Memrise review: A language learning app that rises above the rest

(CNN) —  

Over the past few months we’ve tried out a handful of language learning apps. From Babbel to Busuu to Rosetta Stone, we’ve checked out all different learning styles and methods. One app that’s set itself apart from the rest is Memrise. Another language learning app, Memrise immerses you in local pronunciation and dialect to keep you engaged and excited about learning a new language. A lifetime subscription to Memrise Language Learning is now on sale for only $99.99 (originally $139). The price tag may seem hefty, but we definitely think it’s worth it for the quality of the lessons and features of the app.

Memrise offers lessons in 22 different languages, including options for regional specifications for certain languages, like speaking Spanish in Mexico instead of in Spain. It’s awesome the app gets so specific, and that’s part of the reason we think it goes the extra mile in immersing you in local culture and dialect.

Memrise is super different from the other language apps we’ve tested. We found there was more video content, a simple and effective approach to learning words and bonus features (we’ll get into this later) that elevated the app to the top.

Learning with Memrise

First things first: You’ll need headphones if you’re using this app around others. Almost every aspect of learning with Memrise involves listening to audio, so you’ll want to make sure you can hear clearly. The lessons that didn’t involve audio were grammar lessons, which we found to be more reading-heavy than listening-heavy. Either way, we much preferred using headphones when using Memrise so that we could really listen and focus.

We were really impressed by the graphic design of the app, which is colorful and straightforward. The interface is really intuitive and simple to navigate. It’s a trendy feel that keeps it simple and cool and much less textbook-esque than other apps we’ve tested out. There isn’t too much to tap through when you open the app. You’ll pick your language and starting level; if you have background knowledge in the language, you can choose to start at a higher level (if not you can start with level 1, like us). Then you’ll be brought to the home page to start learning.

Navigating around Memrise is really simple since there are only three pages to explore. There’s your home page, a learn tab and then an explore tab. The home page shows you your daily goals, how many words you’ve learned and a button to click to get started learning. There’s also a button that looks similar to a tile that will take you to a menu of all of your learning options. There you can switch from vocab to grammar and access previous lessons you’ve already completed as you go. If you go to the learn tab you’ll see the linear progression of how you’ll learn your new language. It walks you through the lessons you’ll work through before you move up to the next level. We liked the way Memrise mapped out your learning process. It laid out a clear path for us to follow and let us know what would be coming up.

Like we’ve said, Memrise is super audio-heavy. You’ll hear words pronounced over and over again, which we did find helpful in committing vocab to memory. You’ll flip between hearing words pronounced by someone speaking in a video, hearing the word while looking at solely the spelling and tapping through the possible definitions of each word. We liked that Memrise used videos of native speakers using the vocab words because it engaged us visually and auditorily. There’s even a section of the app called “Learn with Locals” where you can watch videos of native speakers going about their day and speaking the language you’re learning.

One of the coolest features of Memrise is the explore tab. We were surprised the app requested permission for access to our camera, but we were excited when we saw the purpose. Through the app, you can use your phone’s camera to take photos of objects and have the translation pop up on the screen underneath the object. This feature was also pretty accurate in naming objects properly. It confused some things depending on the camera angles, like labeling a laptop screen as a TV. But as we moved the camera around to include more defining features, like the keyboard, it was able to correctly identify our laptop. You can even tap the small speaker icon next to the translation to hear how the word is pronounced in the language you’re learning.

Once you take a photo using the app, it saves to your library within the app. If you click over to your library, the app pre-organizes photos into folders based on the category of the item you photographed. There are folders set up for photos of objects in categories like office, animals, food and even specific categories like Easter, Halloween and Earth Day. It’s awesome that the app quickly organizes things into folders for you and saves your images so you can look at them the next time you want to remember the vocab. We think the camera feature would be perfect for on the go if you can’t recall a word or are trying to communicate with someone quickly.

Memrise also offers some standard features we’ve found in other language apps. You can set daily goals for learning, like learning 5, 10 or 15 words per day. You can also turn on notifications for reminders to open the app and spend time learning your new language each day. The reminders aren’t overwhelming and allow you to customize your experience with the app. If you know you have more time to spend on Memrise at night, you can set reminders for later in the day instead of during the morning so that you’re getting the most out of your experience. Overall, Memrise offered our favorite features from other apps and added new and different options in a user interface that was straightforward and easy to follow.

Bottom line

The price may seem high for Memrise, but at $99.99 for a lifetime subscription you’re getting access to learning 22 different languages in an efficient and engaging way. The app has an intuitive interface that makes it really easy to navigate so you can start learning right away instead of spending time figuring out where to begin. We loved the inclusion of videos in vocab lessons because it kept us engaged and interested. Plus, the bonus feature of using your camera to identify objects and get the immediate translations really sets Memrise apart from the other language apps we’ve tested.

A lifetime subscription for Memrise is currently on sale for $99.99, originally $139. If you’re looking to fill your extra time by learning a new language or have been wanting to improve upon old speaking skills, we think Memrise is the way to go.