Questions on pro level and how far a Memrise course can teach you a language [Japanese]

1- it’s now on a 50% sale on going pro for a year- about 25$, is it worth it? I don’t know since I’m using it for less than a week.

2- I can’t see the offer on the memrise site, only on my app, if I pay through my phone and the app, I will also have the 1-year premium on the website right?

3- I’m trying to learn japanse, I have about 1 year to learn then I travel there(for a 1~2 months trip), I actually don’t know to what extent of fluency and knowledge of the language, can it teach you all the way to decent level to hold simple conversations with the natives, or it only goes up to the most basic stuff and that’s it?

I’m new and this is my first topic so I don’t really know if I followed all these forums rules… sorry :slight_smile:

Besides the official courses on memrise, everything is crowdsourced. That means you have natives offering courses; people making wordlists from their phd class on The Tale of Genji, others cataloging vocabulary from a favourite manga. So no, memrise does not “only goes up to the most basic stuff and that’s it?”

That being explained, if you’re serious about learning Japanese and have a year, you should be studying at minimum 2 1/2 - 3 hours per day, every day. Start here: [Course Forum] Suggested Guide for Japanese Literacy (SGJL) course series

Be sure you want to commit to Japanese, however.

thanks for the explanation, I’ll think about it tomorrow, but I will probably buy the 1-year premium.

as for the devotion to learning the language- I truly want to, but I’ve just started a new and highly demanding Job(in terms of work hours intensity), so practically and mentally speaking, I will not be able to put 3 hours a day to it. I will be able to put that maybe 2 days a week. but rest of the week ill get no more than 1 hour a day. I just hope this will be enough for the level of Japanese that I am aiming at.

If your goal is to hold basic conversations, then an hour a day should suffice. The worst you can do is not do something everyday and then cram everything onto weekends. But yes, an hour a day with the courses I linked will definitely provide you with tools to “get by” in Japan.

I don’t know if you’re planning to spend most of your time in Tokyo, but if so, you’ll appreciate this course, which will assist in navigating all of those train-station names when you buy tickets.

I should also mention I’ve been on memrise for a while and have never used a premium account yet have made tremendous leaps in all my languages. It’s not essential.

I’m actually more of a nature\rural areas guy when it comes to traveling, so I probably won’t be staying in Tokyo for more than a week.

also- to clarify the matter- what I mean by “holding basic conversations” is not to mumble a few butchered words in Japanese to get directions, I want to actually be able to say most of what I want as in a normal conversation and understand most of what is being said to me. is that the level of conversation you talked about that I can achieve in 1 hour a day for a year right?

and about the premium- well i still don’t quite grasp how this works - the unofficial courses and all of Memrise features- but I understand it’s quite necessary and helpful, so I will look it up, but I’m still less than half way through the official Memrise course (only been few days since I started) so I still got time for that.

anyways- thanks a lot of helping me- much appreciated!

The only important feature of the pro-membership is the possibility of offline learning. Pro allows you to download courses on your device if you use the mobile application. If you prefer web-version or if your connection is stable at all times, pro does not make much difference.


That’s interesting - thanks - but I don’t use a smart phone and there is no app for the BlackBerry PlayBook or Web version, so I can’t download them.

Nevrttheless pto also gives some interesting extra settings, like daily goals

I will be blunt, and tell you that your expectations are totally unrealistic, for many reasons. First and foremost, Memrise “courses” aren’t actually courses in the academic sense, but rather sets of flash cards containing fact pair sets. Hours of studying flashcards are not the same as “hours of instruction” such as would occur in a school or private tutoring setting. There is a reason why courses in school are structured as they are, with integrated lectures, readings, practice, review and testing. You don’t see universities handing their students flash card sets at the beginning of the school year and sending them on their way.

Learning doesn’t work that way. Pianists don’t develop proficiency from playing with flashcards, and neither do plumbers or electricians or engineers or doctors or lawyers. They develop proficiency by following a concentrated, and integrated program of professionally designed study and practice.

So if you were to play with the Japanese flashcards on Memrise for 365 hours over the course of a year, I would be very surprised if you would even be able to utter “a few butchered words of Japanese” at the end of the year.

Reliable studies of second-language acquisition of languages such as Japanese, show that it takes 700-1000 hours of intense full-time study and practice, for example in small private classes, to acquire a mid-intermediate level of proficiency, such that you would be able to engage in simple conversation, and do very simple concrete things like order a meal in a restaurant. But at that level, you would not have the ability to express or understand abstract subjects or engage in ordinary day to day conversation easily, and forget about functioning in business contexts. For example, with such a level of proficiency, nobody would hire you to work at their fruit and vegetable stand.


I have not taken any Spanish classes. I have made several Spanish courses including grammar courses for myself (private ones).
Memrise helps learning words. Words are essential. You can’t speak neither read if you don’t know enough words and expressions. You also need to know a bit grammar to form your own sentences.

Teaching is learning

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I think another important question is: Do you know more than one language now?
Because if you do, you at least know “how to learn a language”. If you don’t, then you also need to learn that first (it’s not as trivial as it sounds ;)).

If you’re serious about it and have a year, I really think you should try to find a way to learn with a human trained teacher and not just flashcards. Either a teacher or class in your area, or on skype, or whatever.
Flashcards will give you bricks, but you also need mortar - especially you’re new to language-learning in general.


The following comments are not intended as a personal insult, but rather an academic discussion of language learning, and learning in general.

With that said, what makes you think that your “courses” are of any value to yourself or anyone else? How do you know that what you are teaching yourself is correct? If you have no independently verified expertise in a subject, what makes you think that you are qualified to teach it to anyone, including yourself? How does someone with no knowledge of a subject claim to be able to know and teach that which they don’t know, and know beforehand what they need to learn, and know exactly how to teach the required facts and skills to themselves, and also objectively evaluate their own performance and level of ignorance?

We have a tremendous body of professional knowledge and experience about how people learn, and there is a very simple fact whose truth cannot be denied. One must learn a subject and master it before one can teach it, and mastery of any subject requires about ten thousand hours of concentrated study. We don´t let university freshman get up and teach their equally ignorant classmates about the subject, because it doesn’t make any sense. We have professors and instructors who have dedicated their careers to mastery of the subject, and have objectively proven their knowledge and skills before they are allowed in a classroom to teach the students who know nothing.

A pithy aphorism isn’t an argument. Although teaching can enhance one’s existing knowledge under some circumstances, before you can teach, you must first master the subject yourself.

And I doubt that an actual Spanish or physics professor learns very much from their experience of teaching introductory courses to freshmen year after year.


so If a good book comes out (or someone invented a useful thing) you don’t
read that book or website… you wait and let others to do that then you
wait a little more as they make courses out of it and then you go and pay
good money for these courses.

that’s not me…

I’ve studied didactics 5 years in university I know how to gather
information and how do decide what is good and what is not

I’m still able to use my own brain

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Perhaps you are. And, again, this isn’t personal about you, but about people in general, and how they learn.

The less skilled one is in a subject, or to say it another way, the more incompetent one is in a subject, the more likely they are to:

  • fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
  • fail to accurately gauge skill in others
  • recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill

That’s why I believe, and centuries of academic tradition agree, that learning from a verified expert who has proven that they know the subject, and can accurately evaluate the student’s level of performance is the only reliable way to learn.

I’ll just leave this reference here for anyone who’s interested:–Kruger_effect

You don’t need mastery to maintain a formal conversation and make yourself understood in a foreign country, all you need is decent pre-intermediate level.

BTW, ten thousand hours make about ten years of learning, 20 hrs each week. According to this logic, it is better not to even start learning anything if you are over 15 years old…

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I didn’t claim that mastery is required for simple conversation. I specifically said a couple of posts back, that, on average, it takes about 700-1000 hours of intense formal study with a tutor or in a small class to reach mid-intermediate level in Japanese, which would give you a basic functional level for very simple conversations about concrete subjects.

I stated that mastery is required before one could be considered qualified to teach a subject to students. And that indeed requires about ten thousand hours of intense structured study and practice.

And although it depends greatly on what languages you already speak, and which one you are trying to learn, studies have shown that it typically takes at least seven years of living in a country that speaks your target language to develop true near-native fluency in a totally foreign language.


I was just trying to stay on topic, the TS is not planning on teaching a university course of Japanese far as I could understand.

Instead of Memrise, I now think “readthekanji” is the best for learning Japanese vocabulary (and kanji). You can finish everything on that site in 2-3 months if you use it for 2-3 hours a day. (I personally can learn about 400 new words a day max on that site, because I can’t concentrate for longer.)

Start with N5 vocabulary and after you know N2 you’ll be able to easily read most manga and understand the main part of most conversations, and you’ll be able to read novels but it will still be a little difficult. Getting used to life in Japan will be a small jump from that point. After N1 you’ll understand almost everything in Japanese in general, you definitely won’t have a problem in Japan at that point (in reading, at least).

You can start at N5 and finish N3 in one month, and I think finishing N2 and N1 will take another one month.

For grammar, start with “A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar” and continue until you finish the “Intermediate” or “Advanced” book. Don’t memorize example sentences, just read them and understand how the grammar works through the example sentences, and then read “real Japanese” (manga is easiest to understand) for practice. If you watch TV or listen to the radio/music, or play videogames, do all these things in Japanese instead and together with what i’ve said above you’ll learn very fast.

I don’t recommend paying for Memrise. The site keeps getting worse, and one year from now we don’t know how it will be.


I honestly can’t recommend paying for the site/app anymore at this point either. My prediction is that the next change will be the complete removal of user-created content, all we’re left with are Memrise staff created courses that only teach you “Where is the toilet?” -type of content.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I started learning, and I’m just about halfway through the official Memrise course “introduction to Japanese”. from the rest of the people that replied here I came to understand that Memrise is basically “flash cards” and that is not good if I want to learn Japanese to the point of simple conversations, reading and understanding in 1 year time.
also- as some people suggested- it is not possible for me to attend a physical course of private tutoring for the length of that year. tutoring through the computer or smartphone(with programs or like with using skype) is the best I can do for the time.

what would you (and others who see this post) recommend me do, for best learning possible during this year? knowing I can’t attend physical courses and have no more than 3 hours a day(and most days only 1 hour or so) of learning? should I finish official Memrise course? should I ditch it completely and start with something else? and if so, then with what? is “readthekanji” the best option for me now or are there other ways? I really want to learn Japanese but I don’t want to learn poorly and waste my time over bad learning experience.

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