Android Learning App Review: Memrise (Mandarin Chinese Course)

Memrise (Mem = short for mnemonics) is an online learning tool which is driven largely by content created/curated by a community core. Founded by Ed Cooke, a ‘Grand Master of Memory’, and Greg Detre, a Princeton neuroscientist specializing in the science of memory and forgetting, the site extensively employs mnemonics embedded within virtual flash cards to optimize learning through repetitive visual and audio reinforcement. In the present day Memrise is largely used by learners to acquire new languages. A companion app is made available for download on GooglePlay.

This review is based on the free version of the app (v 2.9) maintained as of 3 September 2016.

The Mandarin Chinese course comprises 7 parts, each part consisting of several levels which caters to the teaching of words (in the Chinese vocabulary) of varying difficulties.

A screenshot of the starting page for Mandarin Chinese 3. Mandarin Chinese 1 has 12 levels, Mandarin Chinese 2 has 27 levels, Mandarin Chinese 3 has 32 levels.......etc

As one can see, mems are everywhere:

Note that all mems are uploaded by users themselves. If content on a particular flashcard is a tad harder to internalize, simply use the "mark" function and return later to look at it once more.

Mini interactive quizzes are constantly administered throughout every learning level to facilitate better memory retention:

Choose the correct set of Hanyu Pinyin description for the displayed words

Which audio option corresponds to the the displayed words?

Choose the relevant Hanyu Pinyin blocks and arrange them in the correct fashion

A purple bubble at the top right corner indicates one's level of mastery of a particular word(s):

Within purple bubble: passed some quizzes, seed germinates into a plant with leaves.

Within purple bubble: passed more quizzes, things get more leafy......

Within purple bubble: and the flower finally blossoms. You now know this at the back of your hand.

Achievement unlocked: beautiful nursery

When one has acquired reasonable proficiency of a significant number of words, a speed review might be due to further refresh things:

Ready, get set, GO!

The red fluid is rising rapidly on both sides of the screen-you have 3 lives to complete the whole review

Okay review successful!

By the way, as one progresses through the quizzes and reviews, points are earned and rank promotions are earned:

Promoted once.....

Promoted twice.......

Promoted thrice. Is 3 times a charm?

In 33rd place with 28,522 points -if only that was what I make in a month.......

What We Like

The premise of Memrise, which is basically a "in-your-face, back and forth" approach goes some way in enabling proper consolidation of newly learned vocabulary. The sleek presentation, coupled with gamification of the app will certainly entice younger children who might otherwise be reluctant to study the Mother Tongue independently. The breath of vocabulary showcased is suitably extensive, and would therefore be able to cater to the needs of upper Primary students ( Mandarin Chinese 4 to 7). In addition, the recorded enunciation of the words themselves are crisp and highly professional.

Smile, you just got a medal.

The app's in-built scheduler coupled with a daily goal-setter will also serve to remind and motivate one whose enthusiasm might otherwise be merely a spur of the moment affair:

What We Don't Like

The app is sorely lacking in 2 departments. One, demonstration of stroke orders of Chinese characters are not featured as part of the course component-which in itself is an important segment of the lower primary Chinese curriculum. Not to mention the Chinese characters themselves could have been presented in greater font sizes. Two, the teaching of sentence construction is minimal, as opposed to the excessive focus placed on standalone words.

Any clue as to why this is a coherent phrase?

The literal translation feature employed is also an unnecessary distraction, as it may perpetuate the inaccurate association of eccentric sounding syntax with the actual Chinese characters themselves.

What on earth is a dry cup???

The app is ridiculously inflexible; one must adhere strictly to the sequencing of answer blocks, else be prepared to be struck down:

Lesson flashcard says: cow; ox; bull= correct.

Therefore the answer combination ox; cow; bull= Wrong. Total bullshit.

Score: 6/10

Reviewed by Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 3 September 2016

(The app can also be downloaded from the iTunes store for iPhone users.)