Best language learning apps comparison: Memrise vs Duolingo

Jan 25, 2021

Nowadays, the app market is flooded with options for language learners. There are flashcard apps, dictionaries, complete courses, grammar exercises, games, the list goes on... You’re sure to be spoilt for choice whatever it is you’re looking for. We shouldn’t complain, but sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming. So, how can you choose the best language learning app for you?

In this blog post, we take a look at the pros and cons of 2 popular language learning apps on the market: Memrise, and Duolingo.

At a Glance

Although Duolingo & Memrise are language learning apps, but they serve different purposes. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to choosing which one is right for you. Maybe after you’ve read this, you’ll realize 1 just isn’t enough!

  • Duolingo - best for grammar, less focus on vocabulary
  • Memrise - good for vocabulary, limited to built-in vocabulary (i.e. you can’t add your own)


Download: On the App Store / On Google Play

Looking for a more comprehensive language learning app? Give Duolingo a go.
Looking for a more comprehensive language learning app? Give Duolingo a go.

Duolingo is more of a general course for language learners. If you choose Duolingo, you’ll learn grammar/syntax (how to structure sentences) and some vocabulary/expressions while you’re at it. It’s a good way to start from zero, but not the best if you already have some pre-existing knowledge of a language.

You may find Duolingo frustrating if you learn best from thorough explanations. Learning with this app is done mostly through trial and error and explanations are not offered for incorrect answers. If you are having trouble with basic sentence structures or need to drill a specific grammar point until you feel confident, Duolingo is the app for you.

Many of the sample sentences are irrelevant which can be frustrating if learning practical vocabulary and expressions is your aim. Learning how to correctly say, “A horse is eating a blue apple.” (This is a real example from the app!) may be relevant in terms of grammar but is clearly not so useful in real life situations.

Duolingo learning mode
Duolingo offers you some simple exercises, like composing sentences from a set of words.


Download: On the App Store / On Google Play

If learning vocabulary is a priority, Memrise could be the app for you. Image from Google Images.
If learning vocabulary is a priority, Memrise could be the app for you.

Another popular choice, Memrise was named the overall Best App winner of the Google Play awards in 2017. Designed by a Grand Master of Memory and a neuroscientist specializing in the science of memory and forgetting, the focus of Memrise is very much so on learning new vocabulary.

For new learners, Memrise can’t compete with Duolingo when it comes to grammar. It doesn’t teach users how the language works which makes it difficult to really learn a language properly. However, if you already have a good base in your target language, Memrise is a great language learning app for quickly learning new vocabulary.

Memrise is limited to set vocabulary and courses which is a bit of shame but it’s still a solid choice for learning new vocabulary.

Memrise shows you different words (pre-defined in the app by levels) and speaks out to learn correct pronunciation.

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