For some reason, Memrise’s top secret Language Learning Research Team has spent a lot of time recently learning Dutch. We caught up with Xia, one of Memrise’s Language Learning Innovators and Speaking Guru in Chief, to find out why, how, and what on earth that means for the rest of Memrise.
Why Dutch, and why 3 hours?
Well, why not? It’s a super fun language to explore, and it sounds so alien to me! And of course it’s also because we had Alex as our super tutor.
We spent half an hour a day learning Dutch, so it took just under a whole week to complete the challenge. 3 hours is a good, manageable way for us to have an authentic experience and sample what we’ve learned so far about our top-secret method for teaching any language fluently in 50 hours.
Like this, we were able to quickly spot any major problems before we start expanding our research any further.
Dus je spreekt nu vloeiend Nederlands, hè?
Hoi, hoe gaat het! De lol. Nog niet, maar een beetje. There’s still a long way for me to go, but I’m getting there. Just give me another 3 hours…
What were the biggest challenges for you and the team in putting together and learning from this course?
Hmm, I think the biggest challenge is coming up with content that meets all the requirements from all our different learn modes (lexicon, grammar, spoken language decoding, and speaking skills). For example, the lexicon that grammar session needs is not necessarily the same as what speaking session needs.
Our biggest problem for this challenge was that we only had one Dutch speaker in the team! So we all needed to efficiently and reasonably steal Alex’s time…
Besides, we didn’t have a real prototype to use yet, so we were totally dependent on Google slides and live audio/video from Alex’s to mock up the experience (yes, he sat there reading everything out for us :D)
We did rely on a lot of imagination and motivation. But luckily, we are a super imaginative and motivated group of people!
What are the implications of this experiment for your research, and for Memrise as a whole?
This was the first time that we integrated and synchronised all of the different learn modes that the Research Team has been working on into one complete, consistent experience. The next move for the Research Team will be to take a look at everything we’ve learned from this, and put together a second version of the 3h Dutch experience, that we might even want to test out on people outside of the Memrise Team. By then, we’ll probably have a real prototype ready to work from.
In the meantime, there are rumours that we’ll start setting something up for Russian, in time for the Research Team to set off on the Transsiberian Express and try and learn to speak Russian before they reach Vladivostok! (But more about that later… 🕵️♀️)
We have learned so much from this experience about what we want Memrise to look like in a year’s time, so we will be keen to start working with Tech and the Product Team to implement lots of our new ideas.
What was your favourite Dutch word?
“Mierenneuker”: nitpicker ( literally means ant f**ker). I love the word for obvious reasons.
I am also amazed by the sound of “maar (but)”, it’s kind of like “meh”, but with a touch of laid-back attitude in it, maybe it tells you something about the nature of Dutch 😜
What’s the next mission for Memrise’s top secret language learning research team?
This is exciting! After launching an awesome grammar mode this quarter, the next focus of the Research Team will be SPEAKING SKILLS!
I don’t want to give too much away before we start launching things now, but I will say that we are already very advanced in the user testing stage. So keep tuned, and prepare to be amazed!
Hi, I’m Xia and I’m from Chongqing, it’s a big city in southwest China, with ⅓ of the population of the UK, apparently. I am a Learning Innovation Specialist in Memrise’s Language Research team. My mission is to find out the best way for our users to develop their speaking skills when learning a language!
I have three major passions in my life: films, long distance running, and languages. I did a master in Film studies in University of Stirling and I have run 6 full marathons so far. When I’m not a lonely runner or a mad cinephile, I enjoy learning languages and using them to make some inter-human connections! I did French Language and Literature for my undergraduate studies. Currently, I’m fluent in Chongqinghua (my local language), Mandarin, French and English, and I’m learning German, Greek, and Dutch.