Level Up Language Learning: Mnemonic Magic

Mnemonics make remembering easier than memorizing vocabulary.


Mnemonics for Learning Languages

Mnemonics are useful for vocabulary you find difficult to remember. Here are three mnemonic techniques that can help.


(1) Homonymic Association

One mnemonic technique is to associate the new word with a similar sounding word in your own language.


Homonymic techniques exploit the similar sounds of two words. Sometimes words sound similar due to some root in common and other times the similarity is merely coincidence.

Here are some examples of homonymic mnemonics:


Blanco means "white" in Spanish and sounds a lot like “blank” in English, which can remind you of a blank, white canvas.


Chaque means "each" in French and sounds a lot like “shock” in English. You could use the phrase “Each shock” to remember that “chaque” means “each.”


Ichi is the pronunciation for "one" in Japanese and sounds a lot like “each.” I learned it by remembering the phrase “each one.” Ni is the pronunciation for "two" and sounds like “knee” of which I have two.


(2) Rhymed Insertion

You could use a rhyme that is mostly in your own language, but with the new word logically added and its meaning expressed within. This technique may not help with remembering spelling, but it does help a lot with remembering pronunciation and meaning.


It’s much easier than it sounds:


Tschüß is German for “bye” and rhymes with the second syllables in "caboose" and "Toulouse":


We waved tschüß from the caboose as the train left Toulouse.


Helping you remember that tschüß means "bye" is "the train left" and, somewhat, "caboose" since the caboose is the last car on a train:


L'heure is French for "the hour" and rhymes closely with "sure" and "occur":


I wasn't sure of l'heure of when it would occur.


(3) Visualization Combination

This technique can combine homonymic association or rhyme insertion with strange scenes. Just enough uniqueness can make them easier to remember, but too much uniqueness can make them too complicated to remember. Here are some simple but unique examples:


Oosagi is the pronunciation for word for “rabbit” in Japanese.


You could imagine a rabbit thinking “Ew, soggy” upon finding a boiled carrot instead of a raw one.

Mas is Spanish for "more."


For Anglophone beginners who might otherwise read “mas” as “mass,” imagine more and more moss growing to cover a stone cross outside. "Cross" rhymes with "moss" and will help with remembering the pronunciation.



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