Memrise is one of my favorite tools for studying Japanese. That’s well known to people who have read previous Japanese Talk articles. I’ve created many courses for others through JTalkOnline as well as lists for my own study.

How Not to Use Memrise logo

What is Memrise?

For those that don’t know, Memrise is a free online community created flashcard program with spaced repetition software. You are rewarded for studying by gaining points, and can compare your points to others.

Because the courses are created by the community there are a HUGE number of courses for Japanese (and other languages). Some are made by people like myself who want to help others learn and will improve courses based on suggestions. Most others are personal lists.

It’s good to browse what’s available and what others suggests to find courses that are right for you and how you like to learn. There are often some good courses buried away, but Memrise’s search function still needs some work. Right now the same popular courses always get suggested, but just because it’s popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be good for you.



How Not to Use Memrise

I’ve used Memrise a lot over the years and I’ve noticed that there are effective ways to use it, and not effective ways to use it. Of course everyone’s different so what doesn’t work for me might work better for others.

These are mostly tips from mistakes I’ve made.


Don’t play it for the points

If you use Memrise just to build up your points then you’re going to find yourself focusing more on that then actually learning.

I once found myself so focused on hitting a certain daily points goal that I didn’t realize I wasn’t learning any of the words! Until it was too late of course. Which leads me to my next point…

So basically don’t sacrifice your learning to rush through a course for quick points.

How Not to Use Memrise badges

Don’t click the right answer unless you KNOW it

Going “meh, I kind of knew that” after looking at the possible answers will not help you learn! It will help with your pattern recognition, but not your Japanese ability.

Try to not look at the answers at all. Say the answer out-loud with the English meaning, then see if the answer’s there. If you get it wrong / are unsure, then make sure you chose “Show Answer” or pick the wrong one.

If you always choose answers you kind of think you know then they won’t turn up again, you’ll forget them, and find yourself needing to re-learn them down the line.


Try to use the computer more than the app

I find the computer to be a lot more useful than the app in terms of memorization.

This is because when you practice through the website you have to type the Japanese out on the keyboard. Whereas on the app they give you a selection of about 8 characters, making it easier to guess the answer. (Update: some phones apparently have really good Japanese keyboards so you don’t need to use the app’s character selection.)

Also, when reviewing answers you got wrong, they will turn up 3-4 times on the website, but only once on the app.

 How Not to Use Memrise on the computer

Focus on 1 or 2 courses at a time

I want to learn everything! So I pick about 10 courses I want to learn and then… don’t learn them. I’ll start but get so overwhelmed that I’ll just drop everything.

I’ve found it’s a lot more effective to focus on 1 or 2 courses and thoughly learn the vocabulary/kanji in them.


Don’t neglect it!

It’s difficult to practice everyday. Life/time/things happen and suddenly it’s 11pm and you’re too tired to study.

But the more you neglect Memrise the less useful it will be for you.

You often don’t need to put aside specific studying time. Just study a little bit everyday. Even just 15mins a day is better than 1 hour every 3 days!

It’s not the end of the world if you drop it for a while (I certainly have). But if you do, you need to decide if it’s worth starting a course over from the beginning or focus on reviewing everything over again. (Remember not to select something you ‘think’ is right just to get it out of the way!)

Neglecting Memrise also leads to our next problem…


Don’t let reviews get out of hand

I am a culprit of this and often forget to review before learning a bulk of vocabulary.

Reviewing is important because the spaced repetition programming in Memrise optimises when to review so you will be able to memorize vocabulary better.

How Not to Use Memrise review words

If you’re a subscriber take advantage of the Difficult Words feature

I really don’t think you need to subscribe to take full advantage of Memrise. But if you have subscribed you get the bonus feature of being able to focus on difficult words.

These are words that the program that flagged (because you got it wrong so many times), or you have flagged because you’re not confident.

Either way, this is a great feature to help you focus on parts you find tricky.

Some extra tips

Making your own vocabulary lists of difficult words/kanji can help a lot. (I suggest making them private unless you really think others will find them useful.)

Search for courses that work for you, on topics you want to learn about. Some people prefer learning all the kanji with vocabulary as a beginner, others don’t, and there are courses that will cater to both.

Ask others for advice and help. Can’t find a course that works for you? Don’t know how to use a vocabulary or grammar? Memrise has changed how their forums work (which I’m not happy with), but you can ask others for advice on there, or you can ask myself or others on the Japanese Talk Online Facebook Page.

Don’t get stressed out! Study for fun, play around, enjoy yourself! If you find yourself stressing out and turning Japanese into a chore, take a deep breath and try to calm down. (I do this to myself a lot). You have lots of time to learn everything, even if you don’t hit a goal by a set day, there is still time!


I love Memrise! It’s a great program and the creators are always working hard to improve it. I find it a lot of fun to use and I hope you do too!

How Not to Use Memrise
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One thought on “How Not to Use Memrise

  • May 29, 2017 at 2:38 am

    I myself find that the levelling system actually pushes me to learn at a far more rapid rate than I would have done without it. Even though on an intellectual level I know it is utterly arbitrary, just seeing the point popups for correct answers appeals to that whole carrot and stick mentality (even though the numbers mean nothing). I do find myself getting frustrated with myself when I get incorrect answers though, even though there is no need to, so you have a point on that front.

    You raise an interesting point on not choosing the correct answer unless you know 100% why it is the correct answer, as I have been guilty of doing that with difficult phrases on occasion. More often though I get frustrated when it says something in English and asks for me to type the Japanese, and I will then type something which is utterly correct in response to the English, but because it obviously only has the one answer programmed into it, there’s no room for ambiguity.

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