Thursday, June 09, 2005

Memorizing vocabulary

If you've ever tried to learn vocabulary by repeating lists of words over and over, you know it's boring and ineffective. Barry Farber, in his wonderful book How to Learn Any Language, recommends something he calls The Harry Lorayne method (named after a magician and memory-training specialist). I was gratified, upon reading about it, to learn that I've been using something similar for years; it basically just involves associating words with images that are meaningful to you. Farber's examples are quite outlandish, involving things like talking grapes and wives with pet moles, but they work; I still remember the Italian word for wife, moglie, from his scenario of a man discovering that his fiancée has an unusual pet and being worried about it until he realizes it's just a "mole, yay!"

Anyway, I don't have the imagination to come up with such things myself, but I have found the image association method to be extremely effective. I tend to associate words with people. Here's a sampling of some mnenomics I've created:

For German:
  • begeistert (enthusiastic): my 11th grade physics teacher, Mr. Geisert, was extremely enthusiastic.
  • der Saal (large room, auditorium): Miss Saal was the star of our high school musical, which was of course performed in an auditorium.

For Mandarin:

  • dāi (stay): My manager is Ms. Dai, and I'm sure she would like me to stay longer at work.
  • shí jiān (time): My brother-in-law's fiancée is a really neat person, and when we visit Florida I always wish I had more time to see Jen.
  • guì (expensive): There's a guy at work named Guey who is always very well-dressed, and I imagine his clothes must be expensive.
  • tóng shì (colleague): This one's easy; I used to have a colleague named Tong.
There's one advantage in having so many Asian colleagues; I've got a large store of names to use for this purpose!


Doug said...

Sounds like "Harry Lorayne" is what the Dale Carnegie courses have taught for years to remember the names of new acquaintances.

Language Lover said...

Yeah, I don't think the method is particularly new or original. Nonetheless, it's a good one.