Memrise News & Events

Memrise is selected as a nominee for Best App for the Google Play awards

Memrise was recently selected as a nominee for the 2017 annual Google Play Awards in the category of Best App.

Among other notable achievements, over the past year more than 20,000 native speaker videos have been integrated into the app in a new “Meet the Natives” video game and a wealth of new content to be learned was released, now offering over 100 courses created by in-house language specialists.

The Google Play Awards celebrate achievements of the developer community across the globe over this past year. They recognise the best apps and games covering twelve categories.

Nominees were selected by a panel of experts who value quality, innovation, and major launches or updates this past year.

The winners will be announced at Google’s annual developer conference on Thursday, May 18th at 6:30pm (Pacific Time). To watch the ceremony on live streaming, tune in here.


Guest Post

Machine Translation vs. Human Translation

Okay Google, what is Hello in Yoruba? With Google Translate you will definitely get the answer in microseconds. It’s Pẹlẹ o. For such uncommon languages like Yoruba and for such common phrases like hello, Google Translate and other online translators are the best. They are fast, cheap and the risk of translating a basic word wrong is low. But what about long documents that require content-based and accurate translation? Can we trust machine based translators with important documents? It is indeed a hard question to answer on top of your head so let us take a look at numbers and facts to shed light on this question, shall we?

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Human translators have been around since the second millennium BCE, and their role in society was immense. Hundreds of peaceful negotiations and agreements between countries were possible due to translators. Well, this was thousands and hundreds of years ago when people did not have internet and access to online translators. It is so, but the role of human translators still remains as important. Unlike machine translators, humans can ensure high accuracy, and they do not do word-by-word translations. Content, etymology and idiomatic knowledge are absolute essentials of accurate translations. Can online translators do this? 9 out of 10 times NO. Human translators have these skills; they know exactly whether they should paraphrase the text or translate it literally that is to say metaphrase.

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How many languages do you think there are? The answer might surprise you –  as of 2009 there are 6,909 distinct languages. World’s most used online translator Google Translate has a database of just 103, for those who love percentages, it’s only 1.5% of all existing languages. The point is human translators do not have language limits, whereas machines do. But not everything in the garden is rose, human translation is time-consuming, and costs money. On average the translation of 1 word equals to $0.11, which means the translation of a short 600-word article will cost you $66. Machine translations, on the other hand, are free and quick. Furthermore, you can access them 24/7.

Machine Translation vs. Human Translation copy 3

Human translators can translate one language at a time while machines can translate multiple languages at once. This is especially applicable for travelers, as a matter of fact, Google Translate has been included in the list of Smartphone Apps for Travelers. When talking about Machine Translations we all think of Google Translate first, for one thing, it is the most famous one with more than 500 million users worldwide. It is a huge number compared to human translators: over 330,000 translators internationally which is just 0.0045% of the world population. Google Translate translates 100 billion words per day if we convert it to hours it is 41,666,666 words per hour, in comparison 250 words per hour are translated by professionals. If we continue the calculations, we can easily see that if we gave the job done by Google Translate to professionals they would have daily jobs of 10,000 words which multiplied by $0.11 is $1100 a day.

The dilemma of Machine Translation vs. Human Translation is basically Quality vs. Quantity. You no longer need to hire an interpreter while traveling to Italy, Spain or France. All you need is an internet connection and a translation app. However, using an online website to translate an important formal letter is never a good idea.

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Varduhi Mesropyan is the Marketing coordinator at Quickly Translate, and is passionate about languages, most of all finding similar words in different languages. He is fluent in Russian, English, and French, and a beginner in German and Spanish. His next big challenge is to tackle a language that isn’t from the Indo-European language family. He just can’t make up his mind about which one(s)!



Guest Post

Why Should I Teach my Child a Second Language?

The Dos and Don’ts of Teaching Our Children a Second Language

Giving your child the opportunity to learn a second language is possibly the most exciting and fulfilling thing that you can do as a parent. Well, apart from showing the little one your famous recipe for a chocolate, biscuit and peanut butter smoothie.    

This is something that will bring many advantages to the youngster in their future (the second language, not the thing about the smoothie).

As well as being able to understand a full episode of Dora the Explorer, watch foreign movies without subtitling or sing along to the latest Europop hits, this approach can open their mind to new possibilities and give them a fantastic start to their life.

Getting started on teaching a second language might sound incredibly difficult but it is actually a whole lot easier than you might imagine. The following tips will help you to get started easily and smoothly.

Start Them Young

Basically, the younger a kid gets started on picking up their second language the better it will be for them. In fact, by getting your child to learn a second language at the same time as their mother tongue you will make life a lot easier for them.

This way, they will learn a lot more naturally and also have a better chance of speaking with a near-native accent too. Youngsters pick up new words and phrases very quickly and will soon start repeating what they hear in an instinctive way that is a joy to witness.

If you are worried about how learning a second language might affect their native language development then you can put your mind at ease. Learning a second language will almost certainly help their understanding of their first language in the long run, so don’t think that there is some sort of compromise that you need to accept.

While a bilingual youngster might initially have a smaller vocabulary in each language, their combined total should probably be more than that of their peers. You could try out a few simple YouTube videos (with video translation for you to understand them) or bilingual CDs to get the ball rolling if you aren’t comfortable teaching them a second language yourself.

Consider a Bilingual School

You might not realise that there are now plenty of bilingual schools that get little ones started on a second language from as young as three. Countries such as Holland and Spain are now making a big effort at getting parents to enrol their kids in English language schools as early as possible, while this approach has also arrived to the UK in recent years.

If you do some investigation it may be possible that you find a good bilingual school near you. If not, then what about hiring a teacher to carry out language lessons at home?

This is a great way of taking a sensible, orderly approach to their language education in an interesting way. Ideally, the teachers will be native speakers in the language being learned, as youngsters can pick up accents very easily.

Make It Fun

Does teaching a second language to a toddler sound awfully boring? It doesn’t have to be if you put a bit of creativity and some je ne sais quoi into it.

You can watch foreign cartoons together, sing songs and play with all sorts of interactive toys. If your little language student has a lot of dolls then what about having some of them speak one language, while others speak another?

You could mix things up by watching foreign kid’s shows with an English voice over and then again in the original language.

This is actually tremendous fun for the parents as well. Screaming “vamonos Dora” at the TV or teaching Barbie to say “come si chiama?” can be as thrilling for the older members of the family as it is for the young student.

Don’t Worry About Mix-Ups

Does teaching your child a second tongue sound as though it is going to be horribly complicated? Maybe you think that the little one will end up speaking a confusing mish-mash or might sound like a character from ‘Allo ‘Allo?

The truth is that you can definitely expect a few little mix-ups along the way, as two tongues can get mashed together in a kid’s brain a bit. However, children have an impressive way of sorting out these issues in their heads by just practising more.

A smart move that some families make is to have one parent speak to the kid in one language and the other in a different tongue. It makes for a lot of fun, interesting conversations and unique family jokes that no-one else would even understand.

By giving your child a chance to learn a second language you will be presenting them with a fantastic start to life. Who knows in what exciting ways will that knowledge come in handy to them in the future?


Jade - kids in cataloniaBrought to you by Jade, a lover of travelling and blueberry muffins from Matinée Multilingual: Voice Over Agency.

Jade originates from Scotland and spent a few years living in Spain after graduating university to improve her Spanish. She makes a conscious effort to keep her Spanish fluency up to par now that she’s back in Glasgow.

In Spain, Jade worked as an English Language Teacher in two primary schools teaching kids from as young as three years old! One of the schools was in Catalonia, which is why she got inspired and would love to learn the Catalan language. It would come in handy when she goes back to visit now and again.

Guest Post

The Benefit of Being an Open-minded Language Learner

It seems to me that when people first start learning a language, they believe that they must focus on specific dialects and regions.  For example, they will say, “I want to learn Mexican Spanish” or “I want to learn American English”.  It is totally fine if someone has preferences, however, it seems like a lot of people are closed-minded and will ONLY want to hear and study a certain Spanish, Portuguese, English and so on.

We simply cannot control how natives speak.  As soon as we open our mouths to speak the language we are learning, natives will respond to us as if we were born and raised speaking their mother tongue.

The language that we hear in many programs is great to start off with, but we must keep in mind that the majority of natives will not speak the so-called ‘classroom language’. This is reality.

Think about it, we do the same when speaking our native tongue, even when the person we are speaking to is clearly speaking broken English (for instance). We will answer them like anyone else, as if they were to understand us perfectly.

There is no better way to illustrate my point, then by telling you a story about a language encounter I had when I first visited Cartagena, Colombia a few years back.

I was on a beach enjoying a meal with a Colombian friend, who didn’t know A SINGLE word of English.  She was a Spanish native of course. We understood each other well.

After about an hour as the sun went down, the waiter came by and asked if we wanted anything else.  I was full, but had some drinks left so I asked if he would like to have a seat and chat while we finish up.

The funny thing about this gentleman was, he spoke Spanish, but to me, it was almost as if he were speaking another language.  It was drastically different from my friend’s Spanish.

He sat with us for about a half hour or so.  When he spoke, I didn’t understand much at all.  He wasn’t as clear as the woman and his accent was very strong.  He also didn’t understand me too well. When I spoke, he would give me a weird, confused look and then would look to her for clarification.   

So while chatting with him, my friend ended up being my Spanish translator even though she didn’t understand ANY English. How is this possible?   When he spoke, she would tell me what he said IN SPANISH.   It went on like this the entire time he was with us.  

It was the weirdest thing ever.  I’ve always heard that Colombians are the “clearest”, they are the most understandable etc, but boy, when this guy spoke; it was a different ball game.

Using a listening resource such as Gritty Spanish, you will understand why people all sound different.   Just like in real life, you’ll listen and understand one person better than the next.  This is what we face constantly when we listen to music.  For example, you may understand Romeo Santos very well, but have a really tough time understanding Shakira.  Watching TV or movies you will understand one actor very well and have difficulty with the next.  Watching the news in a foreign language, you’ll understand the anchor extremely well and then they will do an interview with someone on the street and…. you know the rest.

If everyone were to speak using the same tone, people would lose their personalities. Dialects from specific regions would no longer have their signature feel. In the real world everyone sounds different, which is what makes languages so unique and fun!

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Eldon Mirjah is the creator of Gritty Spanish, a course that’s entirely based on informal learning – where students get to grips with the language through urban stories – featuring the eccentric, the bizarre and the real-life. This is a form of learning that is defined by storytelling.



Memory Science & Magic

The Brains behind the Mind-boggling Memprize Competition

Who doesn’t ask themselves the question; how can I accelerate my learning? How can I learn more in less time and actually retain this information later? For this precise reason we decided to create the Memprize competition to find the world’s most efficient and effective vocabulary learning technique.

The winning learning method, not only doubled the memory performance compared to standard repetitive techniques, but was also the most enjoyable. It is based on a combination of adaptive, repeated spaced retrieval and mental imagery. The team from Radboud University and Radboud University Medical Centre based in the Netherlands are responsible for this victorious scientific outcome!



The team was led by Gesa van den Broek, a PhD candidate whose work is closely related to vocabulary learning and included Anke Marit Albers, Ruud Berkers, Paul Konstantin Gerke, Marlieke van Kesteren, Boris Konrad, and Nils Müller.

“We didn’t really have specific roles in the team, it was more of a collective effort through brainstorming and discussions, where each of us had our own background and specific experience to bring to the table,” Ruud Berkers explains.



Memprize Winners – Credit: Radboud University

Just to introduce some of the team members;

Boris Nikolai Konad is a multiple time World Memory Team Champion and Guinness Book World Record Holder for memory.  

In her current research in educational neuroscience, Marlieke van Kesteren tries to convince teachers and students that there are several ways to learn and we shouldn’t stay focused on ‘old-fashioned’ methods primarily.

Ruud Berkers’ PHD research “ investigated learning and memory, specifically the influence of prior knowledge on novel learning and how these influence learning processes in the brain…..The Memprize for me was a great exercise in trying to translate cognitive and neuroscientific insights into practical applications.”

Gesa van den Broek explained the technique they developed for learning languages more efficiently;

“We used repeated, spaced retrieval and mental imagery with keyword mnemonics. These are techniques that have long been known to enhance the retention of factual knowledge. We tried to use these principles as optimally as possible: We made the spacing of the retrieval trials adaptive with a computational model that predicts how quickly an individual learner forgets and which words are difficult and must be presented more often. We used images and step-wise presentations of the words to stimulate users to form effective mental images.  As a bit of an experiment we also included images to quickly get people to use the method of loci, a spatially oriented mnemonic technique where people would for example imagine words in a kitchen or bathroom. And we had two interim recall moments based on those locations. These were meant to enhance the chance that users could later think back to the experiment and go through the words they had practiced. For example, we were hoping that users would think back to practice and ask themselves which words they imagined in the kitchen. In addition, we added some features that we found motivating or helpful ourselves: feedback that showed words that learners mixed up, for example, and a very brief high score animation to motivate people to keep going.”


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Ruud Berkers goes on to explaining; “Our specific program helps for initial vocabulary acquisition, but it is not a panacea of language learning, and at some point it needs to be supplemented with other approaches and software implementations that allow to track people’s existing knowledge and gaps in knowledge in a smart way, informing what further information needs to be learned next. If we, as a community, succeed in helping students all the way into reaching language fluency using fun and intelligent software based on scientific insights, it would greatly help students in making learning easily accessible.”

Incorporating behaviouristic principles was Mario de Jonge’s idea. “To be specific, if an item was correctly answered, the participant would hear a rewarding sound. This was done to increase motivation and make the whole experience a little bit more game-like….I think motivation is a crucial factor. Basically, you can have the best learning intervention in the world, if nobody likes using it then it is still useless.”

“In the current digital age, where smartphones and tablets come to dominate our everyday lives, we can really develop software that can interact more directly with people, and as such boost learning in a highly personalised, smart and fun way.” Ruud Berkers claims.

Mario de Jonge goes on to saying; Joshua Foer once argued, in his excellent book on mnemonics called “Moonwalking with Einstein”, that it might be a good idea to start teaching kids at school how to use mnemonic strategies….Mnemonic strategies have been around for centuries, and they seem very effective for remembering information. So, why not teach kids how to use these kind of strategies from an early age on?”

The Memprize is bridging the gap between science and practice. We’re writing education technology history together for sure! Only time will tell what sort of an impact we’re making….



Memrise News & Events

Announcing the Memprize winners!

We’re very happy to announce the conclusion of the Memrise Prize competition, which was organised in collaboration with UCL to find the world’s most efficient and effective vocabulary learning technique.

The winning solution was developed by a team from Radboud University and Radboud University Medical Centre, based in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and tested on over 10,000 Memrise learners that volunteered to take part in the experiments.


Memprize Winners – Credit: Radboud University

The Memprize challenged the world’s top brain scientists to create their vision of the ultimate system for learning 80 foreign vocabulary items in an hour, with a test one week later. Participants included teams from MIT, the University of Oxford, Washington University in St. Louis, and Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

The winning learning method, which overall more than doubled memory performance compared to the standard technique of repeated study, was based on a clever combination of adaptive, repeated spaced retrieval and mental imagery. Volunteers were trained to use the concept of memory palaces to visualise words in certain rooms for later retrieval practice that was adaptive to their forgetting rate. Participants also found this method to be the most enjoyable of all submissions.

The Memprize winners are a research team who carried out their experiment at the Donders Institute for Brain and Cognition and the Behavioural Science Institute of Radboud University. The team was led by Gesa van den Broek, PhD Candidate and included Anke Marit Albers, Ruud Berkers, Paul Konstantin Gerke, Marlieke van Kesteren, Boris Konrad and Nils Müller.

The Memprize finalists were judged by a panel of distinguished cognitive scientists including: Prof. Robert Bjork, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UCLA and Dr. Yana Weinstein, Assistant Professor of Psychology at UMass Lowell.

Culture around the world

How to live like a German when learning the language

A Step-by-Step Guide to German Immersion

Would you like to learn German? Come to Germany! There is no better place to learn German than in good ol’ sunny Germany. Right?!

Are you shaking your head and saying “Nah, man, Germany is too far”, “I don’t have time” or something along those lines?

No problem at all! You don’t actually need to be in Germany to learn the language. Bring Germany to you!

Intrigued? Read on!

Before we go into the nitty gritty of the process, head over to Sprachheld for an extensive article that includes the best resources for learning German around the web. It goes step by step with videos covering topics from your very first words to grammar, pronunciation, conversations, expressions and much more!

Now let’s have a look at how to become like a German, while living outside of Germany!

The “immersion bubble”

In many cities around the world I see so-called ‘language enclaves’. In these enclaves people from other countries succeed in continuing to speak their native language without having to learn the language of their host country. They do this by surrounding themselves with people with the same native tongue, usually inhabiting a certain area of town. They live almost as if they never left home. I have seen this all over the world, people living in Odessa without speaking any Russian or Ukrainian, same as in my hometown of Hannover. It’s always the same process.


While Chinatowns all around the globe are probably the most conspicuous type of foreign enclaves, you surely can also find some German ones close to you.

So how can you use this to your advantage?

All you have to do is reverse engineer the process and join the immersion bubble of the language / country that you want to learn.

In our case with German you are quite lucky. Germans love to travel and stay in different countries around the world! According to the passport index of 2017 they hold the most valuable passport worldwide, which means they can travel to a whopping 158 countries visa free, more than any other country in the world. This is great for you, because you will find Germans everywhere, which makes seeking out people to practice speaking German with easy.

How can you find Germans in your city?

Your job is first to find these Germans in your city, then hang out with them. There are many ways to do this. There are various online platforms where people of similar interests or backgrounds can meet up. These are a great way to start:

  • Obviously Facebook: With the function of Facebook groups you can find people that share similar interests. Search for the name of your city and type in the word German, either in English or to make it easier for you, anything that has “Deutsch” in it basically.
  • Meetup is a platform where people can organise groups to do activities together like Yoga or speak a specific language. Search for German!

By far the best method is to find a German and ask them. People of a specific ethnic group usually know where to find more of the same.

So now you have found Germans, what do you do next?

It depends on your level of German.

If you speak fluently enough you can just access their immersion bubble and hang out with them and join the fun. Obviously, in small towns there will be less Germans than in big cities, but even one German is enough to do this!

If your German isn’t at that level just yet, you can meet up with a native individually for a language tandem. What is that you ask? A tandem is when you split your time in half and speak both languages, you practice German, while they practice your mother tongue. Win-win!

Changing your daily habits to the German way of life


Your next step is to learn how to live outside of Germany like a true German. This means full immersion of the language.


In the following steps I´m going to explain to you how to be super-german.

In Germany all movies and shows are dubbed, basically everything on TV is in German. You are in luck again! You can watch Hollywood movies in German. Therefore, instead of watching TV in your native language, just watch it in German!

Here are the most popular German channels:

  • The public channels: ARD & ZDF
  • The most popular private ones: Pro7, RTL, RTL 2 and Sat1

If you don’t understand German that well, keep the subtitles switched on, at first in your native language and later in German. Eventually, you can get rid of them completely.

Bringing German Culture to your home


With music this will be slightly harder since most music in the charts is in English. This isn’t only thanks to American music dominating, but also many German artists sing in English. Nevertheless, there is still quite a lot of German music. Just check out the German charts and find a few artists that you like, for instance MTV Top 100 for Germany (not many German songs, I know).

Now comes the fun part! Find a song on YouTube or Spotify and let the platform find similar songs. For YouTube you just use the “50+ mix” button. Here is an example with one of my favourite songs “Superheld” by Rob & Chris.


Aaand now you have a mix with great music that fits your taste.Now that you have music, how do you proceed?


Books, newspapers, radio, podcasts, the list goes on and on. Anything you do in your native language try to do it in German. It would be rude to leave you without further resources right? So keep on reading!

What do Germans use every day?


Who doesn´t appreciate a good stack of old newspapers in his home, to give it that refined touch.

Let’s start with newspapers. Why is the best newspaper the “BILD” if you’re learning German? It’s by far the most popular tabloid in German. While the quality may not be the highest, it boasts with easy German. Therefore, it is super simple to understand. Once you feel you’re more advanced, check these out too:

  • Süddeutsche Zeitung
  • Frankfurter Allgemeine
  • Die Welt

Since we are already on the topic of reading, let’s continue with books. Basically, you could read any book in its German translation. Here is the SPIEGEL bestseller list. You will find the current bestsellers in Germany sorted by several categories (children books, novels, non-fiction and so on).

What’s SPIEGEL? I’m glad you asked. It’s one of the most popular German magazines. But you might also enjoy Stern and Focus.

Alright, so we are through with reading. We covered TV. We covered music. I guess we’re set?!

Feeling German yet?


Gabriel, the guru of German and proud blogger of Sprachheld, describes himself as a:

#languagelover #entrepreneur #frequentflyer

He launched his blog in the fall of 2014 due to his love of languages. He is passionate about helping others reach their goal of learning a foreign language. His aim is to give the most useful and actionable advice language learners can implement right away.

Gabriel speaks German, English, Russian, French, Spanish and Hebrew. As a sun-lover his challenge for this year is to spend as many days in sunny countries as possible.