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The Membus in Germany (minus the bus)

By Memrise Blog



With video dictionaries for 4 European languages already completed, the Membus team is continuing valiantly across the continent, filming locals en route as part of its mission to bring a brand new “Meet the natives” mode to your favourite language-learning app Memrise. You can already enjoy these videos on the French and Spanish courses (with Portuguese and Italian coming shortly!) For a quick recap of what the project is all about, check out our site here. 

Keep reading to find out how we went about creating the next dictionary in line – Deutsch!

But first, some background details: due to a variety of reasons (that we still don’t quite understand) the bus wasn’t allowed to enter Germany. That, however, didn’t stop the Membus brigade! We decided to travel through the country by train instead, leaving the bus in the safe hands of our driver Renato, as he embarked upon a solo and courageous mission through Eastern Europe. We were to join forces once again in Stockholm, where we anticipated the most joyous of reunions.


The first city on our route was Munich. The team was joined by German-Egyptian filmmaker Yasin, Memrise’s own German translator, Mario, Lena the linguist from London, and the adventurous, Membus-backing American couple, Angie and Robbie, who, incidentally, organize language-immersion cruises. What about a MemBoat next year?

With just one camera at our disposal (the other was in Venice with the rest of the team, who were showing Google how we roll), we had a determined plan of what and who we were looking for on the streets of Munich.

“You’re asking where the toilet is, man – say it like you really need it!” While Yasin (also a trained actor), spent the day encouraging commuters at the Hauptbahnhof to deliver phrases with as much dramatic effect as possible, the other team recorded die-hard Bayern Munich fans at the Olympic Park, and surfers at the Englischer Garten.


Before heading to the capital Berlin, we made a cheeky stop-off at Leipzig, and welcomed Melita and Yannick, our latest filmmaking team. Here, when we weren’t filming at the converted cotton mill Spinnerei, or cycling to Lake Cospuden in our free time, we got a real slice of German culture by attending a very “underground” party in the woods (so underground, in fact, it took us more than an hour to find it, and so underground that the playlist was mainly Justin Bieber) within the Eastern depths of the city.

And so, while we continued on train up north to Berlin, Renato’s solo mission through Eastern Europe was going as smoothly as ever, “except” (and here I quote Renato directly) “for the price of coffee and water that goes up every day, except for the drier that doesn’t dry, and except for the two hours of hail and thunderstorm between Salzburg and Linz, which almost flooded the bus’ lower floor.”


In Berlin, we stayed in a converted factory – helpfully named Die Fabrik – in the trendy and vibrant Kreuzberg district, a stone’s throw away from the remaining section of the Berlin Wall. During the days, the relentless rain forced us into laundromats, second-hand vintage shops, and currywurst houses, to carry out our filming. We also had the pleasure of going to visit the offices of Eye Quant and shooting their enthusiastic staff, particularly the boss Fabian, who got highly creative with the videos!

By the evenings, the rain had stopped and the sun came out to produce striking pink sunsets across the city. We loved roaming Berlin at night, with highlights including a stand-up improv show at the Comedy Café, a party in an abandoned chalet, and an afternoon of open-air karaoke at Mauer Park.


And so, after 4 train rides, 1000 km, 3 cities, 1000 Germans, 5000 phrases, and with one very special bus and team that just keep on trucking, we have completed the German dictionary! Very soon you’ll be able to learn German directly from the Germans themselves. Which, as we all know, is the best way to learn any language…next chapter, Swedish!

Editable map updated (1)


Hund – dog

Hauptbahnhof – train station

Englischer Garten – English Garden

Jawohl! – Yessir!

Überaus – exceedingly

Laundromat ­– launderette

Currywurst ­– curried sausage