Memorizing Greek Vocabulary

This is a reply to a question about Greek vocabulary from another thread. Since it’s a different topic, I’ve started a new thread about learning the Greek language.

I’ve studied a little Modern Greek. Try searching this site for “Greek” and “memory town method”.

Since many people learn things without (artificial) memory techniques, natural memory also can play a large role. If you’re memorizing 8,000 words, you probably won’t need an image and location for each one.

Here are a few examples from Modern Greek:

  • καρδιά / cardia -- heart (cardiac)
  • χρόνος / chronos -- time (chrono-logical)
  • χρώμα / chroma -- color (chromatic)
  • δεξιά / dexia -- right (dextrous)
  • etc.

The Greek word is often what the medical or scientific term is in English.

Then there are many words that are close enough to words in English that they immediately conjure images:

  • ουρανός / uranos -- sky (Uranus)
  • αγορά / agora -- market (ancient Greek agora)
  • etc.

There are also word sets that can be memorized together. If you remember that dexia is “right”, then you could put the image on your right hand and at the same time memorize αριστερά (aristera) on your left hand (“a wrist-watch”).

It would probably take more effort to use the method of loci for those words than to just extract them from your vocabulary list and memorize them with Anki flashcards.

One thing that locations did help with were separating verbs into groups. See this post and the memory town method for examples.

I made general locations, but not specific, ordered loci. So words in a certain grammatical group would be placed into a general park, but not in a specific location with a journey. Either the foreign word or the definition would take my mind back to the general location and I would see the mnemonic image. That saves a lot of time, because I didn’t need to make journeys.

I also do that with Esperanto, where most of my words are casually scattered around a shopping center parking lot in Massachusetts. The words that are the same in Esperanto as in English go inside one of the stores (e.g., ŝoveli means “to shovel”). If the word takes me to anywhere inside of that store, I know that the word is basically the same in Esperanto.

I sometimes group similar words together. I had to memorize “mud” and “clay”, so there is a puddle of mud with a koto in it, and a clay nargila forming on the side of the mud puddle. Koto means mud and argilo means clay. There is no journey, but my mind can find the words and their definitions in either direction – Esperanto to English or English to Esperanto. I create these images on the spot as I go through my Anki flashcards in whatever order they are presented to me.

There are many ways to approach it – those are just some of the things that I’ve done with Greek and other foreign language vocabulary.

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Hi, Josh!

After looking over this again, while it is a good suggestion to perhaps classify the words into groups which are easier and more difficult to remember or so forth, thereby knowing which were absolutely necessary for the loci method and which weren’t, my worry is the time it would take to organize the vocabulary.

I get my root words and combining forms from a dictionary called A dictionary of the Roots and Combining Forms of Scientific Words, by Ted Williams. It’s not an unabridged lexicon, sadly, but then again if it were there may well be more than ten or twenty thousand of them.

My intention in remembering all these forms won’t be to speak the language, but actually to facilitate learning in our modern languages and domains. That’s why I’d like to create a list that won’t be forgotten, distinct from the information itself. The beauty about the loci method in my experiences is that even if we forget the support file for some reason, for example in using it for several other images, if we remember the information itself, that will then recall our original support file. In this case, though, I won’t forget the loci because they are good strong images that are themselves built on memory devices that can’t fail, which is what I am looking for I suppose. Something that won’t fail even after years of not being used.

I think your thoughts are excellent for learning a language, since one really has to get “into” the process and work with every bit of it, to be dexterous with it and to use it, thoroughly. In my case, however, I won’t need to do that. I won’t need to be using the information that I learn on a daily basis. I speak French, so I can really understand the importance of categorizing vocabulary according to cognates, themes, etc, which not only makes remembering them more easy but also is important if one really needs to use the language often. If I were learning a language to speak or with which I would need to coordinate my attention fluently and at will, the loci method would be horrible for obvious reasons, wherein you would be absolutely right I think.

In my case, however, I need the words to be as alphabetical as possible since there are so many. The dictionary I am using organizes them as real roots and combining forms and shows common vowels they are seen with after transliteration. For example, “abrot,” of which there are three distinct meanings, can be followed by -os at times. In this particular root, the meaning is simply “uneatable” or “not eaten.” The -rot part of the word is an easy enough association, but to go through every word first so as to organize them in such terms would be pretty pointless for me because the way I need to remember the words is only upon seeing them in other terms or words, or needing to recall them for some particular reason, like for example with my reference to “abrot-.” I won’t need to be able to use abrot- in words everyday, as though speaking and writing and reading the language.

Thank you for your suggestions though! I think if people are learning modern Greek that your method would definitely be much better. That, there would be almost no point to using the loci system, as you said. Thank you also for mentioning other mnemonic methods, I have studied mnemonics myself as well, so I am familiar with them, thank gosh :slight_smile:

Why are you learning Esperanto, or, why did you learn it? And, why modern Greek, by the way?

I’ve studied Koine Greek and found the vocabulary surprisingly easy to master.

As well as the examples you (Josh) give, there are words that we may know the English of which help us parse back to the greek. E.g.

Agoraphobic - from Agora (open market place) and phobos (fear)


Also, it’s not necessarilly a good route to decipher the meaning of a word from its root and/or parts (e.g. pineapple!), in this case it’s useful for remembering the Greek vocab.

I found out that the headquarters of the US Esperanto organization was located here in the San Francisco Bay Area so, I started reading about the language.

I found out that there are many Esperanto speakers scattered around the world and they all want to meet other Esperanto speakers, so it’s great for travelers.

I ended up in an intensive Esperanto course in Slovakia, and just kept going from there. Esperanto is easy to learn, and it helps with the learning of additional languages too. I highly recommend it. :slight_smile:

I’ve been to Greece many times over the years, so I picked up a bit of modern Greek. A couple of years ago I made a trip to Simonides’ hometown on Ceos.

At some point I will learn about Ancient Greek, but first Latin. :slight_smile: