Memrise, foreign language website, Mandarin Chinese,

Chinese Words Are Easy to Learn. Really!

Chinese Writing and Language Is Fun and Easy

I found this great site, MemRise,  that has language instruction for Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish and Italian. I checked out the online Mandarin Chinese site because my kids are learning it and I had just enough Chinese lessons as a kid to know how difficult it is.

It starts off as “Seeds,” basic vocabulary building. What is great is is that:

  • You hear the word pronounced by a native speaker. Chinese is a tonal language with 4 tones so it’s very important to get the pronunciation correct.
  • You can hear 3 different native speakers say the word!
  • The words are expressed as Chinese writing or characters, rather than the phonetic pinyin. Pinyin is like using training wheels to pronounce a word.
  • There are GREAT Mnemonics images to help relate the Chinese character to the word it means. The picture and images relate to the Chinese writing of the character.
  • It doesn’t show stroke order of the character. Too bad, because that is helpful.
  • It shows related characters that use the word as part of another word. I don’t need this now but that’s a nice feature.
  • It does offer a quiz to help reinforce the word.
Here is more interesting info about their learning philosophy:
  • We use ‘mems’ to help you form vivid, sensory memories. We test you continuously, always making sure to give your brain just the right workout.
  • In order to learn anything, you first have to connect it to what you already know. Memories aren’t stored nowhere, you know, they’re always made by creating connections to existing memories. Now, the more your brain does to encode a fact or word [“encode” is a fancy word for connect or associate with what you already know], the richer and more robust the resultant memory.
  • Memrise has been designed to help you connect every new word in the densest, most vivid fashion possible. We do this with mems. Mems is our natty word for the morsels of interesting and relevant information you see beneath every word on Memrise. Mems can be mnemonics, etymologies, amusing videos, photos, example sentences: anything which helps connect what you’re learning and bring it to life. Memrise is a wonderful community of mem-makers: we believe that there’s no idea or fact that isn’t made easier to learn with a choice mem.
  • Mems work best when they stimulate your senses, imagination and your emotions. The memories that result from such processing last longer, stand out better are just plain enjoyable and satisfying to recall.
  •  In a nutshell, the more your brain has to work to recall a memory, the more it will strengthen that memory while recalling it.
  • We believe that every learner is partly a teacher, and we hope that once you get started, you’ll soon be supplying little nuggets of wit and wisdom to help the rest of the community as they learn!
  • We’ve turned learning facts and language into a game where you grow a colourful garden of memory. You grow and water your memories in a garden of memory, you zoom up the leaderboards, and you learn alongside your mempals. It’s like a guiltless video-game.

Sounds fun, right? This site is in beta so expect more improvements and probably a fee structure at some point!

p.s. I have other posts on learning Chinese for kids:

Teach Kids Mandarin Chinese and Make It Fun

Cheat Sheet for Pronouncing Chinese (Pinyin)

iPhone App To Learn Chinese for Kids

Teach Toddlers Chinese Through Songs and Nursery Rhymes

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Teaching Kids Chinese on Pinterest.

Try Little Pim for Free.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

32 Comments

  1. What a great site! It’s really well done. Thx for sharing.
    Asianmommy recently posted…The Asian American Voter 2012My Profile

  2. That sounds brilliant. I saw something similar a long time ago in France and when I was on my TEFL course teacher training they made a cafe scene and got us all ordering in a completely bizarre language we knew not a word of just from how good he was at teaching and the active way he taught acting like he was the waiter. I love those symbols to show what the word is, great stuff.
    Catherine Johnson recently posted…Pears in the roadMy Profile

    • Hi Catherine,
      It is amazing how it’s much easier to learn a language if the instruction and/or instructor is amazing! I think this site is great because it uses mnemonics which work really well for me and my kids.

  3. Hi Mia,

    Thanks for sharing this site. It looks great. I recently told my kids (after almost 3 years of Chinese school) that they didn’t have to go anymore. I did it because I believed it was a cultural connection for them but then kept having to scold my parents for speaking to them in English. I realized that my cultural roots and my parents (even though they immigrated from China) are pretty American(ized). My eldest son wants to learn French, so we are going to focus on that.

    Posted by Vincent Young

    From my LinkedIn Group OCA Professional Network
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Chinese Words Are Easy to Learn. Really!My Profile

  4. Thanks Vincent. I hope this comes in handy if your kids decide to learn Chinese in middle school or high school. My kids hate Chinese school and Chinese lessons but, what do you know?, they opted to study it in Middle School.

    It is a useful language. Would your son consider Spanish? It’s just more widely spoken than French for future travel and career opportunities.
    Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Chinese Words Are Easy to Learn. Really!My Profile

  5. This sounds like a great site! I love the idea of the memes to help learn the characters.
    Leanna recently posted…Cinderella Around the World: US Southwest and AppalachiaMy Profile

    • Hi Leanna,
      I don’t usually cover websites on foreign languages but I was so impressed with this one! And honestly, mnemonics work well for me and my kids so this actually might help the Chinese stick!

  6. I’m so excited you posted this! I’ve been looking for ways to sneak some Mandarin into my kids (and me), and there’s really not anywhere near me for them to take classes. You always inspire me to get excited about extra ways to help my kids learn important things!
    Artchoo! recently posted…Cool Kids Need Cool PlushMy Profile

  7. Ann

    This method sounds very effective! Going to check it out!!!
    Ann recently posted…Alien CommunicatorMy Profile

  8. I found a site called chinesewithmike.com “Mike” is easy to follow along, funny, and all his lessons are free. I used this site to get an A in my Chinese 111 class and now my family is using it to speak Mandarin with me. This is such a beautiful and useful language with a great history. I’m just glad I found Chinese with Mike to help me. Hopefully he can assist some of you on your journey.
    Have a great day!
    Danielle
    Danielle recently posted…Lesson 80 – Yes/No Question Review and Farewell!My Profile

    • Hi Danielle,
      Is Chinese with Mike your company? I noticed that you list an email and url with the site in it. Thanks for the heads up. I will take a look.

      I’m back. The issue I have with this site is that Mike is not a Native speaker and the videos are not tightly edited. I think there are better sites out there to learn Chinese.

      • Patrick

        I totally disagree with you! I checked out the Chinese with Mike website and I like the fact that he is not a native speaker. It shows that anyone can do it! I think it is not right to judge someones teaching ability based on whether they are a Native speaker or not. Also, it is free, so the editing didn’t bother me at all. I want to learn, not worry about the editing.

        • Hi Patrick,
          I like a native speaker for learning foreign languages so that I learn correct pronunciation. It starts to get like that telephone game when the blind lead the blind. Particularly for Mandarin Chinese which is a tonal language with 4 tones, one sound has 4 meanings. It’s not just Chinese with Mike but any foreign language teacher who doesn’t speak like a native which isn’t to say that you have to be a native speaker to teach a language. You just have to sound like one. Did you check out the Memrise site? That is a great site for learning Chinese and is also free.

          • Patrick

            I think that reply was very biased. What you are saying is that all of these high schools that are teaching foreign languages with teachers who are not native speakers are not really good teachers. I am really offended by your reply because honestly, for lack of a better word, it sounds very racist. Anyone can learn tones and from what you are saying, anyone who is not a native speaker will not be able to pronounce tones correctly. I couldn’t disagree with you more because most people who have learned a language may have better techniques for those who are also learning.

          • Hi Patrick,
            It is possible to learn a language and speak like a native speaker but you must learn at an early age or have a very good ear for languages. If you are not a native speaker and speak with a strong accent, are you a good teacher? Ask yourself, do you want to learn English from a teacher with a strong Chinese accent? You’d speak English with a strong Chinese accent which means certain tones like hard r’s would be incorrectly enunciated. This is the same issue with learning Chinese from an American who speaks Chinese with a strong American accent.

            Believe me, I’ve taken Chinese lessons as a child — my kids are Chinese, Japanese and Korean. They are learning Spanish and Chinese. When I was in business school, I had 15 Japanese national classmates who tutored me in Japanese which I was studying at the time. They would tell me which friend to ask for pronunciation help. They recommended their friends from Tokyo who have the best accent.

            As for a teacher who can teach foreign languages, you are right. Just because you speak natively doesn’t mean you can teach your native tongue effectively. The best case scenario is a native speaker who has experience and training as a foreign language teacher.

            Are you learning Chinese? Someone from Chinese with Mike also left me a comment but her email address and url revealed that she is part of the Chinese with Mike company. Honestly, if this is your way to “market through social media,” it’s not a good strategy. What is your relationship with Chinese with Mike?

            p.s. And yes, I took 3 years of high school French from a non-native teacher. She was American and she had teaching credentials and her Frech accent was actually quite good. But when I tested for French at Harvard as a Freshman, I tested as a beginner. Learning foreign languages at most public schools is not effective. The classes are too big and do not emphasize conversation or pronunciation. The kids at Harvard who spoke French at a higher level as Freshman all went to private school where they learned in small classes. Oh, and my French teacher at Harvard? He was from Paris. My Japanese professor at UCLA? He was a Japanese national and considered one of the best Japanese teachers in the United States.

  9. Patrick

    First of all, I do not, and never have, worked for Chinese with Mike. I am not trying to market his website here or anywhere else. However, I have run across his website and found it both informative and fun. When I did a google search I found this and when I saw your comments they bothered me. Honestly, I think it is a great website for someone who is thinking about starting to learn Chinese like me. As far as his native tounge, the reason I like it is because right now I only speak English and honestly it is easier to learn from someone who has the same type of accent that I do. I would bet your high school French teacher was alot easier to understand and learn from than when you were in college, especially as a beginner. That is why I like this. I find it harder to understand many native speakers, mostly because it is too fast paced. I have looked at the site you sent, and yes it is good, but I see the other website more my pace.

    • I have commented twice and they are not appearing.
      Danielle recently posted…Lesson 80 – Yes/No Question Review and Farewell!My Profile

    • Hi Patrick,
      When your comment came in a day after Danielle’s and her email address and url were associated with Chinese with Mike, I assumed that this was some kind of social media marketing campaign. You can not believe the volume of spammy email comments I get daily. We are talking hundreds!

      I’m glad Chinese with Mike is helping you and I can understand that his slower pace and more recognizable accent makes learning Chinese more accessible for you. My earlier comments were targeted for moms who want their kids to learn Chinese. (Moms are my main audience.) And, as a mom with 3 kids learning Chinese, I have personally opted to have their tutor focus on pronunciation since this needs to be acquired at a young age, whereas vocabulary, character writing and grammar can be learned at any age.

      So, while I would probably not have my kids reference Chinese with Mike for help pronouncing words, I can see why it’s helping you and Danielle and I think he’s a great resource for adults trying to learn Chinese.

      Kudos to you both for trying to learn Chinese. It’s a difficult language and I’m glad Chinese with Mike is helping you stick with it!

  10. I do not work for Chinese with Mike. I am a full time student who was sharing what helped me with others. I did not mean for people to get into an argument, nor did I mean for others to attack teachers. Teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Chinese with Mike helped me with my Chinese class, because it was so fasted paced and not easy to understand the cds which were provided with the textbooks. Your form asked for a website and email since I wrote in about Chinese with Mike I placed the sites information. I was not sure what would be shown and not. Again, my intention was to help others who are learning. I also use schooltube.com for my math classes and have for my Bio classes. I am a sloow learner and I know what it is like to struggle. I thought your information was helpful and I wanted to also help others. I do not like to read things and get the feeling that someone is being attacked or judged. We are not on this earth to make judgement calls of others. This site is free I’m sure the people who run it are doing their best to edit it, but its a free site. When I would use the site I used it as a learning tool. It make Chinese easier for me and it’s the goal of learning a new language making it easier on oneself? I have not replied, because I do not like to give negativity acknowledgement, but Chinese with Mike is not my company or site and I was just trying to share a tip which helped me. I do not have a website and if you want my personal email please let me know I can email it to you directly, but I thought it would be displayed and if someone had a question about a tone, or word I’m Not an expert I am a college student who is try to reach my goals of being a Hydrologist who works in Asia one day. I hope you all have a wonderful day and acknowledge the differences in people it makes our world a special place to live on and learn on.
    Thank you,
    Danielle

    • Hi Danielle,
      Thank you for your comments and clarification. I thought your first comment was helpful so I posted it even though it looked like you were associated with Chinese With Mike since you had the URL and Chinesewithmike.com@gmail.com as the email address. Sorry about that. You would not believe how many spam comments I get on my blog and I try to weed them out.

      You have a great point and Patrick as well, that Chinese With Mike, makes learning Chinese accessible for those who need a slower paced program with a friendly guide. I totally get that and I think that learning Chinese as an adult is very, very difficult. My mother who speaks Japanese fluently and writes characters found learning Chinese as an adult to be daunting. Good for you for attempting to learn!

      My comment that a native speaker is important to get the correct accent pertains to my children who are young enough to acquire a native accent. In fact, I don’t actually care if they remember vocabulary words or how to write characters — I just want them to get an ear for the language so that they can speak it with a minimal accent. I think you have to be younger than 10 (or have an exceptionally good ear for languages if you are older than 10) to learn Chinese and speak it like a Native.

      Interestingly, my oldest who is now 12 but started Chinese at 5 speaks like a native though she dislikes learning languages including Chinese. She now studies it at her public middle school. My middle child is 10 and like learning Chinese but has a strong accent — she’s also tone deaf in terms of singing and I wonder if that is related to an ear for languages. She started Chinese at 2. My youngest is 8 and started at 1, took a few years off, and restarted at 5. His accent is ok.

      I think it’s even more important to speak Chinese without a strong accent if you are Asian because when I visited China and did not speak Chinese well, the Chinese people were not very nice about it.

      Good luck with your study of Chinese! I’m glad that Chinese with Mike is helping you to learn Chinese.

  11. Danielle

    Why are both my comments not displaying??

    • Danielle

      Wow, it’s funny I put in my email and my comment just displayed. I think this is totally unfair. Chinese with mike is not my Company it is NOT! I am a full time student going to school to become a hydrologist in hopes I can teach in Asia …. thats why I took Chinese. Chinese with Mike helped me out, because my class was very fast and the cds which were provided to us I couldn’t follow. I did not come on here to start arguments, or for people to make judgement calls on what makes a good teacher! I came on here because I saw helpful tips and wanted to share mine. Learning a new language at an older age is not always easy!! I wanted to help others who were struggling like me. I used the email and website of the specific site, because I can’t answer questions and I did not know if my email address would appear on here or not. Again, I didn’t mean for this to become a war over who teaches what better. Teachers have a hard enough job as it is. I respect all differences in others and enjoy it, because that is what makes the world so special and learning funny. If we all talked, thought, spoke, and learned the same way our world would be different and individuality would be gone! I don’t want to live in a world like that! I welcome differences maybe, because I am a slooow learner and have a dyslexia, but that doesn’t make me a Dumb person it just makes me have to work a little harder than the average person. I am done. There is too much negativity going on here I wasn’t even going to respond, but I needed to clear a few things up. Thank you and if you need the help try chinesewithmike if not oh well. It is what it is and it’s free and works!!

    • Hi Danielle,
      I have a spam comment filter. Your comment is showing now. Actually, all of them.

  12. Hello. I have been looking for a way to learn some basic Cantonese, but all points lead to Mandarin. Maybe you could help? My husband is Chinese; his mother is from Canton province. Even though she has been a citizen for 4 decades, her English is sketchy, and now that she is living with us, I find it very difficult to explain some things to her. She does not accept me (never has), but I thought if I made the attempt to learn some Cantonese maybe she would feel more relaxed. Any ideas? By the way, we live in a very small community in northern Alberta, where the Chinese population is a grand total of 5. My MIL is the only elder, and the only one that speaks mainly that language (even my husband’s use is “pidgeon”).

  13. Lauren

    Hello – I visited Memrise and there are a lot of courses listed under Mandarin. Which one do you recommend?

  14. Nice! This is really great, thanks. I like the collaborative angle, too – learn by teaching, I’ll have to check that out in more detail.
    Bronwyn Joy recently posted…Diabolical MaterialismMy Profile

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