piranha: the word 'language' in a text highlighted in hot pink (language)
[personal profile] piranha
since i am about halfway through the basic french course on memrise, i figured now might be a good time to do another report about my perceptions of the courses.

summary: memrise wins in general; i actually feel like i am making solid progress. duolingo has much better community support, but is letting me down on the learning front.

memrise tells me i've learned 230 words, and yup, i am confident that i have learned those words. for roughly the same time period (a few days less) duolingo claims a whopping 515 words (and allegedly i am 40% fluent in french now). that is utter horseshit.

for one, duolingo's count is not of lexemes. now, one could make a point that learning all 6 present tense conjugations of ĂȘtre constitutes 6 different words instead of just one lexeme, but the same can hardly be said for "le" and "l'", "de" and "d'", etc, all of which duolingo counts separately. besides, i am more interested in lexemes, because i am aiming for roughtly 5000 of those to be able to read newspapers and carry on conversations on a wide variety of general topics. the frequency dictionaries i use are lexemic as well. duolingo makes it hard for me to keep track against my goal, unless i re-count the words i learn every time. i have better things to do.

for another, i have not learned many of those words on duolingo. whenever they come up for review, i miss a lot on words that were new to me. the words that have already been anchored through memrise are rock solid, what i get through duolingo is wobbly. the reason for that is that memrise does spaced repetition very well, while i am not sure what exactly duolingo does. it's hard to keep track because they mix old and new in ways that seem willy-nilly to me.

i am confident i've learned the words memrise counts because i'm consistently tested on them by memrise, and because i write journal entries every day, using them in full sentences.

i am equally certain i have not learned the words well on duolingo because i consistently fail them when duolingo brings them back again. now, my memory sucks, these days the depression really screws with my short-term memory as well (it used to only screw with transfer to long-term memory, but those were the good old days). somebody with better memory might not have as much trouble with duolingo's system. still, i don't think duolingo is systematic enough. i often get repetition of words i have never ever gotten wrong, while i am missing days of repetition for things i haven't gotten right yet. this doesn't happen on memrise; it keeps track extremely well, and presents things i have difficulties with mixed in with new items more often, until i get it.

with memrise i learn words and expressions in small increments. i can choose either 5, 10, or 20 words per lesson. i think 7 would be ideal, but that's not a choice i get to make. 5 is a bit too repetitive, but 10 is too many, so i am sticking with 5. after practicing those 5 several times each, translating back and forth, and typing only the french parts, i will remember those 5 words until the next review. i review whenever i can, so new words don't remain new for long. memrise does an excellent job of handling the spaced repetition. the pattern is always the same, it anchors the words well, and i find knowing what's happening reassuring.

duolingo has no clearly discernable pattern for its presentation. i get new words in sentences, which, most of the time, i am required to translate from french into english (pedagogically this is the wrong way around). i can hover over the words to figure out the translation. i am producing a LOT of english sentences, but very little french, which unfortunately does the very same thing that led to my lousy french to begin with -- good passive vocab, hardly any active. it is always easier to translate into a language i already know fluently. the lesson units are of different lengths, as little as 7 sentences, as many as 32; i don't like that. 7 sentences is not enough to learn 5 new words well, sometimes i get a new word in every sentence, without any repetition -- who can learn like that? when entering "strengthening" mode, i get to do more french production, but because i have not learned the words the first time around, that is frustrating. i've started using google translate when i get stuck during review. that is really ridiculous (i am cheating on myself! WTF!), but i hate feeling so incompetent. and well, at least that way i get to look up nuance and correct google translate when they're dead wrong.

i am also not particularly fond of duolingo's many nonsense sentences (the purple snake eats an elephant). what it does reasonably well, is accept alternate translations such as from different variant of english.

memrise has no explicit grammar at all (edit: i'm wrong about that. it depends on the course. even the course i am taking has some grammar units, but apparently something went wrong and they would not display for me, maybe a flash problem. the A1 course definitely has grammar). memrise is principally a flashcard system which handles the repetition and its spacing for you. it allows you to choose other people's images or add your own images for mnemonics, which will undoubtedly come in handy for things like idioms; so far i have used it exactly once only. it has several forms of exercises -- multiple choice from 4, 6, and 8; put french words into the right order to form the required sentence (starts with only the words you need, then adds a couple fakes, then adds yet more fakes); and you type the french translation. no pure listening mode, which i wish it had.

duolingo has some grammar, but it doesn't teach it, it just occasionally throws a bunch of light grey text at the bottom of a lesson (i missed that completely the first couple of times). it has multiple choice of usually 3, sometimes more than one is correct. it has fill-in-the-blank. it has translation from french to english and vice versa. and it has a pure listening exercise, with both normal speed and slowed down speech in which you can hear each word individually -- i really wish memrise had that. alas the synthetic voices are bad and sometimes the clipping is so harsh that one can't discern which word it wants there. they've also got a new male voice in addition to the female one, which i like better, but it's still problematic. memrise has a variety of native speakers, all of whom speak very clearly, and IIRC, slightly slower than your average parisian. you can't slow the speech down.

you can test out of every unit on duolingo, which would allow you to fairly quickly assess your level and find where you want to start within a course if you're not a complete beginner. you cannot do so on memrise, which makes it more inconvenient for anyone but rank beginners. on the other hand, you can start with any unit on memrise, but you can't do that on duolingo, you must progress in order through the tree (sometimes you get a choice between a couple of lessons, but you cannot jump).

duolingo has more gamification. you can level up, you get "lingots" which you can spend on extending your streak (cheating!) or to unlock bonus skills practice, or to give to other people in the community. you also get a fluency badge upgrade now and then (can't tell when), which, as i mentioned already, i think is utter bull -- what's the goal here? if i am 40% fluent at 500 words, that would mean duolingo thinks 1250 non-lexemic words constitute fluency. in what universe? so, woopdeedoo; i don't care about most of this. memrise on the other hand uses a cute metaphor of growing a plant while you're learning a word, which bounces and blooms when you have learned it, and which you later have to water to keep remembering. it's very simple and unobtrusive, and it's grown on me (ha!). they also give you cutesy titles when you level up (memgineer, memblem), and something called L-points, which gets you on leaderboards if you get massive amounts of them. since some people seem to be on memrise solely to rack up the points, good luck with that. ;) again, don't care about points. memrise gives me decent stats each time i finish a lesson, how many words, what percentage did i get wrong, and how fast was i. on both sites i can set point goals per day, but i am locked into their systems

duolingo wins when it comes to community support. for every sentence with which you are presented, there is a separate thread you can access with one click, and there is always at least one competent person offering native-level explanations when people don't understand something. i would have given up on duolingo were it not for this. i am learning nuances of french grammar in those threads that aren't even in my student grammar book, and there is lots of interesting colloquial stuff too. memrise has course-specific forums, but they're not targeted on a sentence level, and that makes them more cumbersome to use. they're also not as active.
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piranha: red origami crane (Default)
renaissance poisson

July 2015

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