NEXT month I'll be venturing into the unknown as I'll be going to the Far East - Japan to be precise.

Whenever I travel I always try to learn some of the language of the country I'll be staying in. This time, it's not just the culture, geography, but of course the language that is unknown. I've always looked at the East Asian languages like Cantonese, Japanese, etc with some awe and trepidation. Some say if you're older that 22 you're too old to learn them. Well being nearly double that, I need all the help I can get. Which is where a miraculous website comes in.

Called, it's a learning tool, which specialises in languages and uses novel and addictive ways to learn a new tongue.

The free website is based on the premise of making learning like game-playing - in other words fun and compulsive. It does this by making the learning fit into the unused nooks and crannies of our lives. The 10 minutes at the bus-stop, half an hour on the train, waiting for the kids at swimming, all can be usefully filled (having downloaded their free app) by learning, well anything, but in my case, some useful Japanese words.

All you need to do is set up an account, find the language you want and select a course. They'll typically be learning five words or so at a time. Each word will have an animation, drawing or photograph, a 'mem' or to anchor the word in your mind.

As a concept lodges in our mind more easily as a picture than as a word, the learning happens very quickly and almost painlessly. You are then prompted to test yourself at the right time before you have forgotten it. This process too anchors the word in your mind.

Each Memrise session starts with flashing up the word with a picture 'mem' to memorise or 'plant' it; then to 'water' it the word is flashed up and you have to type the word's meaning. It then gives you a score, which when you've reached a certain level you're ready to harvest.

So far I’ve learnt a hundred or so words and one of the Japanese alphabets (there are three of them, so some way to go yet). But if you want to speak at least some of the lingo before you go and have got a few spare minutes every day – I’d recommend you let memrise give you a hand.