I’ve been slowly working my way through Japanese in my spare time for a while now, and now that I’m getting deeper into memory training, I’m looking to using both disciplines to help the other. I’ve been reading through Dominic O’Brien’s , which details his method. Although I imagine a great many of you are already familiar with it, for any who aren’t, I’ll outline it briefly. If you already know it, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. It boils down to not organizing words in a journey format, but within a city or town that you know well. When learning a word, for example “(to)turn.” You find a location that you (hopefully immediately) associate with the word “turn” in that town. In my case, this is a particular intersection where I always make an unprotected left turn. When you think of the word, you think of that place, which gives you a place to put an image. The image then is made from what the foreign word sounds like. In Japanese, this is “magaru.” So when I say that out loud, it makes me think of margaine and Roo from Winnie the Pooh. So I picture a huge melting stick of margarine in the middle of the intersection. On top of it is the Land O’ Lakes lady (because I associate her with margarine) and she’s fighting with Roo. And so for each language, you learn by doing this with each word, sometimes separating different kinds of words in different areas of town based on grammar.
From this, some…not so much issues, as points of query have arisen. With Japanese and Chinese in particular, the writing system is rather complex, and adds another level of memorization on top of the sound of the word. My method in the past, which has worked, even when not applied to loci, is to create an image based on the first two radicals of a kanji/hanxi character. However, the unaddressed point by O’Brien (at least in this book) is about spelling memorization, particularly with writing systems so vastly different from English. I’ve been working to put an image based on the characters of a word next to my image for the pronunciation, and having them react as much as I can without muddying things up too much. I’ve sort of gone back and forth so far on whether to use my radical-based images or images based on the meanings of the characters themselves. For example, the character 揮 means (among other things), to wave. But my radical mnemonic for it is a hand in an army glove, because the left radical means hand and the right means army. Maybe as long as I strongly associate that image with the character and don’t lose the meaning “to wave,” in there it won’t be a problem, but it does make me wonder.
There is a lot of information packed into each character, much less words with multiple characters. And so trying to place both a pronunciation image, and an image for the written word based either on individual character meaning or individual character radical-produced imagery is a lot to cram into a location in the first place, not even factoring in a hopefully fairly speedy recall. And then there’s the matter of storing the various meanings that a particular character can have. Often times a single character will have an inherent association or meaning; for example 食 has the association of food, but the actual word for food is 食べ物. Do I reserve my food location for the actual word for food or the character that has that association (my inclination is for the former, but this is for argument’s sake)? And then where do I put the information for the one not placed at that location? It seems like things could spin out of control very quickly and end up with me forgetting at least one of those many pieces of information.
I’m curious how others approach language learning, especially with a language like Japanese.
On a different, less complex note, I’d like to learn more languages as well (hopefully ones not quite as complicated to start with as Japanese, hahah), but have only lived in so many cities and have so many areas with which I have many associations to serve as loci. Does anyone have any tips for an intuitive way to familiarize oneself with a city or city surrogate without necessarily living there and going through everyday life? My instinct is open-world sandbox games with detailed varied environments. This could be both fun and helpful, mnemonic-wise. Unfortunately my experience with these kinds of games is mostly limited to Batman: Arkham City, which doesn’t exactly hold the MOST varied locations in the world. Does anyone have any recommendations for games that could serve a purpose like this or other methods in a similar vein?
If you read all of this, thank you very much, and I’m sorry for the essay-length entry!