I’m completely new to the “world of memory,” but I was hooked after my first exposure to the Memory Palace method, after which I tried on my own. Skeptical as I was, I memorized a list of 50 random words, which I was then able to recall perfectly 1, 2, 3, and 6 months later. I haven’t had time to devote to it since then, but I am convinced of its effectiveness, and I would like to use it for my Arabic language studies.
Does anybody know about a system that I could use (or maybe adapt) for learning Arabic? I’ve run into some problems, which I’ll describe below.
I’m at about 1,500 words now, but Arabic vocab has proven very difficult for me to memorize. I had toyed around with a system (as a complete novice) where I assigned a person/animal to every consonant and an action to every vowel, which I then used to construct images for each word using its spelling. What I found, though, was that after a handful of words, all of the images began to look the same and I could no longer memorize them.
Can anybody help me think about how to create a system that would work for Arabic?
There are a few peculiarities that I will go into below make Arabic MUCH more difficult than Romance languages when it comes to applying memory techniques as an English speaker:
-About a third of the sounds for the Arabic alphabet don’t exist in English (this pretty much makes the link method useless in my experience).
-There are almost no cognates with English.
-Probably over 75% of Arabic words are derived from 3-letter root words (not including short vowels, which appear as marks above or below the letters themselves). For example, there will be a 3-letter verb carrying a very general meaning, like “he mentioned” (ذَكَرْ), then you will transform that verb according to a predictable pattern to get another meaning like “he reminded” (ذَكَّرْ) (the middle letter is just doubled). From there there can be further transformations (i.e. “he remembered” (تَذَكَّرْ)). There are 10 common “forms” like this for every verb, though most verbs cannot take all 10 forms. Also, nouns, adjectives, active participles and active participles are all derived from each of these forms, so it’s not unreasonable for there to be 50 or 60 words, all with extremely close spellings. We have this in English, but it’s not quite as extensive as in Arabic. So, this makes it somewhat easier to recognize words and guess their meaning in context, but it makes it extremely hard to keep them straight when memorizing, or especially when trying to use a system like I outlined above.
-Arabic is also extremely “vowel heavy” or “syllable heavy.” Unlike English, where two consonants often appear together, in Arabic there is a vowel after almost every letter. Now you can see why having the same 7 or 8 actions for the vowels didn’t work so well.
Other Characteristics of Arabic
-3 of the letters are long vowels that can also sound like consonants depending on surrounding letters (like “y” in English)
-3 short vowels, which appear above or below the letters. They normally aren’t written except when necessary to differentiate in meaning if context isn’t enough, because Arabs already know how to say them. That said, if you’re learning the language, it’s impossible to pronounce the word correctly without them.
-3 other diacritics that appear above or below the letters to indicate things like (a doubled vowel, no vowel sound, or a doubled consonant). The “shadda” which indicates a doubled consonant is the only one that it is imperative to incorporate into my system.
I also had one other question. I get how you can use a system like this to memorize pronunciation, but how do you infuse the meaning of the word as well? It seems like it would become a very cluttered image that would be confusing, particularly more abstract nouns or verbs.
I hope this information was helpful, and I appreciate any help you can provide in thinking through this!