Replacing Memrise with Anki

I’ve been using Memrise for a while (actually almost a year) and have had some trouble with their Android app recently, so after a long while hesitating to switch to something else, I finally made the final step to replace Memrise with Anki. In parallel, I keep using Duolingo, which I find is a great platform to learn languages (at least to get introduced to new languages and get some practice on others you already know). The main problem with Duolingo is that there is no “memory” testing. It would be a great thing if they introduced flashcards, that would make their site more complete because I find you forget easily what’s in a lesson, even with their “strengthen skills” feature. Oh and of course the similar “Chinese Skill” Android app which is kind of a clone of Duolingo to learn Chinese (with added Flashcards).

I’m fan of languages, so I’m trying to learn (very very slowly, but the goal is to get to know them in a few years, I have all my time, not moving to Japan or Denmark anytime soon) a lot of them. So yes I had a lot of courses in Memrise that I wanted to switch to Anki, without losing my progress. I also had some other courses (world geography for instance) that I mostly replaced with existing Anki courses.

First of all, I found this awesome plugin to import Memrise courses into Anki. It imports everything, questions, media (audio and pictures), mems, and your own current learning. Simply perfect. So I started off with that for a couple of courses. But I also replaced some of the Memrise courses with Anki’s own courses (for instance Anki’s Duolingo Esperanto courses are divided into sections, which I find much better than all in one course).

Now that I have made the switch and tested Anki for a few weeks, I can compare my experience with Memrise.

First of all, Anki is more mature than Memrise. Strangely enough, though, the Memrise community is quite big and growing, and there is actually much more material there than in ankiweb. Almost whatever you want to learn is there, and the quality of it is generally quite good although it does lack a rating system like Ankiweb has. Ankiweb does have a lot of courses (and I really appreciate the fact that you can see how many audio and picture each course has – in Memrise you have no idea, but you can browse the courses which you cannot do on Ankiweb without actually importing it into Anki), but the quality is very random. Some people even post their own customized courses, that certainly won’t fit your learning anyway.
Rich content : Memrise 1 Anki 0

So that’s a good point for Memrise. But my main issue with memrise was the speed in the Android app. I have an old tablet (has been called “legacy” by some – hey it’s only 3 years old!), a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, which is really great (I have no Samsung shares, I swear), and the Memrise app is simply not cut for it. It would sometimes take up to 2 minutes to load a course, that you will learn in a minute. Forget it.

Ankidroid, on the other hand, is pretty fast. The only problem I had with it is the media collection. Okay, I have… 26 courses, totaling 80.000+ files, 2+Gb. That’s quite a lot. And the main issue I had with Anki is that they keep all the media in a single folder. For me, as a computer guy, that’s pretty insane. Any filesystem has problems with such big amounts of files. And Android (especially old versions, it looks like it’s fixed in newer versions, though) has annoying problems with big media folders, the media scanner turning around like a shark, eating up the CPU and the battery all the time. So I developed my own Anki addon, to externalize the media into a folder which is hosted… on my website. So any local reference to a media in Anki becomes a simple http reference to a file on the web server. Of course, the media is not local anymore and you do require to have some connection with your server. But I separated all the media for each course in separate folders on the website, et voilà! So now I have a running Anki that’s pretty fast, and it synchronises pretty fast too, since it doesn’t even have to synchronize the media anymore. Let me not speak of the “Offline” functionality of Memrise. It’s simply not working (and makes performance even worse).
Speed and performance : Memrise -1 Anki 1

Another issue I’ve had (and I’m not the only one) with Memrise is that it’s not possible to edit existing courses if you’re not the creator. Some courses are great, but they have some mistakes and it’s impossible to fix them if the creator is not responsive. In Anki, you modify whatever you want, whenever you want. Once the course is downloaded, it’s all yours. On the other hand, you don’t benefit from additions that would be made by the course creators if they upgrade/enhance/augment their course in Anki, unless you download them again. But if I really want to enhance a course, I’d probably pick another course or simply add stuff myself.
Fixing mistakes in courses : Memrise -1 Anki 1

Overall, Anki has a lot of possible customizations. I personally only personalize the number of new cards per day, and it’s very flexible. In Memrise, they have “goals”, but the minimal goal is a little high if you have a lot of courses, and moreover very different from one day to another: some day, you’ll get the points in no time, some other day it will take very long. Of course, there is a similar problem in Anki because it sometimes create peaks, but the main difference is that there is no “streak” in Anki. I know it may be a good incentive to come back every day, but on the long run I found it more stressful than helpful. And yes I’m doing all my courses in Anki every day, even without a streak. If I do miss one one day, it’s not a big deal. But the big added value here is that if I see that I get really overwhelmed with one course, I can reduce the pace a little on that course for a few days until I get back on track. I do it at my speed, no extra stress.
Customizations : Memrise 0 Anki 1

One other problem I’ve encountered with Memrise is the organization and sorting of courses. When you’re following many courses, it can get difficult to follow where you’re at during the day. And with Memrise, they reorganize the courses depending on the last one you’ve studied. In Anki, I’ve organized my Anki in such a way that I rollup the languages I want to put more effort in first, that way I’m sure to do them every day. The last ones ar the lesser important ones, and if I skip them some day, it’s not a big deal. And each time I do an Anki lesson for a language, I follow directly with the Duolingo counterpart.
Organization of courses : Memrise 0 Anki 1

As for the most difficult and resisting words, during the day, I leave out all of them for later (the ones that I indicated “ask me again in 10 minutes”), so that at the end of the day, all Anki courses have these words left. Before going to bed, I review these so that they have a better chance to stick into my memory for the next day. And frankly, that makes a big difference. The pro version of Memrise has the “difficult words” feature, but I don’t find that repeating them 4 times in a row makes any difference with seeing them just once.
Difficult words : Memrise 0 Anki 1

Memrise has extra functions that Anki doesn’t have. For instance, Speed test, audio test, I didn’t use them at all because even if they seem like a nice idea, they “break” the spaced repetition logic in the first place. One “cool” function is the possibility of multiple choices in Memrise, which is quite well designed on the Android app. I miss that functionality on Ankidroid, but on the other hand it makes sometimes things too easy and you end up guessing the word you didn’t remember, making Memrise believe that you actually knew it. Additionally, typing the correct answer in Memrise has some drawbacks. First if you’re really in a hurry, you have no choice but to type the whole thing anyway. In Anki, you can go fast if you wish to (as long as you don’t cheat yourself of course, but that’s entirely up to you). Second, you have no way of saying to Memrise “hey I did remember this one, but I’d like to review it soon, because I believe I’ll forget it”. And of course, same for the other extreme: “I didn’t remember this one exactly, but I was fairly close”. In Memrise, it’ll feed it back to you again. In short, Memrise doesn’t offer the same flexibility than Anki does. It may suit a “basic” user, but it didn’t suit me.
Learning flexibility : Memrise -1 Anki 1

As for the separation of “new stuff” vs “remembering old stuff” in Memrise, I find it counterproductive. I find it much better to add a few new things during the process of reviewing old knowledge, rather than learning a bunch of new things all at once. And I find that repeating 5 times the same thing the first time you learn it is more annoying than helpful. Spaced repetition is “check it once now”, we’ll see in a while if it’s still there. But repeating several times in the same minute really is a loss of time (at least it is for me).
Introduction of new knowledge: Memrise 0 Anki 1

Summary: Memrise -2 Anki 7

Now, the big question is: do I miss Memrise now? I can’t say they have a bad platform. In fact, they have a great platform for the average user who doesn’t want to customize anything and just start learning just a few things with no overhead, and they have a big growing community with lots of contents. But frankly, I don’t miss it for one second now. The pressure I had when I was using it was simply more discouraging than helping. Goals and streaks are a pain rather than motivation. Comparing myself to others in the leaderboards didn’t make it any better. They have stats that are directly coming from Anki’s stats (Anki’s stats are more complete and detailed). And I can customize everything I want, edit the mistakes, whenever I want. I may sometimes miss the “already baked” mems invented by others (some of them are pretty good, some others really bad), but finding my own is actually more effective even if it takes a little more time and neural energy. And finally, finally, I don’t need to wait when I start learning on my old tablet (yes, I love this tablet and I have no plans to change it anytime soon). It’s there when I click it. And that, by itself, is a huge relief that makes learning fun again.


One thought on “Replacing Memrise with Anki

  1. cheers bruv. i appreciate the writeup on these 2 learning schemes. I used to use Memrise until my android couldnt cope. this summer im going to give Anki a try. Happy Learning.

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