Best way to organize a memory palace for vocabulary?

Once finals are over I’m gong to begin using a memory palace to increase my vocabulary in French and possibly Japanese as well. As the title says, I would like to know what would be the most effective way to organize the words in a memory palace. The number of words would be quite large, on the order of thousands. Keep in mind that I don’t know what all the words are right now, so I need an approach that’s flexible enough to allow me to keep adding new words as I go.

I’ve read that an alphabetical approach is common. Would this mean that I need 26 or so memory palaces to begin? And that would only ensure that they’re alphabetical with respect to the first letter. Does that also mean that the usefulness of an alphabetical approach diminishes with really large numbers of words? For instance, if you’re trying to recall a word that begins with an f, but there are 500 words in total that begin with this letter, wouldn’t it still be hard to find?

Any advice?


I haven’t done it alphabetically, but some people do that. This is interesting, if you haven’t seen it:

There is also Dominic O’Brien’s memory town technique where words are placed in locations by grammar.

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I’ve actually read that post before, although I’ll probably go through it again. I haven’t heard of Dominic O’Brien’s technique though. That’s actually sort of what I was considering today: grouping images by grammatical class (adjective, noun, etc.). It seems inherently less restrictive than an alphabetical approach. I like it. That’s actually what I’ll probably end up doing. It may not be a town per se, but something similar.



Finals are over and I’ve taken the day to formulate my plan. After rereading PauloPalma’s post and further researching Dominic’s method, here’s what I’ve come up with: It seems like there are two fundamentally different approaches, alphabetical organization, which is helpful in reading but not so helpful in the productive aspect of language, and subject/grammar organization, which is precisely the reverse. Because I value the productive aspect more, I decided to go with the latter system. For vocabulary that can be easily grouped according to a particular class, I will let the definition dictate the palace used. For instance, food items can be stored in a restaurant. I think this sort of approach lends itself best to (concrete) nouns. For more abstract words, I’ll group them according to grammatical class (verb, adjective, etc.). I’ll be starting with French, and then I may extend this to Japanese.

For Japanese, I’m going to restart my Anki deck and try to come up with a mnemonic association for each word. If I’m successful then I’ll apply the same approach that I plan to use for French. If not, then I’ll just have to stick with the Anki cards and use spaced repetition.

edit I made a file to keep track of everything. Here are my notes so far:

Structure for image creation: composite image, image for semantic component and image for phonetic component

Groups considered:

Nouns (objects)
Verbs // starting palace: UNR DMS building, starting at the steps
Adjectives // starting palace: old Reno house, cul-de-sac
Adverbs // starting palace: Starbucks
Other connectors // starting palace: old Reno house, two-story
Expressions // starting palace: SM 64 level, Whomp’s Fortress

Subdivisions within nouns:

Food → BJ’s restaurant
Shopping items → Walmart
Household items → current house?

edit again It occurred to me that I can also pull from my repertoire of images from the Ben system. For instance, alors que ≈ lork = an acklay from Star Wars.


Years ago I made a dozen memory palaces, one for each ‘lexical class’ in my target language, and in each memory palace I had loci from A-Z. I used this for learning German, and my conclusion is that yes, it works, but it hasn’t been as effective as Anki cloze tests. Perhaps because German is an Indo-European language, making mnemonics a bit of an overkill.

Let’s say I am to memorize the German word for “cape”. I would then visualize a cape in my memory palace for masculine nouns, at the loci for words beginning on «u». There I see a man who’s been hung with his cape on. Later on, to recall the German word for cape I’d go to my loci, which tells me it’s a masculine noun beginning with the letter u. Then I’d ask myself why is the man hung with a cape on? Because the word is Umhang.

But to me a far more effective way is simply making flashcards like this in Anki, with auto-generated German audio.

Question side. Er ist fürs Snapes Tod verantwortlich, gibt Harry den ___ und lässt es so weit kommen, dass Voldemort an den Elderstab gelangt (Maskulinum: Kleidungsstück in Form eines großen Tuches, das man sich über die Schultern legt)

Answer side Umhang

I still use the memory palaces from time to time. Sometimes when using apps like Memrise I’d visualize the new words in their correct loci, just on the fly, without making up fancy associations. That way they’d stick long enough in my memory till the recall test some minutes later.

If you find a way that works great for you, please do let us know. I’d like to hear about it!


Thanks for sharing your experience, and I’ll definitely keep you posted. Currently I don’t plan on using mnemonics for every word, just the ones that I find to be a little awkward. I’ll be using DuoLingo in addition to Anki and memory palaces. I’ll just have to see how things go. The goal of course is to maximize the output to input (time) ratio. I plan to use mnemonics to get things to stick initially, and then I can improve speed with Duolingo and Anki.

I made a journal for my language-learning progress here. I’ll use it to post my goals, progress, what’s worked, what hasn’t, etc.

Progress has been excellent over the past two days, but my concern is about the upcoming semester. It’s going to be brutal, and I want to come up with some sort of sustainable routine.

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I didn’t understood a thing
Is there any tutorial on internet for learning japanese vocabulary + pronunciation ?
Through mind palace?

The basic idea is that I was looking for a way to apply mnemonics to Japanese, and eventually I found out how to do it by using memory palaces. You can read about my approach here if you’re interested (not a tutorial per se, but it’s a useful reference), and if you have any specific questions feel fry to ask.

I’m new to Anki and language learning as well as mnemonics, but I find that your observation that Anki cloze cards are better than a memory palace interesting. Why do you think this is the case? I haven’t tried memory palace for vocab because I don’t know how to use it for learning a huge amount of words. Would you be able to give me some advice on how to memorize a lot of words with a memory palace? I haven’t been able to find a concrete example of how to memorize a huge amount of words. How do you remember so much info if your house is small? Do you add portals? What’s an example of a portal? Do you expand the size of your house? What’s too big of a room to small of a room? How do you keep track of multiple memory palaces? Etc.

I’m learning Arabic as a native english speaker. My method so far has been to use cloze deletion (with typing in the answer in Anki). For each note I have three cards:

Card 1:
Front Side: The word for “street” is _____? (type in answer)
Back Side: Sheiri3 (street), with audio button, image of a street, mnemonic link (imagine a street sharing abba CDs by spitting them out of the asphalt). Gender link

Card 2:
Front: What’s the concept link to Sherei3? (image of street included)
Back: Street sharing abba CDs by spitting them out of the asphalt.

Card 3:
Front: Whats word for “Imagine a street sharing abba CDs by spitting them out of the asphalt”?
Back: Sheiri3, other info

I haven’t learned too many words so far, however I’m just asking and searching this forum so I can start with the absolute best method. I’ve read the Paolo post about 15000 vocab words in 3 months, but I still have some questions about it.