A Magnetic Little Tip On Memorizing Foreign Language Vocabulary

Method of Loci for Language learning with Memory Techniques and a Memory Palace

In this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, we talk about how to use Memory Palaces to memorize foreign language vocabulary.

In fact, one of the most important questions around memorizing vocabulary without struggle is raised and answered in-depth.

Program Notes

Today’s question involves your language of focus. When memorizing foreign language vocabulary using a Memory Palace it can be hard to settle on which language to feature along your journeys. These considerations combine a location you’re familiar with and the Method of Loci.

The inspiration for the podcast came from a reader of my book on how to learn Spanish vocabulary and memorize it. Focusing on Spanish words first and then finding the English definitions confused him, so I answer the issue in this episode. In brief, you should always focus on the target language and use images to memorize both the sound and the meaning.

How To Remember What You Learn

This is important because you want to train your mind to think in the target language by using imagery. Although you are connecting the images to your mother tongue in a real way, the stronger the images, the faster the meaning will come to mind. This effectively skips thinking about the meaning your mother tongue and drives you directly to the concept.

As I talk about in the podcast, you want to think about memory techniques as being a kind of bicycle. They involve universal principles that touch everyone the same way, but we still need to adjust them to our own uses. The Method of Loci and the Memory Palace you use for this or that language learning project will need to be adjusted to your needs and learning style.

As ever, the most important thing is to get started. Build a Memory Palace using all the tools provided by the Magnetic Memory Method. Then get started memorizing the foreign language vocabulary you’ve selected with care.

Choice Is The Ultimate Language Learning Memory Enhancer

There are lots of different ideas about how to focus on the right vocabulary. Some of the different opinions can be downright controversial. But there are also good discussions about word frequency lists and how to compile them using existing resources. Or you can create your own.

Luca Lampariello is one of my favorite polyglot teachers who focuses on what it really takes to master the art of language learning. And the good news is that he has been a guest on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast twice before! These episodes are called:

Luca Lampariello On Working Memory And The Oceans Of Language

Luca Lampariello On Language As A Net

Speaking of Luca, I’m looking forward to meeting with him soon for his birthday and some discussions about language learning. He also gave a great suggestion for the translation of my book, The Ultimate Language Learning Secret.

Originally my translator gave me the following choices:

Il Segreto Ultimo Per Imparare Le Lingue

Imparare Le Lingue: Il Segreto Ultimo

Imparare Le Lingue: Il Segreto Svelato

The first two are more or less literal translations. The third is roughly “Learning Languages ​​: The Secret Revealed” in English.

However, part of the trickiness of the situation involves the structure of the book. I can’t discuss more about why here, but it’s likely that each of these titles will be misleading in the end.

That’s why I’m so grateful for Luca’s suggestion, which is (drum roll, please) …

Il vero segreto di imparare le lingue

This translates more or less to: “The Real Secret To Learning Languages.” Due to the nature of how the book discusses the secret, this truly is the best title.

Thanks Luca!

Further Memory and Language Learning Resources

How to Memorize Concepts (with video)

Kirsten Hammes talks about the Real Meanings of Fluency

Olly Richards Talks About Technology and Language Learning

18 Responses to " A Magnetic Little Tip On Memorizing Foreign Language Vocabulary "

  1. Bob Ballinger says:

    thanks to much for your learning resources- I always get something out of every one!

  2. Jane says:

    As a traveler there is always a need of learning different languages and quickly. Having visited numerous countries staying there only a few months at a time, learning the language was crucial for my existence there and being able to communicate with locals. Having struggled on this, I have always wanted to learn how to learn languages quickly and easily. The use of images with sound and meaning is a great way to help with this as it sounds like once you have mastered the Memory Palaces you are then able to use the images to remember parts of the language.
    I am going to watch the videos you mention too to get me started on this. Thanks Anthony

    • Thanks for these notes, Jane. It’s true that combining sounds with images helps because, even though you use your mother tongue, you’re also using images to get beyond it and focus as purely on the target language as possible. The image and action reminds you of what it means in a way that only requires the mother tongue equivalent as a standby tool. With a minimum amount of understanding and implementation, language learning can begin to progress very quickly.

  3. Javier Andrés Gallego B. says:

    I’ve always thought that the best way to learn, and the way I learn, is to associate things, just like the kids, associate a colour with an object, a sound with an animal; in the same way we could do the same with everything in our lifes, just by leaving a hook for the memory. But now I’m on the path to rediscover how to learn and memorize with the supermagnetic tecnich.

    Thanks a lot Anthony.

  4. Lori says:

    Thank you, Anthony! I enjoyed your podcast on memorizing foreign language vocabulary; I am trying to learn Italian for an upcoming trip and look forward to putting your tips into practice. I also think a course done in a presentation format on The Ultimate Language Learning Secret would be very interesting. I look forward to more tips and information.

  5. Tommie Slade says:

    Anthony,,,,just that one little tidbit to learn from the target language to mother language vs mother language to target language has helped me

    • Glad to hear this helped, Tommie! It is indeed a critical point that will help many people. We need to train our minds to go to the target language first and the good news is that memory techniques make it easy to do. 🙂

  6. Gabriel says:

    I am currently living in Germany and taking german classes, but still it takes a great effort to memorize vocabulary,
    I hope this method helps me with that. great podcast, thanks for sharing.

    • Welcome to Germany, Gabriel. It’s a great place. Please let me know if you have any questions about using the Magnetic Memory Method as you go along. German is extra special in this regard because it was for this language that I first came up with the technique. I only wish I had started to share it with others sooner. Anyhow, let me know how I can help you further at any time through the contact form. 🙂

  7. Alex says:

    Hello, Anthony!
    I am in med. school and mostly use Anki for most subjects, but for Latin language I use a memory palace.
    For example the word “gravida (which means pregnant woman). It is feminine gender. Can you tell me a tip, on visualising feminine, masculine and neutral words. I have to use it for all my memory palace since I have to know every word which gender it is, so I hope you can offer something.

    Btw, what do you think about Anki? I know that if using a memory palace to study a textbook, I have to add 3-5 words per chapter. However, 5 key words for example the type of cells in the Connective tissue and all the info that comes with each one, is kinda to little?

    • Thanks for this, Alex.

      Genders are easy: Pick an image per gender and stick with it. Incorporate that “signature” with every noun going forward and you’re gold.

      In German, mine are:

      Masculine = Boxer

      Feminine = Skirt

      Neutral = Fire

      I’m not a fan of Anki or any software. I acknowledge that others like them, and I do mnemonic experiments with them from time to time for research.

      But when push comes to shove and I really need to learn something, I use the Magnetic Memory Method and How to Memorize A Textbook all the way. Software is too slow, boring and not the train I want to ride when it comes to the honor and glory of human memory. 🙂

  8. Alex says:

    Hey, Anthony its me again. I was thinking about using Anki together with the Memory Palace, so I decided to share this with you and hear your thoughts. Maybe, I can use Anki for more in depth questions, since I can’t put that much words in a memory palace. After I learn and answer all the anki questions I take 5 key words for each cell (Cells in the Connective tissue) and make a memory palace.

    What do you think about this method?

    Also I may use to recall all the info that I learned by saying it out loud, by refering to the memory palace? That way I hope the surrounding words will come in automatically while recalling it, and don’t need to make memory palace for them as well.
    By using this method, my knowledge will be more organised and structured?

    • You can put as many words as you like into a Memory Palace. If you get into the Magnetic Memory Method training, you’ll find lots of ideas for that.

      The important thing is that you’re exploring and trying things out. That’s the best way to experience results. It is not the path I would take, but I cannot say if it will lead to organized and structured knowledge without doing it myself.

      At the end of the day, my recommendation would be to follow-up on the textbook link I gave and always put what you’ve memorized into writing. That’s the quickest, easiest, fullest and most fulfilling path to knowledge.

      Have fun and let me know how it goes! 🙂

      • Alex says:

        Hey, Anthony! It’s been a week since I started using memory palaces again, instead of anki.
        I followed your tips, on how to memorize a textbooks, and it turned out to work wonderful!

        In the beginning I was reluctant to add only the key words, and wondered how will the surrounding words come. After learning the material first, and then incorporating the most important keywords in a memory palace, I wrote down all the information, on a piece of paper as you said, and all the information from the subject I was learning was there. Amazing!

        I am in med. school and I wish to memorise this info for a lifetime. I heard about the O’ Brien – Rule of 5, but it is not enough in my opinion.
        However, I like the revision technique you refered to in your book “How to Learn and memorize Math, Equatations and Simple Arithemtic”

        First reviews: Immediately, one hour later, three hours later, five hours later.
        Second reviews: The next morning, the next afternoon, the next evening.
        Third review: Once a day for each day of the following week.
         Fourth review: Once a day for a week the following month.
        … and from there on in, keep reviewing at least once a month, if not more often for as long as you want to keep the information intact.

        By the way, I prefer writing down the information I learned on a piece of paper, but in 1-2 months I will maybe have so many things to revise each day, so maybe its better to call out the ifnormation out loud, or make a quick mind map?

        Thank you Anthony, for making this me this way! If I had to do add all the information I learned this week into Anki, I would probably have made about 200 cards, but instead I made a memory palace consisting of only 20 words. Now the information is in my head forever, and most importantly it is organized, and can refer to it everytime I want.

        • So glad to hear that you’ve had these results, Alex!

          Yes, if one can just make the leap and memorize keywords only, perhaps with a few other cues, you get much better results at the end of the day.

          I’m glad that you like my revision of The Rule of Five. I find that we need to be flexible with it depending on the nature of the information. Often, the info that we think needs less attention actually needs more, while the more difficult material ends of needing less.

          I think incorporating a mind map and verbal recall is a great idea. This is essentially part of the The Big Five of language learning, which tells us to memorize, read, write, speak and listen to everything. It works to help consolidate any topic into long term memory.

          Thanks again for popping by to comment and please do keep us posted on how you fare going forward! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *