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Language Learning - Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are powerful tools for learning a foreign language. A mnemonic device is a word or sequence of words or images used as an aid to memory. The idea behind mnemonics is that meaningful information is easier to remember than arbitrary data. Words in a foreign language actually are not arbitrary, as they follow rules that are unique to that language. However, they can seem arbitrary to someone who is unfamiliar with the language system.
Word linking is one common mnemonic. This involves connecting words in your own language to words in the foreign language you are learning. For example, you could remember the Latin noun mensa, which means “table”, by picturing a table with a lot of men sitting around it. Or the Latin verb pugnare, which means “to fight”, could be associated with an image of a fighter with a pug nose in the boxing ring.

One ancient technique for remembering information is called The Roman Room. To use this mnemonic, imagine a room you know. Associate objects you visualize in the room with the information you want to remember. For example, to remember the French word for “boat”, bateau, associate bateau with a baseball bat learning in the corner of your room. To recall lumiere, the French noun meaning “light”, you could picture a weaver’s loom next to the lamp, beside the bat. Then you could imagine an elegantly dressed chap wearing a hat sitting at a table by the lamp to help you remember chapeau, the French word for “hat”.
Often the sounds of words you are learning can themselves remind you of similar words in English. These related words are called derivatives. Using derivatives as a mnemonic can be so easy, it almost feels like you are cheating! Illustrating with the same words from the example of the Roman Room technique, you could remember lumiere by thinking of the moon, shining with a luminous, golden light. And a chapeau is just a cap with a few extra letters added.

The practice of using of mnemonics is not without criticism. One drawback to mnemonics is that, if you can’t remember the device itself, it is useless. However, it is widely accepted that mnemonics are helpful tools for learning, because of the fact that mnemonics are not arbitrary data but are, instead, meaningful information.

When it comes to mnemonics, use whatever works for you! Any mental image you can conjure to help you remember a new word is fine, as long as it is vivid in your mind’s eye. The better you can visualize it, the easier it will be to remember.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 3rd, 2009 at 6:30 pm and is filed under Foreign Language, Language Learning, Linguistics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Language Learning - Mnemonic Devices”

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  3. Unitiavto Says:

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