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Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could create a Memory Palace on the go?
I’m talking about rapidly developing a responsive mnemonic tool that lets you hear a word or phrase and instantly learn, remember and then recall it forever just by thinking of that place.
Here’s the good news:
Making a Memory Palace is fun and easy to do. You just need to know the principles of the Magnetic Memory Method, and you’re good to go.
How to Create A Mind Palace In A Restaurant
You can build a Memory Palace in a restaurant as discussed in this video:
Or you can create your first impromptu Memory Palace in a park as I talked about last week with Barbara Oakley.
Since park Memory Palaces are a bit more challenging than using a restaurant, here are some basic considerations.
We’ll use 秋天 qiūtiān (Mandarin Chinese for “autumn”) as an example.
Although I struggled with the pronunciation at the beginning (and even experienced a few rare seconds of frustration), the techniques set the stage for success using the rest of The Big Five Of Language Learning.
Scan The Scene For A Suitable Location For Your Memory Palace
If you’re familiar with the method of loci, then you know that impromptu Memory Palace elements are everywhere.
But you also know that not all Memory Palace stations are created equal.
For example, stations in obscure and hard to measure places really don’t serve as well as stations with fixed features.
Corners, for example, serve as bulletproof stations because they’re fixed. You can instantly zoom to them in your mind.
Think of the corner of a park, for example, and BANG, your mind Magnetically zooms there.
The weak memorizer, however, chooses loosey-goosey stations, like “halfway between those clumps of trees,” or places even less certain.
Focus On Solid And Certain Stations For Total Success
Walking through a park with April discussing German phrases she’s learning, 秋天 came up. My eyes instantly searched for a place to create and secure a mnemonic image.
At that point, I had no idea what image I would create. But I let a sense of relaxation overcome me and trusted the process to do its work. It’s all part of knowing how to memorize vocabulary.
And, of course, the Magnetic Memory Method delivered (it always does).
Combine Your Impromptu Memory Palace
Stations With No-Brainer Associations
Of course, you’ve got to be willing to make mistakes, which is exactly what I did.
Because to memorize the sound and meaning of 秋天 qiūtiān, I saw a giant 9 and yo-yo because 九 jiǔ (nine) sounds similar to my ear.
However, the similarity is a fantasy in my mind that led to one of my classic pronunciation errors.
Nonetheless, by associating the tones of 秋天 with the Major Method and using the word as often as possible in sentences, the work of getting it right every time is underway.
Notice too that by writing this post, making the video and the podcast episode, I’m practicing The Big Five Of Language Learning.
Should you go through all these motions online just to learn a word and practice it?
Not necessarily. But you should do it at a personal level to utilize all your representational systems and learn to speak your language.
Finish The Impromptu Memory Palace Later
The cool thing about a small impromptu Memory Palace like for 秋天 qiūtiān is that there are 3 more terms needed to complete my knowledge of the words for the seasons in Chinese.
冬天 dōngtiān for Winter
春天 chūntiān for Spring
夏天 xiàtiān for Summer
In this case, I used four trees in the park. Each tree served as the station for one of the seasons.
冬天 dōngtiān. I won’t tell you what’s going on with this image, but let’s just say I’m not using a ding dong in combination with a snowy tree.
春天 chūntiān. For this I see Chewbacca chewing on a twenty dollar bill before spitting it out as rusty springs into the tea cup with burning yen.
夏天 xiàtiān. The t-sh-ya sound makes it hard to get a clear image in play, but I have the band Twisted Sister playing Yahtzee with miniature, but blazing hot suns and that works great.
In each case, the goal is to use the mnemonic imagery to bring back the sound and meaning of the words in the same stroke. The point of the impromptu Memory Palace location is to have a mental place to go for recalling the meaning and for playing around with the words in sentences.
For example, “I like autumn” can be changed to, “It is now autumn” and “Tomorrow it will be autumn.” There are countless variations and it’s important to run through as many as you possibly can to help the key vocabulary words stick in place in the context of a sentence.
After that, it’s just a matter of repeating the process with new words and new Memory Palaces.
Impromptu Memory Palaces Are Not For Everything
At the end of the day, you need to pick your battles. Impromptu Memory Palaces serve small sets of information like the seasons or days of the week well. But for anything larger than ten pieces of information, you might struggle.
Because the problem with Impromptu Memory Palaces is that you have to recreate them in your mind at the same time you’re recreating the images. That’s a lot of unnecessary pressure on your brain!
But if you use Memory Palaces based on real locations, you reduce the mental load. If you’re really good with Memory Palaces, you eliminate the load altogether.
If you don’t already know how to create the perfect Memory Palace, please consider completing this free Memory Kit. It will help you get the most out of the process.
But here’s the thing:
Nothing happens unless you take action, so please be sure to give this technique a try.
Post any questions you have below, and understand that the best questions come from experience and struggling a little bit with the process.
But this point is important:
Please do not overthink mnemonics. The answers come from taking action and using the techniques. And when it comes to learning tough subjects, here’s how to practice memory techniques for that purpose.
You can use an impromptu Memory Palace at an event to remember names.
Or you can make an impromptu Memory Palace in a restaurant and then practice what you’ve memorized out in the rain. Just make sure to also perform proper Recall Rehearsal.
The videos are great, but you need better weather for your honeymoon:)
If you do memorize something wrong with your method is it then doubly hard to re-memorize it correctly because it is so firmly fixed in your mind? I mean, suppose it wasn’t Shania Twain’s hair, but Sinead Oconnor? That wouldn’t work at all?
Thanks for this great question, Mark!
Although I wouldn’t say that anything becomes “doubly hard” to re-remember correctly, the original impression can get in the way. It’s mostly a mindset issue and choosing to let the initial impression guide you to the correct re-impression.
This happens to me all the time, and all the more so in my current Chinese studies because I am doing it almost 100% based on oral study. That means I memorize what I hear, which isn’t necessarily what was uttered. But by using the initial foundation and re-shaping it when necessary, it’s like springing from one board to the next board instead of directly into the water.
As for Sinead O’Connor … her having hair would make things even more memorable, I suppose. It depends on what she looks like in the image of her one conjures up. Wearing a wig, or perhaps wearing Prince’s hair … who can say. It all comes back to mindset and not letting mistakes frustrate us. They are always opportunities to compound our way to the correct meanings and pronunciation as we use the techniques to place info into long term memory. 🙂
Sidelined by depression and anxiety, I find myself having more and more free time on my hands. Learning languages using the Magnetic Memory Method is – for me – a great way to make good use of my free time. Thank you, Anthony, for this inspiring post.
Glad you found this inspiring, Glenn. I think using memory techniques is one of the best way to relieve depression. There’s little that is so uplifting than being able to recall something using the simple power of the imagination.
What language – or languages – will be you be studying? 🙂
For impromptu palaces , you could use index numbered object associations (number, shapes, major method etc) together with the images you need to hook. That way you have capability to create and process larger impromptu palaces with little effort (the index objects is what you learnt long time ago).
Great point, Pelle. I sometimes refer to stations by number, but only for special reference with certain kinds of poetry or for experiments.
That said, if one wanted to work more to rigid standardization using regimented Memory Palace strategies like the Vaughn Cube, the Major Method or PAO could be very powerful for rapidly knowing each and every station by number in every Memory Palace you’ve ever created – including impromptu Memory Palaces.
You’d just add up based on the last station number, i.e. if my Chinese Seasons Memory Palace was MP 104 and started with station 10,003, I could have an image for the station that would tell me instantly it was the 10,003 station.
The extent to which that is practical is questionable, however. For practical purposes, I’ve already got this information in long term memory (though I’m not talking about the seasons very often, I must admit). I should still be able to reconstruct the words and I prefer saving the Major Method for recalling the correct tones (themselves subject to change depending where they fall in a sentence).
Thanks again for your great comment. I look forward to the next one! 🙂
The reason why I habitually index (roughly at initial stage) memory palaces even new impromptu ones is to have redundant ways to access the information. This occurred in a very stressful period in life, when it was harder than usual to retrieve whatever needed. So I added index objects to watch for them and the spot.
Also interconnecting spots between different palaces as “portals/wormholes” or look at index and traverse all/many spots (with same index) in palaces at reviews, to make sure that the mind had many ways in to access the spots.
Now the indexing is just an ingrained bonus habit. One side effect is that now you can do a pao that actually is a p¹l¹ p²l² p³l³ (pⁿ = palace n … lⁿ = location n …) so likely you have more than 3 palaces, you can now quite quickly “see” the path through your palaces encoding quite long strings without extra cognitive load (once you decided your palace coding standard). My case, as redundant as I wish things: I have a indexed start palace (context dependent, for instance passwords) storing the paths, and a reminder object (for instance website,location,club) linked to the index.
This may seem overkill, but the advantage is it doesn’t need much tweaking for most general purpose random string memorization … Binary, decimals, ascii gets the same treatment here. And they are refumdantly accessed both from initial palace and its indexed association
It doesn’t sound like overkill to me, so I hope you will write a book about it. There are many people anxious for memory help with Ascii, for example. You would do them a great service! 🙂
Cool , thanks!
Maybe I could clarify why I think indexing is interesting at habitual level :
The main idea of object indexing locations is to have redundant ways to retrieve information. In behaviour it has like the ghost effect, the index object of a spot assists in both picking locations and links to knowledge associations . For systematic spaced repetitions you could traverse many/all palaces at indices (have a palace for ugly sisters indices) and sweep through spaced repetition (not only effectively , but also efficiently).
A side effect doing indexing habitually on most palaces is that you can memorize random password strings this way : Since you know you locations by heart, you can do something like:
p¹l¹ p²l² p³l³ … pⁿlⁿ (pⁿ= palace n , lⁿ = palace n).
A number/password is just a journey through sequence palaces and their spots. For instance you start having a memory palace for storing reminders/starters for your passwords (person,place,login etc association) then start the journey(s) that encodes your password. The principle works the same for binaries, decimals or ascii.
Another side effect on top of that is portals/wormholes in memory palaces to link together indices of different palaces. There you can encode at the spots, or have helper palace(s) for the wormholes/portals (map record and starter palace).
Okay, now I think I’m beginning to understand. It would be great to have an example based on something you’ve memorized or would memorize in this way – particularly on the point of using the structure for recall.
I have bought some of your products, but I don’t hear you talk about something that I think is important. In the Magnetic Memory Method, you suggest to learn vocabulary with a certain order in the location, which is a brilliant idea. But I have some practice issues with it.
When we add more and more information with this specific order in a location, at some moment, we haven’t enough space to place new information in this memory palace. So we can find in our mind and create other Memory Palace or use a painting to create more sub-location.
But if we place all the new vocabulary in the new Memory Palace we no longer respect the logic of that specific order.
And if we try to keep the logic order, we have to do daily mental effort to replace the vocabulary in the right order in the location which is another mental effort and can create ghost, confusion in our visualisation.
What is the best to choose? Respect the logic order or respect the location method (And don’t remove information)?
Great question, Muntu!
First off, as covered in depth in all my trainings, I always recommend that you use the Memory Palace to rehearse the information into long term memory. There is rarely a need to “renovate” a Memory Palace if you do this consistently. If you go this route, I recommend checking out the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast episode called How to Renovate a Memory Palace.
Ghosting doesn’t need to be an issue either. I talk about turning any confusion into a benefit in the podcast episode titled Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming The Ugly Sister Effect. I’ve been finding this lesson more and more important as I work on Chinese because of the extreme similarities and seeming-repetition of sounds. The Magnetic Memory Method Principle of Compounding is super-valuable in this context as well. My modification of O’Brien’s The Rule of Five is helpful here as well (though as I teach, it’s each memorizer’s personal modification of it for your purposes that will help the most based on your experiences with the MMM).
In sum, the best way to respect the order of vocabulary we place in our Memory Palaces is to use the Memory Palace for what the Magnetic Memory Method puts all of its specific creation principles to work for: Recall Rehearsal for long term retention. With The Big Five Of Language Learning – which applies to just about anything you want to learn as well – you can be much more certain that you will get permanent recall.
I hope this helps reduce the mental effort you’re concerned about and am convinced that it will. Anytime that you get information into long term memory, you’ve reduced cognitive overwhelm about as low as it can go. This accomplishment allows you to either create a new Memory Palace based on the same letter of the alphabet, reuse the Memory Palace and utilize the Ugly Sister Effect/Ghosting as a super-power or simply compound on the existing material as you wish.
In all cases, you will always win so long as you keep using the techniques, tracking your results and continuing to think strategically, ask great questions like these and continue living a life devoted to the art of memory.
Thanks again for the great question and I look forward to the next one.
By the way, have you seen the new private forum inside the Masterclass? Feel free to post your questions in there as well. I’m currently on my honeymoon, but will be hoping to regularly answer questions with video and other features for Masterclass members in the near future. 🙂
Hi Anthony. Just a quick note to inform you of how much
I enjoy your content and your work! As to a quick memory palace just today I had a priority list that I needed to
Complete. My solution. My car. All I needed was to use the front of it. Ac vents. Mirror. Stick shift. Radio. You get the idea.
From there it was simple matter of plugging each task visually into that location. Now as soon as I opened the door there in were the tasks that I could visually see and more importantly, reach out, Do and complete.
That’s so great to hear, Bruce – I appreciate you taking a moment to let me know that you’re putting these ideas into action!
“Reach out, do and complete.” Wise words to remember too.
Thanks again for your post. I look forward to your next contribution to the discussion about using memory techniques for memory improvement here on the blog! 🙂
I was searching for a method for short information and this is very useful. However, ever since I began with memory palaces for languages, I’ve been struggling with the number of locus available to use with new words. I wanna learn German and I bought a dictionary of 4000 words, but I don’t have enough locus for that huge numbers of words. What’s your advice, put the words in a mega memory palace ( I.E, a palace with 200 loci) or build a lot of little palaces (I.e., a palace with 20 loci)? I’m gonna get a copy of your book of the german vocabulary, but I’d really like to know if you have an extra resource for my problems.
Sorry if my grammar isn’t the best.
Regards from Mexico.
Thanks for this note, Daniel.
Once you have the book and have studied it and put the recommendations into action, you will never have problems finding enough Magnetic Stations to memorize vast amounts of vocabulary again. Anytime you feel “Memory Palace Scarcity” coming on, just go back to the book and you’ll be “reminded” of several techniques that will give you dozens more Memory Palaces to work with.
Can’t wait to hear more about your journey into memory and look forward to seeing some of the Memory Palaces you create! 🙂
Very interesting podcast Anthony, I learned a lot.
Thanks, James. I’m glad you checked it out.
Do you think you’ll have an opportunity to try this method out?