How do you make a mnemonic for a word that has many different meanings? (French)

I am a beginner at making mnemonics. I came across this problem when I decided to memorize the 5,000 most common French words through a French Frequency Dictionary.

French’s first few most common words have many meanings depending on context. For example “le” can mean the, him, her, it, and them depending on how you use it.

If I say “J’ai le menu” (I have the menu) - le in this instance is “the”
If I say “Je l’ai” (I have it) - the “le” which is contracted refers to the “it” now, in other words it means “it” as opposed to “the”
And so on…

How do you create a mnemonic for a word like that which can mean different things? I mean would it work if you just added all those meanings into the mnemonic or would it get confusing?

I suppose this is also tied to learning a bit of grammar. Because in French you can’t say “J’ai le” (I have it) - that wouldn’t work - in other words, you can’t use the same word order in French as in English. Which leads me to the thought: how do you even begin to memorize grammar rules and all their exceptions?

Would love to find a solution to this. Thank you for reading.

You should be able to tell what the meaning of the word is by the context of the sentence. It will either make sense or won’t make sense. It depends what the grammar rules are, but I think a good place to start is to listen to the language and watch shows in that languages because you will pick up on the general grammar then you can look into the more nitty gritty stuff.

But I’d love to be able to encapsulate those meanings into a mnemonic though… I know that context is a factor but I don’t know how to sort of package that into a mnemonic. Or maybe it’s not necessary to make those most commonly used 100 words mnemonics because they’re used so often?

But, if a word had two (or more) different and important meanings and you wanted to memorize all of them, how would you do it? (Using the linking method)

I wouldn’t dream of trying to memorize the most common words like “le” etc.

Moving on to other words, it’s essential to realize that context is all. No context, no translation! See for example the word “mole” in Similarly, the French word “hôte” has two essentially opposite meanings (as played on by Camus in his excellent story “Le Hôte”), so just learning a word list is of limited use. At the least, you need some feel for the associated “word cloud”. You’ll get that by scanning the primary meanings in a good dictionary e.g.;s=2607027945 gives
A. Personne qui reçoit (quelqu’un) dans sa demeure ou invite au restaurant (a host)
B. Personne qui est accueillie (chez quelqu’un), qui reçoit l’hospitalité (a guest)

So in terms of how might you use mnemonics, you could consider a locus with associated sub-loci e.g. a main room with adjoining rooms. Say the main room is painted red for “rouge” and there are marked doors to the associations (a Danger sign for Alerte rouge, Piste rouge; a Stop for Feu rouge, Liste rouge; a Hammer and Sickle for la Russie soviétique; an angry person for Voir rouge etc. You might also want infrarouge, peau-rouge, queue-rouge, rouge-gorge, rouge-queue …)

The etymology of the word is also important “bouche” will lead you on to bouchée, boucher …

Once you have the associated words, there’s a nice tool for picturing the cloud at which you could think of mapping to your loci.

If the word only has a few meanings and you can somehow fit them into the same image/story. For example, I’m memorizing some Greek vocab and the prepositon epi has three meanigs ‘over’, ‘on the basis of’, and ‘on’ (actually there are more). I have an old lady sitting in a wheelchair OVER an EPIpen and then a computer geek walks up wearing a BASS guitar and says “on the basis of this, I think you’re crazy”, then a policeman comes up and says “I’m on the same page”. Because Greek has a cases system, the wheel chair tells me that over is the meaning with the genitive case (geriatric), computer geek gives me dative case (computer > data > dative), and policeman gives me accusative case (cops can accuse people of crimes).

Anyway, sorry if that was a complicated example. But I hope you get the idea. Could two characters interact in a way such that one of them gives you the first meaning and then the second gives you the second, etc?