How to Memorize Vocabulary

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This page contains information on how to memorize vocabulary.

Linking Method

One of the common ways to memorize vocabulary is to link the word that you want to remember with a visual image. The basic technique is the same whether you are learning a word in your native language or a foreign one.

For example, if you want to remember the Spanish word saltar, which means to jump, you could picture a salt shaker jumping off the table.

When creating images for vocabulary words, don't forget to attach both the vocabulary word and its meaning to the mnemonic image. Here's a diagram:

Image Connections.png

In the previous example, saltar is the vocabulary word, and to jump is the meaning. The image of the salt shaker jumping encodes both the word and its meaning.

Vocabulary Mnemonic Image.png

Spelling

You can also use Image Modifiers to help you with the spelling of a word. If you have trouble remembering whether the word 'whether' is spelled with one or two h's you can link your image of the number 2 (a swan/hen (major system) to your image of the word 'whether'. So this could be a cloud raining swans/hens. For alike sounding letters (f/v; t/d) separate modifiers must be created.

Grammar

For an example of grammar memorization see the Esperanto Vocabulary page.

Gender

There are a couple of ways to attach gender information to words:

  1. Image modifiers
  2. Locations

An image modifier or tag is an extra image that changes the meaning of another mnemonic image. For example, if a noun is masculine you could attach an image of He-Man to it. If it's feminine you could attach She-Ra to the image. Use whatever images you want to represent masculine, feminine, and neuter genders (depending on the language)

Information on the location-based method can be found on the Memory Town System for Languages page.

Pronouns

Pronouns can be memorized with the Method of Loci. Create a small memory palace and place the pronouns in order. Many languages follow a similar pattern:

Singular Plural
1st Person
2nd Person
3rd Person

Sometimes there are formal and informal versions too, which you can fit in the table.

Place the words from the table in your memory palace. If there are different forms for other cases (genitive, accusative, etc.) create additional memory palaces.

Conjugations

Verb conjugations can be remembered with the Method of Loci. Figure out how many categories of verbs there are. Many European languages have three groups of verbs as well as irregular verbs. One way to do it is to create a small memory palace for each variant.

You can memorize verb conjugation tables in the same order as the pronoun tables. It's easier to remember if you're consistent. So if your order of pronouns was:

  1. 1st person singular
  2. 2nd person singular
  3. 3rd person singular
  4. 1st person plural
  5. 2nd person plural
  6. 3rd person plural

...you could put the verb conjugations in a different memory palace in the same order.

Spaced Repetition

Just creating mnemonic images usually isn't enough to keep vocabulary words in memory forever. The next step is spaced repetition. There are programs that can automatically remind you when the optimal time for recall is. Anki Flashcard Software is a free open-source program that works well for that.

Discussions

You can ask questions about memorizing vocabulary with Memory Palaces, the Method of Loci, Mnemonics, and other memory techniques in the Art of Memory Forum.

See Also