Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Learning Mandarin Chinese with Memrise

I stumbled upon this site tonight and I am truly fascinated and hooked.  Memrise is website where you can learn languages for free.  My interest lies in Mandarin, as my children are learning Mandarin as a second language, while their parents learn slightly slower than they do:)

So far its been an adventure but not one that I regret.  I love the sound of this language, its complexity, the art that is so part of their Chinese characters, the sing song way it is pronounced.  Of course, it's not easy, it's definitely not for the faint hearted but I believe that this will be a rewarding endeavour for our whole family.

So back to Memrise. It has a truly impressive development team!  Which include some of the most interestingly gifted people:

* Ed is Memrise's resident memory man. He's a Grandmaster of Memory who can learn a 1000 digit number in an hour or a pack of shuffled cards in 45 seconds. He once taught a forgetful journalist, Josh Foer, to become US memory champion in a single year.
*  Greg is Memrise's resident authority on the human brain. He studied neuroscience at Oxford, Harvard and Princeton, where he spent his PhD using brain -scanners to observe memory at work.
* Spencer's residency is in Memrise's code-wizard department. While still at school, he was a grand prize winner in Google's international coding-competition


Now let's see, a Grandmaster of Memory, a professor of memory, and a code whiz - now I am sure that they know a thing or two about learning! With a combination of Science, Fun and Community they have built an awesome website.  I know you may think I am raving about a product that doesn't seem like much on paper but you need to try it to believe it. ( I did mention that it was for free didn't I?)

I have a lot of people, who want to study Mandarin Chinese, asking me what products we use and I would definitely say that I enjoy this one.  I really think its a winning combination.

Just look at how they create "mems", aren't these associations so good? Guaranteed you won't forget these Chinese characters. 
Mandarin Character for dagger

Chinese character for surround
Mandarin character for woman
 And to add some more fun to your learning experience you have to plant seeds, water them and then harvest them and that's all linked to short and long term memory.  And if you forget (which I am inclined to do - or it could just be the inherit laziness in me) they remind you with an email telling you to get to your garden quick because your plants are wilting.  (starting to remind me of my own rather poor gardening skills).

My current status is that I have learnt 14 words out of 3009! (still early days)

In terms of age, I definitely think that it needs to be used by children who can read, as some of the words don't have image associations but word or idea associations.  But I do think that if you sat with your child, they could enjoy the benefits of the images and descriptions. 

This is definitely something I will be spending more time on, as Mandarin Chinese is a big language with a large vocabulary to be learnt.  Apparently (by those in the know), it takes about 3000 characters to be able to read a Chinese newspaper, so maybe this will help!

For those of you that are not interest in Mandarin, why not try another language?  The list is long and if you can't find it, you can suggest it.  How cool is that?
Languages that are currently available on Memrise are:
French, Spanish, German, Italian, English, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian,Swedish, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Catalan, Danish, Greek, Estonian, Persian, Finnish, Irish, , Hebrew, Hindi, Croatian (page 1 of 6 pages of languages)
You are spoilt for choice!
Happy learning!

Please Note:  I have not been asked to write about this program.  They don't know me, they don't know my children - they don't even know my name.- I get nothing from doing this.  Just sharing a bit about what works for us as a family as we journey through this maze of second language learning in Chinese Mandarin.

Linking up with: Raising HomemakersTitus 2sday Link UpGrowing Home:  Teach me TuesdaysLiving Well WednesdaysDomestically Divine Tuesday


  1. So you wrote this post in May 2012. As it is now November, how has your mandarin progressed and has Memrise helped? I literally just read about it in the Guardian newspaper magazine and am keen to give it a shot. I've been struggling with languages for a while and hoping this will make it a less painful way of learning. Be interested to hear your thoughts on whether you're still using memrise and whether or not you think it's helped.

    1. Hey Mike, absolutely - it's a slow process because you are constantly introduced to new words and revise old ones but we still do this faithfully every day for anything from 10 to 30 minutes. It's the only program my children have really enjoyed and we have seen how they recognise characters on the Chinese television. I know we have a long way to go but this does make it fairly effortless.
      What language are you wanting to study using Memrise?


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