Normally my blog posts are about websites, apps or software that I use as a teacher. Today I am going to write about one that I have been using as a learner.
Memrise is an excellent website which uses a spaced repetition system to help you learn pretty much anything. As I have used it for languages, that is what I will focus on here. Working as an international school teacher, I really need to learn at least some of the languages of the countries I work in. Straight off the bat, I have to admit though, I'm not very good at it. At least not using traditional methods. I lived in Japan for 5 years and never got to conversational level. I could say "shingo hidari onegaishimasu" (left at the traffic lights) and order a beer but that was about it. My Italian is better, in that I can converse and have managed to deal with quite a bit of bureaucracy but I am not as fluent as I would like to be.
There are several things to consider when learning a new language, such as gramatical structure, but building up a large vocabulary as quickly as possible has to be a very high priority. Memrise is possibly the best system I have used for vocabulary building. It uses a nice little gardening analogy for memorisation. The first stage is planting the seeds, where you are introduced to new vocabulary. Each new word is introduced and then your short term memory is tested until you have memorised all the words. You then go through a 'watering' stage where you water your memory plants by revisiting them at an optimal time indicated by a timer before then going onto a harvesting stage, by which time, they should be firmly planted in your long term memory. You can go back and revisit what you have learned at any time.
A key feature of learning with Memrise is the ability to create 'Mems'. These are items you attach to each memory card where you use your imagination to help you remember it, for example, the Italian for pig is "maiale", so a suitable mem might be a picture of a pig in my alley. Memrise also has some competitive aspects which make learning with it extremely addictive. You earn points for each correct answer and you can see yourself move up the leader-board. This becomes especially good when you have friends who are on the same course.
Memrise allows people to create their own courses so there are now a wide range of courses available in languages, Maths, Science and Humanities to name a few and the number of courses are growing each day. I have used this as a learner rather than a teacher. I would be really interested to hear how people have been using it for teaching. If you have any ideas you would like to share please leave a comment below or submit a guest post here.