Memrise News & Events

Language learning for the rest of us…

We’ve just released our biggest ever range of new language courses!

I wanted to take a moment to explain what the courses are and why we’ve created them.

What are the courses?

The way we think about learning languages is heavily influenced by Stephen Krashen’s Natural Approach, Michael Lewis’s Lexical Approach, and other related research. Essentially what it boils down to is this:

“Communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules, but a matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns” (Widdowson, 1989, if you like academic references).

Or, to paraphrase, learning a language is not about learning lots of grammar rules and then applying them to lots of words. In fact there’s a bunch of evidence that knowing grammar rules is absolutely no help at all in getting you to speak a new language. You get good at speaking by learning ‘chunks’ of the language – more than just single words – and by being exposed to enough natural language to spot the patterns in how to put those chunks together.

These courses are designed to help you do just that. They are lexical courses. They teach you useful chunks of language, and give you enough variety of examples to help you start to spot the patterns in how to use them.

Why have we made them?

The gulf between what is discovered by research and what happens in the classroom and in text books and apps is often a depressing one. More than twenty years ago Michael Lewis wrote that, “almost all applied linguistics and methodologists writing over the last thirty years have, as a key element of their proposals, tried to dethrone grammar from its central position, and de-emphasise it in the classroom.”

Personally I’ve always found learning grammar rules to be the least joyful part of learning new languages. It’s always been the part that has put me off, killed my motivation.

When I discovered that the academic world had been trying to “dethrone” grammar-led teaching for fifty years, I felt mixed emotions. I felt relieved that I wasn’t unusually stupid to find it difficult to learn languages that way. And I felt angry that I’d been made to spend so long trying!

These courses reflect our wish to correct that situation. They’ve been designed by our incredible team of linguists and second language acquisition experts to help me and other people like me to learn new languages without getting confused and losing motivation.

With these courses we can learn to communicate in a new language, and learn the grammar later!

So without further ado, here are the new courses… why not pick one and give it a try!

[note: for people who’ve been learning the previous “A1” and “A2” courses, the A1 course roughly equates to courses 1 – 3 of the new courses, and A2 equates to courses 4 – 5. The new courses are extensions and improvements of the old courses, transferred to the new database system. After finishing an old A1 course, if you move over to learning Course 4 in the new system, you’ll be in the right place!]


14 responses to ‘Language learning for the rest of us…

  1. Can we expect a Czech course anytime soon? I’m loving these new courses and really got a solid grounding in French and Norwegian quickly. Czech is my new goal. Thanks

  2. Hello, if further courses (8,9,…) are planned? Which level are you going to achieve?

    I love new 1-7 courses and I would like to thank you guys! The only thing which is missing: old A1 courses had very short and very useful grammar tips in mems which is missing in new courses.

  3. I am learning Esperanto at the moment. One thing that I’m finding incredibly frustrating is that, when completing a classic review, once you’ve answered, information notes, usually grammar related as far as I can tell, pop up beneath the word or phrase. Very useful. Or it would be if they were displayed for more than a split second. They are not displayed until you have answered, at which point the app immediately and automatically scrolls on to the next question, rendering these notes useless, since they can barely be read. I cannot find any answers as to where else I can find this information, how to stop the page scrolling on immediately to give me time to read it, and have even tried to screenshot them , but it’s too fast for the camera and even cat-like reflexes will result in only half the screen being captured as it rolls on to the next question. Any thoughts, suggestions?

  4. I am trying to learn Russian (and have a Russian keyboard) but your lessons have all the words in English characters and seems to be just an interpretation of the way the word sounds in English. Is there any way to change this and see the words and type them in Russian?

    • HI Justin – the first 10 words are in romanised form, but this is only to get you started easily and as an aid to learning to read cyrillic, which is what the next couple of levels do. The rest of the course is all in cyrillic. So if you already read cyrillic just skip ahead to level 5 of Russian 1.
      I hope that helps!

  5. Do you have a place that lists ALL the courses you have made that will have the membus videos, even ones that aren’t “From English”.

    • The videos are attached to the target language, and are independent of the language that is being taught from. So as soon as videos are added to the German content, for example, they will be available to everyone who is learning German, whatever language they are learning from.

      We will be adding videos eventually to all languages, the Membus ones first (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian) and then Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian before the end of the year. Then we will move onto the rest of the languages 🙂

  6. Hmm, I see these pose a nice contrast to duolingo’s courses. Going forward, will memrise be adding additional languages to this list?

  7. What are the actual differences between the old A1/A2 courses and the new 1-7 courses? What specifically has changed between them? And what are some specific examples of how the new ones are better for learning?

    • Good question!

      – First, the biggest single change is not actually in the content, but in the sheer number of courses, and the length of the courses. The A1 courses were built with the same pedagogical framework in mind, we have now expanded and deepened our implementation of that framework. So the new courses are better for learning because they are longer and more numerous!

      – Second, the fact that they are built in a new database system that is structured in a way that will allow us a) to roll out more courses faster and b) to add in new test types, eg video testing (the first videos from the Membus trip will roll out on French courses tomorrow) much more quickly. This means that there is greater potential to improve the learning experience on the new courses.

      That said we have taken the opportunity of re-building the courses to learn from the structure of the A1 courses and to solve problems that people ran into with them. The major ones are:

      – Removal of un-natural phrases that were included in the A1 course purely to illustrate a particular sentence construction. We did try to minimise these in the A1 courses, but there were still too many. The new courses focus even more strongly on *probable* not just *possible* language.

      – Changes to level structure where certain levels had especially low completion rate – generally ones with huge numbers of long sentences. We’ve broken these up to be less hard work. By fixing the levels that caused disproportionate numbers of people to give up, we hope and expect that more people will continue their learning journey.

      – There are also specific changes for courses with different scripts – eg Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, that didn’t have A1 courses before, but now have full introductory courses under the new system. I’ll be writing another post soon with more details on that!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Pingbacks & Trackbacks

  1. The secrets of language learning | Improving Teaching