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Hacking Languages

By Memrise Blog

In the journey to learning a language, your first real conversation acts as a kind of decisive, watershed moment. It’s when you realise that you can truly do it, that the promise of language – ideas, friendships, adventure, discovery- is actually possible for you. After you’ve had the experience of talking to someone in another language, you’ll tend to stick with that language: you’ve tasted its fruits.

Now if you practise a language, you get better. Thus, to reach fluency, all you have to do is keep going. It follows, if all this is right, that all you really have to do to get fluent in a language is have one conversation in it. After that magic experience, you’ll stick with it, you’ll keep improving and eventually you’ll wind up fluent. Simple. In this way, the best possible language learning method should get you to your first decent conversation as quickly as possible. Everything else will take care of itself after that, according to this theory.

Our main responsibility, then, is to get you talking with other people as quickly as possible. And to celebrate that obvious insight, we are testing a new series of courses, made by a glorious selection of Memrisers, but all based around the idea of getting you conversing in the language as fast as possible.

This is how it works: we have designed a “language hacking” course template, based on principals drawn from language hackers such as our old friend Tim Ferriss, together with data-driven scientific discoveries, an actual sense of humour, word frequency data and lessons from our own research on how best to structure the early stages of starting to learn a new language. It is not a perfect one-size-fits-all way to learn a language; but master it and you will be well set to have your conversational breakthrough!

We have also recently finished the first version of some new and more powerful data analysis tools that will run on every course on Memrise – currently course creators can view some of these and we will be rolling out more over the coming weeks. They analyse every learning event by every user. They track what and how often and how accurately people learn. They let us see which learning experiences people are motivated by and which drain their desire to learn and send them off instead to browse their Facebook stream, or check the football scores – whatever else they find to be more attractive at that moment.

These tools mean that we can now see more clearly than ever what aspects of the learning experience affect people’s motivation to learn. And that in turn will let all course creators improve their courses so that people stay motivated, and have a better chance of reaching that elusive breakthrough conversation. As data comes in, telling us how people are learning on these courses, the course creators can tweak and polish the courses to smooth the rough edges in each course, making all the courses more delightful and amusing to learn.

So get involved and give one of these courses a try! You will be surprised how fast you can make it to a conversational level in a new language; and even if you don’t you will at least have provided us with some crucial data to help the next person reach that breakthrough!

Here are the courses:

Some popular languages:


…and some more unusual ones!:


And please do get in touch with me (ben@memrise.com) if you would like to make a course in another language!