Memory palace for vocabulary frustration

Hello everyone!

I’ve been reading materials on memory palaces for some time, but I still can’t get my head around how to use MP for memorizing vocabulary. All discussions are about how to create a MP with 10-20-100-200 locations, how to plan it, how to store MPs inside MPs etc.

But here is the problem. For example I have some intermediate knowledge of a language and now I want to improve my level. I have no idea how many words I will need to learn, what will be their first letters or topics. All right, i’m gonna make a MP for each letter in the alphabet, I will book 50-100 loci for in each MP. But then I will just start reading books in my target language and put all the unknown words into MP. Some MPs will be overcrowded some may remain empty. And what should I do? Create the second MP for every overcrowded letter?

What I’m looking for is some technique to endlessly expand capacity of a memory palace. What in my MP I will make a locus for each letter. But this locus well be some kind of a wall to which I will adhere endless amount of cards with words. Or let it be shelves or something like that. Has anybody tried that? Maybe there is a description of similar techniques?

Thanks in advance!

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This doesn’t directly answer your question, but I’d strongly advise against using a memory palace for vocabulary, if your aim is to actually learn to understand/speak the language.

This is because you need to retrieve those words, both in the target language and in your dominant language, almost immediately. A memory palace simply doesn’t let you do that. It’s an amazing technique that I’ve used myself for e.g. memorizing binary digits, shopping lists, items from a conversation, etc., but it is simply not the right tool everything, especially vocabulary.

Better would be to use a flashcard app, such as Mnemosyne, Anki, or even a pen-and-paper method, to learn the words you want to learn. And if it helps you to make arbitrary connections to help remember the words, that’s fine. Google “spaced repetition software” for more info.

For example, in Spanish, “despertarse” means to wake (oneself) up. My friend suggested it’s like you wake up and feel desperate. Doesn’t make any sense but that image stuck and now I remember that word easily.

In general, use memory palaces for quick memorization of sequential data where you don’t need fast recall. Consider other techniques when the following are true:

  • you don’t need extreme speed for memorization
  • you do need speed for recall
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@Daniel_360 Thanks for you thoughts! Indeed my target language was Spanish :slight_smile:

So, I was hoping for a miracle and there you’re saying miracles don’t exist. So disappointing! (kidding)

In fact my plan was to combine MP and extensive reading. I realize that MP itself won’t make me fluent, but it could save me some trouble with creating cards and working with additional software, and I also could use visual cards, created with my imagination, not the real text ones.

Sooo… Mnemonic cards created by my imagination - where to store them for later recall and spaced repetition if not in memory palace?

Alex, I find it useful to think of it as “The Memory Palace Technique” rather than “memory palaces.” You are right, you translate words to imagery and you put those images somewhere, a specific location in your mind.

Lots of people use the technique for learning vocabulary, including me. It’s much more effective for initial encoding than just seeing a word over and over again on a flash card.

Of course to get the word into long term memory, you need to do retrievals across time. A spaced repetition system is great for that. I use the Anki program.

I’d also say not to be concerned about expanding palaces indefinitely. There are more locations in real life than you would ever run out of. When it comes time to add, you will have more experience and will be able to do it. Right now, start small and start learning words.

Take care.

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Hi Alex, I can totally relate to your problem. I read about memory palaces being the thing to learn vocabulary, but I ran into the same questions as you. My preferred method of using mnemonics for French vocab is in this order:

  1. I am German based with a strong command of English, so I ask myself, do I really need a mnemonic for this word? Or is it so similar to a German or English word that a few repetitions suffice to remember? E.g. “le clarté” is so similar to clarity (engl.) and Klarheit (German) that there is simply no need to encode it.

  2. If the French word is totally alien to me, I create an image. The sound of l’enfant (=child) reminds me of “elefant”, so my image of choice is Mowgli riding on an elefant into a kindergarten. l’enfant is maskulin just like Mowgli, but to make sure he is wearing blue (=male) jeans. Easy peazy.

  3. I recently started to memorize specific groups of words that belong together, e.g. everything you find around a house or all vocabs you would use describing the sky and weather, or emotions. Those I put on a journey. I can very well imagine putting those words inside a memory palace, but I like having the option to add as many words as I like. In a memory palace with a finite number of rooms, I feel mentally restricted. But that may be just me.

Hope this helps. Rgds.

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I mean if you change the e to an i you get “infant” in English and “infantil” in German…

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Hi @alex_bhtr ,

maybe you want to have a look at this thread…

@Daniel_360 and I already had the same discussion there… spoilers, my reply was along the lines of “yes, you’re right, but…”

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Just a little correction here, “clarté” is feminine (la clarté).
Good luck with french ! Cheers

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thanks bjoern. I hang my head in shame. How come I never saw that??? But thanks for pointing out, now I will never forget it.

Thanks petitgurus. Looks like I need that luck, haha!

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Hi, @MBDextrus!

Thanks for valuable input!

As I understood you use a separate journey for each topic? And still your journeys are finite?

Hi bjoern!

Thanks for the reply! I had read the topic you are referring to before posting, I got the idea of reusable MP for every 100-200 words. And it raises some new questions. If an MP doesn’t have a separate compartment for each letter then how fast will I find a word in it when I have to?

There is an interesting idea of reusing an MP without cleaning it. You have to make the beginning somehow different or maybe paint an MP into a different color and then the whole MP will be like a new one.

p.s. can’t post links, but there is a video on Youtube by Christopher Anadale called How the Memory Palace is Infinite