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Brian's Memrise Lessons

Last updated August 2022

This page serves as a brief outline of how I learn languages using Memrise. Memrise is free to use language service.

Introduction / About Me - this may help you:

I didn't start learning French in school until Year 6, age 10/11, and I struggled. As with other subjects, I wanted to learn but things didn't come easy, even though I was treated as if I was "bright". It wasn't until well into my 30s that I self-diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum and I used this awareness to properly appreciate how the general teaching/learning techniques hadn't worked all that well for me at school, college, and beyond, and actively sought to implement techniques and routines that worked for me.

It began with German:

Some years ago now I started to use Memrise to learn German as I had a few German friends online at the time. I liked how the lessons were programmed to tease the content into my brain and in a relatively enjoyable manner (I have been prone to experiencing flash-backs to difficult lessons at school and the uncomfortable sensations in my head these caused).

I almost completed the first large German course with Memrise but I let myself slip in the final stages (a sort of Completion Anxiety, if you can appreciate that such a thing could exist!)

At the beginning of 2022 I started on a Russian language course - I'd teach myself a few words and phrases with from Youtube videos, but for this year I wanted to make more of a concerted effort.

Here is my routine:

I go to bed relatively early and I use the Memrise app on my Kindle Fire (I don't have any lights on and I turn the screen's brightness down to a minimum).

I then alternate between Classic Review and Speed Review which are available to me in the free service.

Speed Review takes me through 100 previously taught words and phrases, with three strikes and you're out. If I pass that then I delve into learn more Words and Phrases. I repeat this 3-4 times, alternating between Classic Review and Speed Review. I'm a slow learner but this process is working for me.

If I've had a busy day I might feel too tired to complete the full 4, or sometimes I might feel like I'm on a roll. I try not to be too hard on myself or over-do things.

I try to do this routine every night but while I was away for a week upon my return my progress had been significantly hampered and it took me weeks to get back on track and start passing the Speed Review again in order to allow myself to learn new words/phrases. Prior to this I had done my above cycle perhaps only 3 times, but now I upped it to 4 in order to feel my progress returning.

Sticking to a route really pays off - progress can at times feel non-existent, but you have to put your faith in any effort you make; any step forward is a step forward.

I've noticed with learning things that I feel overwhelmed if I keep inflicting new stuff on me before existing stuff is confidently absorbed - this can be a downside to attending actual classes (although saying this isn't to discourage anyone from attending them). Some years ago I attended Welsh Language lessons. These went well for the first year but the second year had become a problem - looking back I can see how the summer break in between thwarted my progress ("keep practicing" during the break was far easier said than done, so it wasn't done), and I felt that feeling of being overwhelmed in the second year - my brain was struggling to deal with what it had learned in the first year and couple this with the new content, all the while seeing others not having this issue.

With Memrise I can learn at my own pace and in a way, and at a time, that works for me. It's not perfect though.

The German lessons seemed to be better programmed with clever techniques for the brain to learn, which is probably why I developed my routine.

I can see how I learn things in a manner that works for the app; I can respond well to the Review tests, but if I try and think of a learned word or phrase outside of the app, then I struggle to recall the memory. Sometimes I learned word/phrase will pop into my head but I can't for the life of me remember what it means - if the app had tested me on it I might well know! This to me illustrates an importance of broad learning; don't just attend classes, and don't just use Memrise.

Speaking out loud is very important. Ultimately to learn a language is to speak it so I have to make sure I speak along with the app - simply reading the words and silently keying in answers will not do as this will fail to teach the speaking part of the brain.

I try to imagine trying to hold a basic conversation with a Russian speaker I might meet, and ultimately I find it fun and it even amuses me to speak this foreign tongue, even if my mental phrase book is very limited right now!

I wish all this was quicker and easier, but I'm learning this for me. If I wanted to gain an official qualification in this subject I'd wait until such a time as I might have learned enough on my own in order to confidently attend an actual course, but right now, this isn't my intent.

I hope this formation here can be useful to others trying to learn stuff!