Pimsleur Japanese Vs Memrise Japanese

an image of a man holding the memrise app

Pimsleur 4.5 out of 5.0 stars Memrise 4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Pimsleur Japanese Vs Memrise Japanese – Which is Better?

Review Summary

Both Pimsleur and Memrise are quality language learning apps and ideal particularly for beginners.

Pimsleur is a great resource if your aim is to understand a language as well as speak it, whilst Memrise is a superb vocabulary builder which will help you to learn a lot of vocabulary in a very short space of time.

Pimsleur Pros

👍 Excellent Audio Tool

👍 Proven Language Learning Method That Works

👍 User-friendly on Desktop & App

👍 Huge Amount of Premium Content

Memrise Pros

👍 Fun & Interactive App

👍 Unique Learn with Locals Feature

👍 Best Spaced Repetition System I’ve Tried

👍 Great Resource for Travel Vocabulary

image of pimsueur and memrise blog banner

In this post I share with you my experience using Pimsleur Japanese and Memrise Japanese simultaneously for a month. You can also check out the video above, which summarises my time using Pimsleur and Memrise.

I wanted not only to compare both platforms, but also to monitor my progress in order to be able to share whether or not I think the premium versions of these platforms are worth the money. I also wanted to find out which type of learner these language apps are best suited to.

What is Pimsleur? A Quick Background

Pimsleur’s entire setup and course structure is based on its own successfully (and scientifically) proven method, the Pimsleur Method. This method was one of the first to adopt an SRS (Spaced Repetition System).

We all know that the more you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it. But, in simple and language learning terms, this method practices increasingly spaced intervals, which increases your rate of learning and ability to remember something.

Pimsleur recommends 30 minutes of study per day, no more and no less. Initially, I did think this was a way to elongate my subscription. However, having taken Level 1, I agree that any more than this can be overkill.


You’re learning a lot of the new language in a short space of time, and any more than 30 minutes per day could defeat the purpose of the Pimsleur Method.

This method works well for many people, and I know that thousands of people have had genuine success with Pimsleur. It certainly works for me, but it’s by no means for everyone, including visual leanrers. I’ll come onto visual learning when I discuss Memrise.

In summary, if you are someone who learns well by aural means (listening), then the Pimsleur Method will absolutely work for you.

Pimsleur’s aim is to get its users conversational as quickly as possible. As a language teacher and learner myself, I agree that this is the best approach to take with language learning at beginner level.

The more you can speak and communicate effectively in a foreign language, the higher your confidence will be and the more fun it becomes. 

image of Pimsleur Japanese Dashboard

Pimsleur Japanese

Pimsleur Japanese comes with access to 5 Premium Levels, each level containing 30 lessons lasting 30 minutes each.

Taking into account the flashcard and other visual activities you are able to run through after each lesson, this totals more than 110 hours of learning time.

I am impressed with this amount of content and the way it progresses naturally in terms of difficulty.

The majority of phrases and vocabulary that you learn throughout Pimsleur Japanese is useful. In lesson 1, you learn how to say excuse me, I speak a little Japanese, Do you speak English? etc.

Obviously, anybody taking Pimsleur Japanese wants to be able to speak Japanese well by the end of the course, (I am sure this applies to all languages). At the beginner stages of language learning, these are exactly the kind of phrases we need to know.

Naturally, as you progress in the course, the content becomes more difficult, introducing new words, phrases, explaining early stage Japanese sentence structure (desu, meaning is, goes at the end of sentences, for example).

A Key Reason I Like Pimsleur
You are constantly provided with context to what you’re learning, listening to two native speakers then prompted to participate in their discussion, playing the role of both.

I feel the increase in difficulty is carried out by Pimsleur at quite a natural pace but I have, so far, only completed the 30 lessons included in Level 1, which is 20% of Pimsleur Premium.

By lesson 5, you will already know how to ask for directions to the main train station in Tokyo, Shinjuku Station. You learn how to ask and respond to directions and by doing so pick up a lot of new vocabulary.

Pimsleur lessons are engaging but this is due to the length of the lesson as much as the actual content. 30 minutes of this type of learning is usually enough for most brains!

Pimsleur Japanese Content Overview

I looked for a brief of content covered in the Pimsleur Japanese course so that I could see exactly what I would be learning in advance. However, I was unable to find it on desktop or mobile.

You can access your Library at any time to see which levels you are signed up for, but it’s a little like opening a book to see the chapters without viewing the contents of each chapter.

Whilst this is slightly annoying, it’s not a major inconvenience. Besides, it’s probably better for each lesson to be new and refreshing.

I think not knowing what’s coming up in the next lesson increases your level of concentration anyway, which is all part of the Pimsleur Method.

I touched on some of the content included in Pimsleur Japanese earlier. I’d love to be able to list a full breakdown of the content to be covered from Premium Levels 1 – 5, but for the reasons mentioned I’m unable to do so. I have contacted Pimsleur to ask for this…

What I can confirm from my own experience is that Pimsleur provides a clear language path. You can access this within any Premium level of any language.

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The Pimsleur Dashboard Features

The premium model of Pimsleur Japanese provides access to Pimsleur’s user-friendly and slick dashboard. To the right of the audio lesson, there are a number of visual features to run through which reinforce what you’ve learned in each lesson.

This includes Flashcards, a Quick Match Round, a Speed Review and a Speak Easy section.

In addition to this, you can save key vocabulary and phrases in a dedicated Skills Section. The further you progress within the course, the more of this you unlock. So, with each completed lesson, you earn new language skills.

By level 6, (within 3 hours of study), I had covered and unlocked parts of Meet & Greet, Survival Skills, Speak & Understand, General Phrases, Directions, Travel, Time and Food. The more you progress in the course, the more words and phrases go into these categories which you can review.

The Pimsleur App

Pimsleur on mobile is very similar to the desktop version.

One particular aspect of Pimsleur on Mobile I think is great is the ability to switch to Driving Mode.

This is great because it means you can learn on the go, which is something you cannot do so easily with Memrise, requiring a greater degree of interaction.

You can be a little more passive with Pimsleur, listening in the car on your way to work or whilst you’re out walking or exercising.

On both desktop and app, each Pimsleur lesson contains a cultural element about Japan or the relevant target language which you can review in your own time.

Of course, this isn’t a linguistic bonus but it is a positive feature and one I have enjoyed using.

Ok, so we’ve been through Pimsleur Japanese and taken a look at what Premium users have access to.

Now we’ll take a look at Memrise.


What is Memrise?

Memrise is language learning app which claims to be the faster way to learn a language. It can be used on desktop but it is clear to see Memrise has invested quite heavily in its app, which contains a number of awesome features exclusive to it.

For vocabulary building, I would say that Memrise is one of the best language learning apps that I have tried. It is a great tool for visual learners and differs greatly from Pimsleur in this aspect.

However, I don’t actually agree that it’s the fastest way to learn a language, as it claims. 

Allow me to explain…

My thoughts on Memrise

I have been using Memrise for the same amount of time that I have been using Pimsleur. Thanks to Memrise, I have learned a lot of Japanese phrases vocabulary in Romaji script (the Latin alphabet to help to learn phonetically).

Whilst you can learn Hiragana (a Japanese script) with Memrise, I personally do not remember patterns well from digital flashcards. Instead, I am using a book called Japanese from Zero to learn Hiragana.

I think Memrise is a fantastic resource if you’re looking to learn vocabulary fast in a way that is interactive and fun. It will definitely help you to interact with people. However, it doesn’t teach you to speak with fluency in the same way that Pimsleur does.

As I have mentioned in my video review, the best way I can think to describe Memrise is like memorising a travel phrase book that you would carry around with you in your pocket. Instead of having to open your phrase book to communicate, you’ve got it all upstairs, lodged in your memory.

And what’s more, you’ve put it all there in a very short space of time. Also using (SRS) – a Spaced Repetition System – I believe Memrise is the best resource of its kind for travel.

However, when it comes to actually conversing with people, communicating in Japanese and understanding the Japanese language, Pimsleur is a better language learning tool.

image of memrise japanese dashboard

Memrise App Features

In terms of user experience and layout, I am a big fan of the Memrise app. There are several features, including grammar practice and explanation, that you can no longer access from desktop.

I think it’s clear to see Memrise is putting all its eggs in the app basket longer term, also apparent by the quality of the app.

This could be a negative feature for some users who prefer to study at their desktop rather than on mobile. Personally, I don’t mind too much, although I would obviously prefer to have access to both as a Memrise Pro member.

I think the idea is that Memrise Pro members use the app whilst out of the house, on the go throughout the day (in a Covid-free world). I actually prefer studying at home, but am happy to do so in bed with mobile.

Within the Memrise app you can do the following…

– Set a daily study time goal
– Set the number of words and phrases you want to learn each day
– Practice your pronunciation
– Take part in listening practice
– Listen to native speakers
– Take speed review tests
– Read and take part in grammar explanations and games


What is the difference between Memrise and Memrise Pro?

Memrise provides access to around 70% of its features without a Pro subscription. However, they are currently trialling the new layout in Beta mode and I believe added benefits with more extensive exercises are soon to be introduced.

Usually, I would say that a Pro membership is not worthwhile if you already have access to a huge part of the app features, but Memrise is one of the cheapest language learning resources I have come across, starting at $5 p/month.

Other Memrise Features

I have included a more detailed explanation on other Memrise features, including Memrise Mems and how Memrise works in a dedicated Memrise review.

Memrise Learn with Locals Feature

I want to discuss the Memrise Learn with Locals feature as I think it is the best feature on the Memrise app.

I have also discussed this in the video.

With this feature, you are spoken to by a native Japanese person (or any other language you choose to study). As a result, you get used to hearing the Japanese language and repeating it after the speaker. 

Not only is this language learning method great for aural and visual learners, but it also helps users to remember useful travel phrases.

With Memrise Japanese, I learnt how to ask for the Wi-Fi password, directions and call somebody a genius within 48 hours of downloading the app!

Again, this won’t lead you to fluency but it will certainly help you when travelling or on vacation.

image of memrise japanese course

Final Thoughts – Pimsleur Japanese vs Memrise Japanese

Both Pimsleur and Memrise are quality language learning apps and ideal particularly for complete beginners.

I think Pimsleur is a great resource if you’re looking to actually speak a foreign language and truly understand what you’re saying. It will also help you to understand the grammar, to learn how to speak with native people and get used to listening to the language.

Equally, I think Memrise is a great way to learn a lot of vocabulary that could be very useful and get it into your brain in a very short space of time. 

Both Pimsleur and Memrise adopt a language learning method called SRS – a Spaced Repetition System, and in this sense they are similar in their approach.

However, both are quite different in the sense that Pimsleur is an aural resource, so you’re listening all the time.

It does have elements suitable for visual learners, but I feel visual learners will find Memrise a particularly effective resource.

Most people like to engage and interact with language learning apps rather than sit, listen and remain passive. Just be cautious; having fun with an app that is addictive and engaging does not mean it is fulfilling it’s main purpose of actually teaching you a language.

My advice would be to trial both Pimsleur and Memrise and see which works best for you.

Alternatives to Pimsleur & Memrise


If you are looking for a tutor rather than a language learning app then consider Preply. Preply is a marketplace where students from all over the world can find one-on-one online tutors for personalised learning programs.

It is very similar to italki, with the same common goals and the same main features. Preply also contains an in-built classroom which enhances the quality and efficiency of lessons for both tutors and students.

Preply logo

Rocket Languages

Rocket Languages is a software focused language learning app that uses audio lessons, interactive exercises and readings to get you to a conversational level in a foreign language.

Through its structured and proven successful process, you will begin to understand more about the language you are learning quite quickly. Sign up to a trial with Rocket Languages.

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Babbel is a subscription based language learning app that to help you learn a new language. It currently offers 14 languages on its unique, user friendly platform. You can use Babbel on desktop and mobile. 

Babbel’s desktop and app format is curriculum-based with pre-recorded content including games, quizzes, tests, games and grammar exercises.

It is a great resource if you are looking to learn a language on your own. Babbel’s latest feature, Babbel Live, enables you to connect with tutors without leaving the platform.

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Should you wish to access Pimsleur’s 7-Day Free Trial you can do so here.

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