1. The 5000 most used German words and memrise, a website for remembering almost anything

    I would like to write a little bit about a new website that has been brought to my attention in the past week or so. The website is called memrise (www.memrise.com) and the purpose is to help you learn, or remember anything. I have spent perhaps 10 hours on this website trying to improve my German vocabulary. It has many free courses (more being added all the time) on a variety of topics. Language is only one of many. I have also added a course that teaches and helps you to remember all of the capital cities in the world.

    It works by teaching you only a few words at a time, so perhaps it will tell you that Paris is the capital of France, then it will tell you that Berlin is the capital of Germany and that Moscow is the capital of Russia. Then it will test you on them, at first letting you choose the correct answer from multiple choice but after more time getting you to write the answer from scratch. It builds and builds up over time adding more words and eventually moves words over to a long term memory place when they have presumably been correctly recalled enough times. From then on it gets you to recall them a bit less often at this point, perhaps because they consider it to be learnt so it is more a case of memory maintenance. They use the imagery of plants and growing, harvesting and watering plants to illustrate the memory process.

    It may sound a little ridiculous. But it is actually very good. I have studied memory to some extent in my academic past as part of reading Psychology. It is clear that they have designed this system based on current understanding and research of how best to remember. They introduce only a few new items at a time, so not to overwhelm the average capacity of working memory (7 plus or minus 2 items) and they use a lot of repetition to solidify the memory. Another part I like is the ‘mems’. This is that they often write a passage (that the community can vote up or down) which best helps you remember the word. Association is a very powerful tool for remembering. I learnt the word “Albern” in German which means “silly”. For a mem someone had uploaded a photo of Damon Albarn from the band Blur with something ridiculous on his head and a silly expression, and they had written “Damon AlbErn, is very silly”. A strange method perhaps, but I still remember the word.

    Some mem’s leave more to be desired than others . . but still seem to help . .


    For me, the best thing that I have seen on this site is 5000 words of German. This comes from research that I believe was done in Leipzig University a few years ago. They analysed a lot of newspaper articles, books etc and generated a list of the 5000 most used German words. They are thought to cover 87% of spoken German. There are a lot more than 5000 words in any language but it makes sense to be intelligent with your learning and to focus on the most used words. <.p>

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