages seem to play a role too in how good the lists and everything work out. For example, in Japanese, both Memrise and Duo Lingo have included sentences, and with this, it's obvious they had to make a choice. While Memrise gives you long sentences with every component on it, and if I remember correctly, specifies in single words that gender and number are not there, or variations in translation, Duolingo seems to have decided to assume "watashi" as a pronoun in their sentences and call it a day, and sometimes translations are buggy and weird. Memrise ("courses") does it better in constructing things with elements that it has give you previously too, from my point of view.
-- In any case, I suscribe most of what ID-007 said, and there's litte for me to say on that hasn't been better stated already. It's been an interesting reading, and I'm taking with me some of the tips shared.
I share your general confusion about some people's seeming unbridled enthusiasm for Memrise. It sometimes comes across as if they just actively don't care about grammar or whole sentences and just want to know lists of words. I've had a lot of trouble remembering vocab in the utterly-context-free (in general) world of Memrise. However, that was for languages quite different from English. When I've used it for Latin, things stick ever so much better because the words are just inherently more familiar. So for people learning Romance and Germanic languages, I get more how just memorizing lists of words actually can work out. But for a Japanese, yeah, you need more.
Have you tried making your own Memrise deck(s)? I'm wondering how that functionality compares to Quizlet.
I've just experimented with making my own Memrise deck for the first time. Haven't figured out some of the kinks yet, but it seems to already know what the words I'm entering mean. I guess it automatically is looking at all the other decks people have made. (I can certainly see the appeal of just taking an existing course and tweaking it, but Memrise does have batch input features.) Obviously, this particular functionality doesn't do much when you're entering phrases or sentences, but you can certainly put those in. I've worked on two Memrise courses that are almost entirely complete sentences, in one case approaching 3000.
I also don't know what you're referencing with the fireworks.
First of, I appreciate that you started this discussion, as I am one of those that have recommended Memrise in the past. NOTE: I am simply a user of Memrise (no financial ties, direct or indirect, to the company).
Regarding your points:
There is a very good reason behind lists of words. In most language courses, it is called vocabulary, or Tinycards in Duolingo, or Flashcards... All languages have to string words to make sentences. If you don't know the root words, how are you going to learn to conjugate/inflect/decline them and later to string them? In Memrise, if you don't like a course, you can make your own and you can use simple sentences. It is up to you how complex it is. You can add inflected/conjugated/declined forms to your hearts content!
I can and I do it all the time! If I don't like the mem that someone created for a given word, I can easily create my own where I can add any information that helps ME to remember that word. Given an existing course, I can also easily choose a list of words that I want to practice until I master it (this feature might be a Pro version feature). If I remember right, I can choose the size of the list, up to 20 words,
I don't see any fireworks in the Webb app (maybe I turned it off a long time ago...). Which app version do you use? Are you sure that it cannot be turned off?
That said, there is at least two strong weaknesses with the tool:
It does not allow typos (a great feature in Duolingo).
AFIK, it does not allow multiple answers to the same question; at least, I have not seen in any of the already created courses that I looked at so far.
Memrise is a very powerful tool (I do pay a yearly subscription, which is not the case with most other language tools) that helps very much my family's needs to learn vocabulary and simple sentences of foreign languages. Personally, I find Memrise a very good complement to Duolingo. In fact, you will see several Duolingo related courses in Memrise!
Memrise allows typos if you make it allow typos. I add alternative spellings to my decks.
For example for "moon, month" I add "month, moon" as alternative spelling. I also don't like to remember the "input format" of a certain course and especially inconsistencies with articles for example. Let's say sometimes the article is required and sometimes not. And I don't like when extra information is required for some words like "(prep.)" if it's a preposition or (+gen.) and sometimes (+ gen) (with and without the dot, with space and without space). But I like to use Memrise and I create my own decks. I don't care about the Mems other people create and have never added Mems.
Memrise is really bad when it comes to learning Japanese. I have only tried the free version, so I don’t know if the pay-version is better, but I guess not.
First is all, they don’t use katakana. At all. They write 「パン」 as 「ぱん」, 「ジュース」 as 「じゅーす」 and so on. You shouldn’t even use 「ー」in words written in hiragana.
Second, when you get writing-questions you have to remember EXACTLY how they want you to write it. For example, if they ask you to write how to pronounce 「を」 you have to write exactly “o (wo)”.
So, don’t use Memrise to learn Japanese.