Word By Word

Word By Word

I study French.

I also study Classical Greek, although that’s more of an informal thing and I have to admit, I’m pretty bad at it. The alphabet keeps throwing me off.

I used to learn Italian.

I’m now teaching myself Esperanto, and considering learning a bit of Russian, too.

And I discovered this thing called Memrise.

I actually heard about it in the Guardian, when somebody learned an entire language just from vocab lists on Memrise and was able to communicate with it, but at the time I assumed it was a website you had to pay for, and intended to look it up to check but never got around to it. When I walked into a French lesson earlier and found we’d been set a vocab task our teacher had made for us on Memrise, I was surprised and pleased to discover that the entire thing was free.

After signing up, I set about learning the vocab, and quickly discovered how well something like Memrise works for me.

Memrise uses a combination of ‘mems’ (little phrases to help you remember things that you can contribute yourself, or others doing the same course can come up with–for example, in order to help us remember that l’appartenance meant belonging, our teacher suggested that you belong in your apartment), multiple choice tests, and little tests where you have to type in the answer. It invites you to ‘plant’ these vocab seeds, and then come back to ‘harvest’ them later. As I only signed up today, I haven’t yet been asked to ‘water’ anything, but I assume I will soon.

The thing is, I’m very easily distracted. But because this gives me a time limit to put in my answers, it’s hard for me to go off and do something else. And did I mention that I’m very competitive?

I mean, you only have to look at my NaNo wordcount to see that I’ve been racing a writing buddy, Karl, for the entire month. I need motivation like that. Luckily for me, Memrise has a ‘points’ system where you get points just for sitting there and learning the vocab in a way that really doesn’t seem like work.

(I’m currently around five thousand words ahead of the rest of my class, mainly because I got distracted into doing it this evening instead of writing, which I need to get on and do if I want to stay ahead of Karl. Damn you.)

And then I discovered that I could learn Esperanto vocab, from the very basics, on the site. And I could learn Beginner’s Russian.

And suddenly the whole thing got more appealing.

Currently, I’m leading on this week’s leaderboard for the first list of Esperanto vocab, though that’s mainly because it’s Monday and I did loads today. I’m also leading on my French class’s leaderboard for that particular vocab list. And I’ve learned it.

You see, usually, I’m very good at learning things for tests. I can just memorise lists. I do it by writing them out again and again. But later, if you said to me, “How do I say demand?” I would have no idea. Because it wasn’t in a list. Now, I’ll just say, “exiger”.

Also, the ability to add ‘mems’ meant I could come up with all sorts of ways to remember the gender of the words. For example, “la reconnaissance” I remember by the fact that Holly Short was the first female in LEPrecon–I’ve got the female aspect and the recon aspect in that mem. Whereas ‘le portail’ is masculine because stereotypically, games like Portal are played by guys. Or ‘le pseudonyme’ is masculine because back in the day, a lot of female writers were published under a male pseudonym.

See what I mean? Just by attaching phrases that mean something to me, I can remember the genders of words, something I have always struggled with.

I like this Memrise thing. I’ve only been using it a day, but it’s incredibly addictive, and it’s not a time suck the way Tumblr is–I’m actually learning vocab I need. So I think I’ll carry on using it.

Anyone want to join me with Esperanto? There are very few of us on that particular course and it would be nice to have a competitor I actually know… hint hint.

17 thoughts on “Word By Word

      1. Yeah not seeing Basque – but I could learn Latin, something I’m wishing I had done in high School – I bet I could put my Spanish foundation to good use, if I wanted to beef up on that. :}

  1. (Just a note: WordPress is not letting me ‘like’ the post again)
    Sounds like a brilliant site, though I’ve been creating my own ‘mems’ for Latin and Greek for over three years now. Βαλλω, I throw (a ball), λαμβανω, I take (the lamb). I don’t know how some of these actually work… Your ‘mems’ are a lot more feasible.
    For Latin, I often use this word-association for similar words, eg. saepe, semper: ‘saepe’ has an a so it must be ‘often’ (by opposite law!) and ‘semper’ thus is ‘always’. Can’t think of any Latin mems for the moment. I’ll come back in a couple of days… xD

    1. I’ve often created mems in my head, but it’s great to be able to share them with people, and to be prompted to think of them so that I actively start trying to associate the word with something that will help me remember it.

    1. I’ve tried lernu, and I’m still going to use it — though I haven’t got very far — but I think I’ll use Memrise to get a solid grounding in vocab, including verbs as well as nouns, so that it’s easier. :)
      Oh, and I haven’t got much beyond “Mi estas Miriam” … so I’m just going to pretend I know what you’re saying.

      1. Oh definitely, everything becomes easier when you have the vocab you need. You’ll find that the French and Italian help a lot.

        Since we’re pretending things, I’m going to pretend that I’m not telling you that I said “Do you enjoy learning Esperanto? I use the webpage “lernu”, which is very good!” :)

    1. This is CA from TSR. I checked out Memrise and I’m learning Esperanto. I think I’m 6th on this week’s leaderboard. Kind of surprised, actually, but I have always been good at languages.

      Also refreshing myself on French. So far it’s been a breeze. And fun. Thanks for sharing.

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