Although I’ve managed to learn various languages, I used to struggle and grapple with learning new words. I hated it. The endless lists of words and definitions, which you’d read over and over again. With and without music in the background. With and without yawns. With and without a concentrated look on your face.
All in hope that there was a method to this madness.
I’m not a natural learner of words (if there are any at all). I need to see them. Look, peer and stare at them. Use, say and play with them. 7, but preferably more times, thank you very much Mr Thornbury. That’s all great in the class. But how the hell do I do that at home, on my own? (speaking to the mirror was not on the cards – that’s for alcoholics).
Then I had a revelation. A burning bush moment. Eureka!
The skies opened and a creaky old voice cheeped from above: Go to www.memrise.com and thou shalt be saved!
And so I did. No questions asked – even though the cheep and the awkward grammar begged a few.
It was about ten months ago. Since then, I’ve learned over 2200 new words in four different languages – with about 90% retention rate – and have loved every single moment of the process.
Memrise is so simple, but so effective that I wish it’d existed when I first went to a language school all those years ago. And the idea is not even knew.
Since antiquity, people have been using mnemonic devices (no, they’re not iPhone aps) to aid their memory , whose paths are mysterious, roundabout and slightly illogical. For example, it is much easier to remember a new word if we link it to a sound, image, smell or a funny anecdote. All this will make it more memorable and vivid. To give you an example.
Forest is der Wald in German. A quick and easy way to remember it for me with Memrise was to create a mental image (a Mem) of the Walden pond:
Much easier to remember than a dry der Wald = forest, isn’t it?
Then Memrise will automatically prepare a series of exercises, which will force you to use each word you’re learning in that session – yes you’ve guessed correctly – the magical 7 times. All sharp and sweet – 5 new words in around 5 minutes.
Of course, one learning session is not enough for the word to anchor in your long term memory. For this you need repeated learning sessions at certain intervals of time. But we’re all too busy all too often. We forget, and by the time we try to do some revision, the words are long gone, faded, and we have to start from scratch.
Here’s the smart thing. Memrise will tell you when and which words you need to revise. Those you’re having problems remembering will pop up more often until you start getting them right. Each revision session placed at a right interval of time to maximise your retention success.
Each learning session will finish with statistics, so you know how well you’ve done. You’re awarded points for accuracy, every new learned word and every Mem created. And you compete against your Mempals.
Very geeky, I know. But very addictive. And incredibly effective.
You create your own courses or you join the thousands already out there. To top it off, it’s not just languages, but also economics, Greek mythology, politics, art, trivia, you name it.
Can you hear the creaky voice cheeping from above? Mem up right now!